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John Biegen - German Language and Culture in Mayen

Published: Monday, 09 Jul 2012
Author: Michelle Meunier
Department: Office for Education Abroad

Name: John Biegen
Status: Sophomore
Major: Supply Chain Management; German
Hometown: Troy, MI
Program: German Language and Culture in Mayen (Germany); Summer 2012

My experience in Germany for the past six weeks is something a normal student on campus at MSU just simply cannot replicate. In German class, one learns how to properly construct sentences, read stories, analyze scenes from a movie, and interact with other students; however, none of these can compare to what you can learn by actually travelling to Germany and experiencing the culture first hand.

I have been to Germany a few times before this study abroad program and I can safely say, I have learned the most; academically and culturally. I lived with a host family for five weeks and did nothing else but interact as much as I could in order to fully immerse myself in the German world. At first, it was quite difficult to express myself because I am obviously much more proficient in English than I am in German. Despite the troubles I had communicating with my host family, it was very interesting for me to try and teach myself not to speak English and only use German. After being immersed in the German culture for several weeks, things start getting a lot easier because you learn new words, idioms, slang, etc. My host mother and I had vivid conversations about 9/11, politics, education systems, and so much more; the amazing thing for me was that I was able to understand all of this in German, and was even able to make some counter-arguments to the things I disagreed with! I found this very exciting because later in life, I plan on living in Germany for a year or two, in order to do an internship, and this really opened my eyes to what I should expect in the upcoming years. I am glad that we did not spend the whole five weeks together as one American study abroad group, but instead, we were able to go off on our own and meet new people and interact with those people in order to get more of a feel of the German culture. Now, if I decide to go back and work there, I won’t be as overwhelmed by the culture shock. And precisely that is what I took from this program the most: interaction. Without interacting with the people of the German culture, you are barely stepping out of the classroom at Michigan State because that is how you ultimately learn the language and culture of the country that interests you the most. If you are a student and are reading this and plan on seriously pursuing a language, studying abroad is a MUST. You can only get so much out of the teachings in a classroom, but if you actually visit the country of your interest, the things you learn are beyond my ability to describe in this paper.

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