Postcard from Abroad: Andrea Danziger

BGSU student reconnects with German culture via education abroad program

When I was a young girl, my family lived in Frankfurt, Germany. Ever since then I’ve had this singing in my blood, calling me back to my childhood home. When I finally had the opportunity to return to Europe for my senior year as part of Bowling Green State University’s education abroad program, I leapt at the chance. BGSU’s German Department kindly offered me a place in its exchange program with the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg in Austria, and I was more than happy to accept.

My return to German culture has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for which I could have asked. My childhood abroad played such an important role in my academic interests, ultimately leading to my choice to study international relations as well as the German language. Returning to such a culture feels like coming full circle.

Because of my personal history, I didn’t experience culture shock and travel anxiety the way many of my peers did. Living in Salzburg has felt so much like coming home that the minor day-to-day challenges rarely get me down. Upon arrival, I had the practical experience of using public transportation or ordering fries without ketchup that many of my new friends lacked. My biggest challenges were in other arenas.

Taking every single one of my classes in German has been the biggest challenge for me while living abroad. Many of my fellow students have spent significantly more hours in German classrooms than me, and I quickly learned on arrival that my cultural proficiency and street fluency did not equate to an academic environment. Luckily, my new friends were more than happy to exchange their classroom understanding for my street skills and travel agent abilities — an exchange that continues to be beneficial for everyone today.

My time abroad actually began several months before the BGSU Salzburg Program. Prior to studying in Salzburg, I was lucky enough to have gained an internship with the U.S. State Department at the U.S. Consulate in Munich, Germany. It was an amazing opportunity and an excellent combination of my interests. As I hope to someday work in foreign affairs, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my adventures.  

I was also lucky enough to have received several large scholarships from the BGSU community, namely the Stuart R. Givens Memorial Fellowship and the Hoskins Global Scholar Program Scholarship. These two scholarships have allowed me to pursue amazing opportunities focusing on the Syrian Refugee Crisis, a topic in which I have strong personal interest. I spent time researching refugee societal integration in Berlin; Dresden, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary; and then was able to volunteer in a Special Cases Refugee Camp on the Greek Island of Lesvos during my winter break. The experiences I have gained from these scholarships were the icing on the cake to all of the amazing travel opportunities I have had while abroad.

While my academically motivated travel was certainly fabulous, one of the biggest perks of studying abroad is all of the personal travel opportunities right at your fingertips. Since last November, I have been in 13 different countries, countless cities, seeing beautiful, natural wonders and having spent scarcely a single weekend in my own apartment. Sometimes I’ve traveled alone, sometimes with new friends, and sometimes meeting up with friends from home, but regardless of the company, every new experience is magical in its own unique way. I’ve also learned the best stories happen when things don’t go according to plan. Whether you are staying in beachside orange grove in Croatia, a tourist farm in the middle-of-no-where-Slovenia, or if you have to hitch hike to your hotel in Italy because the town shut down for a holiday you’ve never heard of, adventure is waiting around every corner.

Studying abroad has been and is one of the most delightful twists of fate that I never knew to pray for. It breaks my heart to write this postcard knowing I have less than 50 days left in the place my heart now calls home. If every student at BGSU could experience even half of what I have been blessed enough to receive, our community would be a richer place indeed.