Study Abroad Interviews
Degree: History with a secondary teaching certificate
Prior Language Knowledge: 2 semesters at MSUB
Where did you go? Ludwigsburg, Germany
When did you go? September 2008 - January 2009
Have you studied abroad before?
No. although, Lowman had traveled to Austria and Prague on a vacation in 2003; he felt that journey helped alleviate the culture shock when he returned to Europe in 2008 to study abroad. He learned valuable differences between American and European cultures such as not to tip extra (tips are included in the charge), drinks are not typically served with ice and taking the train is a major part of daily transportation.
Why did you choose to study abroad?
"I am interested in Western Europe for history reasons, and I wanted to do something fun. This was the biggest change I could think of."
Would you do it again?
Lowman said he would do it again, but would definitely be better prepared and would plan more. "Don't do it last minute!" Lowman describes how he did all his research in two weeks. He advises to talk it over with your friends and family; to really mull over it before you decide to go for it.
What was your favorite part?
Lowman liked a lot of things, but the people he met were the most enjoyable aspect. "I know it sounds cliche, but the people I hung out a lot with were the internationals and hearing about their customs was so cool. This one girl I met from Turkey was really reserved, but just being around her I learned what it was like to be Turkish, and Turkish mannerisms."
What was the most frustrating part for you?
One of the most frustrating aspects of learning in Germany was getting the pronunciation down. Lowman describes how the Germans would correct him over minute discrepancies that he could not even distinguish.
What was the easiest part of studying abroad?
Lowman describes how making friends with the other internationals, "just came naturally." He told me how everyone was in the same boat; they were all in a foreign country learning a language that was not their native tongue. It was a common denominator for them, and it made it easy to connect with one another.
What was the hardest challenge you faced abroad?
For Lowman the "core" challenge was the language barrier. He knew what he wanted to communicate; it just was that his vocabulary base was not up to par with collegiate Germans. To help overcome this barrier, Lowman would have to describe activities using lots of adjectives and hand motions. Once he needed a haircut and was not sure how to describe it in German, so he was innovative and took a picture of what he wanted on his iPod and showd it to the hair dresser.
How has this study abroad affected your life now?
Lowman told me with a smirk on his face, "I've got awesome stories to tell!" Seriously though, he told me "It's now easier to see life from a different point of view, but now it's engrained in me. The entire time I was there, I was the stranger." He describes how things we don't even consider a "norm" for America is totally different in Germany. "Not everyone has a car or a two-story house with a yard. It really opens your eyes."
What advice/words of wisdom would you offer students interested in studying abroad?
"It's worth it! Even if you have to take out a loan to experience a study abroad it's worth it. I don't regret it at all. It was a lot of fun." Lowman also talked about how there will be difficult times in a foreign land while trying to communicate in a foreign language. He recommends that one should ask lots of questions to overcome the fear of asking for help, and to be willing to try new things.