My seven months of travels and study abroad – what an experience.
When I first arrived in Munich, Germany I had mixed emotions; excitement, anticipation, fear – would I experience extreme culture shock?
Fortunately it wasn’t long before I was calling Munich my second home. Going in with a relatively open mind and limited expectations, allowed me to adapt to the rich German culture and new lifestyle pretty quickly. What also helped me adjust into this new lifestyle were the amazing people I met between my housemates and other friendly international students. I lived with 5 others including a Brazilian, Bulgarian, Iranian, Chinese and another Australian; boy was that was an experience in itself! I also became good friends with a Spanish student who lived within the same student accommodation as me. It was truly enlightening to have such a mixture of people around me because it allowed me to form an understanding of how people from different cultures live and especially the type of food they eat! For example my stomach had to adjust pretty quickly when I found out that my Chinese housemate cooks and eats pig heart on a weekly basis!
Once I completed the painful process of setting up my life in Germany with visas, residency permits and health insurance etc, the fun kicked in… Oktoberfest! The worlds largest ‘funfair’, famously known for its large quantities of beer consumed each year, was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. To paint a picture… you have people walking around in dirndls and lederhosen (traditional German attire), myself included, eating typical Bavarian food such as weisswurst sausages and bread pretzels, going on amusement rides and playing stall games. What I found even more astounding (and admittedly more appealing) were the several beer tents. In any one of these massive tents, you find thousands of extremely happy (often very drunk!) people drinking beer from litre steins with arms around one another, swaying from side to side and singing along with a live German band. I can easily say it’s dwarfed every other festival I’ve ever attended.
But of course they say all good things must come to an end and with the ‘Study Overseas’ program, there had to be some ‘study’ involved right? ;). Fortunately I thoroughly enjoyed the subjects that I had selected. Many of them were based on intercultural communication and proved to be extremely helpful throughout daily life considering I was interacting with people from all over the world.
Throughout my seven months in and around study, I squeezed in as much travel as I could and because countries within Europe are so close to one another, this wasn’t hard to do. It was such a bizarre concept to know that I could cross international borders in as little as one hour! Some of the beautiful countries that I visited and fell in love with were Greece, Spain, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic and of course, Germany. Because I was in Europe for the winter season I was fortunate enough to experience snow for the first time, and even better, skiing and snowboarding! Despite the fact that I wasn’t as successful at these sports as I had hoped (okay I was terrible!), it was such an amazing experience and I am grateful that I was able to give them a go.
When I look back at my student exchange and reflect on the beautiful people I met and some of the amazing experiences I had, I again have mixed emotions; emotions of happiness that it happened, and sadness that it’s over. But I now have life-long friends from across the globe and many memories to cherish.