I had the opportunity to explore the rich history of the a few European countries in the summer of 2016 while studying Global Diversity and Independence, Moral Issues in the Arts and Humanities and conducting my own Independent Study, which I decided to focus on the childhood before and after the Reunification of Germany in 1990. My research was inspired by a conversation I held with two Germans, one local of Jena and the other a visitor Frankfurt, in our conversation we talked about the topic of how socially and economically different it still is between both East and West Germany even after almost 20 years of reunification.
While abroad my studies were in Jena, Berlin, and Dresden Germany; Strasbourg and Alsace France; and London, United Kingdom; although I also had the opportunity to travel to Dresden and Heidelberg, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic (Now Czechia); København, Denmark; and Dublin, Ireland. I’m fortunate to say I got to visit many different places, all beautiful in their own way!
What I loved the most of my experience was definitely being able to explore cultures that are completely different than my own! While being fluent in English and Spanish I was challenged to learn and speak a few other languages, I was completely out of my comfort zone but I was willing to learn and interact with locals and show them my interest to learn their language and their culture. While abroad the European Cup 2016 was going on, as a huge futbol fanatic I was able to be around the European futbol environment throughout the tournament! I fell in love with how passionate everyone was about the game and about their country! I was able to tour a couple stadium while in London and it was amazing to step on such prestigious fields!
What I would do differently is that I would explore more on my own! There were times where I did not do certain things or go certain places because a friend that went on the trip with me did not have the same interests that I did, therefore she did not want to explore as much as I did. There were a few things I regret not doing for myself like hiking Napoleonstein, a famous hiking route in Jena, Germany or the Harry Potter London Walking Tour in the UK. It was opportunities like this that I took for granted at the time to satisfy others where I should have been more willing to do things for myself.
Having said that, a few tips I would like to share are, do not hold back on once in a lifetime opportunities! You never know when you will have the opportunity to study abroad or to climb the Eiffel Tower, just do it! I would also say don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, there are so many things you can learn about the town, the country, the people, the food and the culture in general just by exploring ,trying new things and talking to locals. You even have the opportunity to learn more about yourself, for example I am afraid of heights but I was convinced and decided to climb 400 steps to the top of Church of Our Savior in København, Denmark. I almost did not make it to the top because I began to panic but I was encouraged by local friends that I was almost at the top and that I would regret not making it, once I reached it the view was amazing and definitely worth the climb! I learned that some things won’t be the easiest but if you really want it you will accomplish it.
When I returned to MSU, I definitely looked at situations in a different way. My experiences really opened my eyes in the understanding why certain cultures are how they are and what lead them to be a certain way, one being history. It is easy to judge someone by the first encounter but in order to actually know them it takes time and interest. Talking to people first and getting to know them before making assumptions of a culture is something that I have brought back by incorporating in my daily life but most importantly educating others about it as well. I value more the people I meet and the conversations I hold with those who share their experiences and culture with me but also those who show interest and respect mine.
About the Author:
Nelly Leon is a senior soon to graduate May 2018 from Michigan State University with a BA in Hospitality Business. She is hoping to pursue her Masters in International Sporting Events and Marketing, in Europe in the Fall of 2018. Nelly is a first generation Mexican-American from Lake Placid, Florida. Besides being bilingual she can say “Thank you,” in seven different languages; “ Thank you, Gracias, Merci, Grazie, Dank Je, Tak, Danke! ” She likes spending her free time working out and going for runs around campus, she loves to dance to Latin music, traveling and landscape photography.
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