Authentic, Immersive, Life-Changing Past Review

By (Teacher Education by Subjects, St. Norbert College) - abroad from 02/03/2009 to 07/07/2009 with

Achievement Study Abroad: Semester or year in the Heart of Germany.

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a ton of German. I learned a lot of information pertaining to my major and minor fields. But way more importantly, I also learned so much about who I am as a person, who I want to be and who I want to become. I learned a thousand different ways to live and a thousand different ways to approach life. I learned how to communicate on a deeper level, how to think critically about complex problems and concepts, how to approach the world with empathy, how to come together collaboratively with other people who are very different than myself, how to listen to my inner voice, and how to think on a global scale. For me, it wasn't just worthwhile -- it was essential.

Review Photos

Achievement Study Abroad: Marburg Stand-Alone Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Absolutely fantastic: some of the best classes I took during my entire college career were in Marburg. Great course offerings in all subjects and excellent professors! The German language courses I was placed in perfectly matched my ability level at that time, and they moved at a comfortable, easy-to-keep-up-with pace while at the same time also being rigorous, allowing me to make lots of progress in my language development.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Safe, directly on a main transit line, easily reachable. My single dorm room was on a floor with a communal kitchen, which was shared by 11 other students of all different majors and backgrounds. The experience of cooking and eating in a shared space allowed me to come into daily conversation with my floor neighbors and led to lots of shared meals and weekend gatherings with people from Germany and from all over the world.

* Food:

This is an obligatory field, but it's hard to rate because we were given a meal budget and free range of how and where we'd like to spend our food allowance. Five stars for doener kebaps and potato Auflauf! :)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Very integrated. Over the years, I've talked to other Americans who have studied abroad in other places with other programs, and some have told me that they spent a great deal of time surrounded by other Americans and speaking almost exclusively English. That was DEFINITELY NOT the case in Marburg! I had the opportunity to meet so many lovely people from Germany and around the globe here and felt very much a part of everyday life in the Marburg community. I feel like my experience here was totally authentic, and I didn't feel closed off from anything!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Nothing but positive experiences here. Great healthcare resources in the Marburg area. The German health insurance I was given during my time in the Marburg program was great, and I wound up choosing it for myself again later on when I moved to Germany on my own five years later. Still with that insurance provider, still have nothing but good things to say!

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe here. Being in a foreign country, of course I wanted to make sure I kept a level head and an eye open for what was going on around me, but I absolutely felt safe in Marburg.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Absolutely. Our resident director worked so hard and cared so deeply about giving each one of us the best study-abroad experience we could possibly have. He offered lots of guidance, information, and insights while also empowering and encouraging us to become increasingly independent and to take charge of our own educational and personal journeys.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Several of the students from my semester's program were able to successfully complete the entire semester using ONLY the money from their meal budget for ALL of their food, travel, and living expenses, so I know it can be done! I personally chose to use some of the money from my American debit/savings account to finance some of my travel, but that was because I was determined to see as much of Germany as possible within half a year. The amount I spent was still very reasonable, though, because the semester ticket I was issued for free train travel throughout the state of Hessen was super helpful!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I gave out about 30 Euros per week, but some of that was covered by my meal budget and some of that were definitely non-essential purchases.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't be shy about shopping at the budget grocery stores! Lidl, Aldi, and Penny grocery stores offer store-brand products at a fraction of the price of brand-name items available at other stores. For travel, explore all transit options (train, bus, budget airlines, etc). If you're able and willing to travel at unpopular times (Wednesday morning at 5:30, for example), you can get tickets to other cities and countries for literally a few dollars.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

We were very encouraged to use our German and extremely supported in doing so! The language classes we were enrolled in through the program were SO helpful in building our vocabularies and our confidence.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate German (204)
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Don't be afraid -- just speak! Seize every opportunity to talk, even the little ones, like at a store check-out or to smile and say "Guten Tag" while riding an elevator with someone. If you demonstrate to others that you have a positive attitude toward the German language and that you really want to speak and learn it, you're bound to find other people who will speak it with you. Sign up for a language tandem partner through the language institute so that you can practice German (and allow someone else to practice their English) over coffee and cake. Watch German TV and movies in German with the German subtitles on to build your vocab in a laid-back way. Read German books, listen to German music, and seek out opportunities in the community (lectures, free classes, cultural events) to increase your exposure to the spoken language.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • the location
  • the support and mentoring
  • the community
* What could be improved?
  • Not much, to be honest. The German system can sometimes be complicated (lots of official paperwork and stamps on paper at various public offices), and that's honestly the only thing I remember being a bit tricky. But again, our resident director helped us so much with all of that!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That a 5-6 months may feel like a very long time when you're planning to head off to study abroad, but looking back, it happens SO fast. I remember not knowing how I'd cope with missing my friends and family back home, but the time passes by SO quickly, and at the end of it all, home is waiting for you. :)

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'