Name: Samantha Johnson
Program: Short-term study tour in Germany
Term Abroad: Summer during graduate school
Throughout high school and undergrad I always wanted to study abroad but the timing was never right. In the spring of 2017 I started looking into studying abroad just to see what UMSL had to offer and I found the German Study Tour that was a perfect fit for my studies (I have a BA in History and am working towards an MA in History, concentration in Museum Studies). This was a two-week program to Germany where we studied the country from World War II to the end of the Cold War.
It was a fascinating trip where we traveled to Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, and Munich, to see how Germany remembers its often-unfortunate history, and to immerse ourselves in the German culture of course. With walking tours of all of the cities, courtesy of our German tour guides, we were able to get an overview of the history of each city, as well as see the famous landmarks and museums we have read about in history books including the Berlin Wall in Berlin, and the Documentation Center and Nazi Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, to name a few. We also visited the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Dachau, which were both extremely powerful to experience, and they were wonderful memorials for those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
After our planned excursions for the day, which usually included a tour or museum visit of some sort, we were given free time and could see whatever we wanted to see. As a student in the Museum Studies program, I spent a lot of my free time in museums and was really excited to see how European museums compared to our American museums. My favorite museum was the Residenz in Munich, a former palace of the monarchs of Bavaria which showcases gorgeously decorated rooms, fine architecture, beautiful pieces of art, and additional treasures from the royal collections.
My favorite city that we visited was Dresden. It was badly damaged after the bombing that ensued during World War II but it has been working to rebuild itself in the old style of architecture that was prominent before the war. The buildings are beautiful, the city was perfectly set along the Elbe River, and the atmosphere was just peaceful and I could have easily spent all two weeks there. My second favorite activity was our trip to the Eagles Nest outside of Munich and situated in the Austrian Alps. The drive through the scenic German countryside was very different from the larger cities that we had previously seen throughout our trip. When we finally got to the top of the mountains to the Eagles Nest, the former resort of Adolf Hitler, I was stunned by the breathtaking view. I ended up taking way too many pictures but I wanted to make sure that I never forgot the experience.
My study abroad experience to Germany has truly been the best experience of my life. Being immersed in the culture and visiting the places that I have previously only read about in history books was amazing and life changing. The experiences I gained not only helped with my educational endeavors, but it also allowed for personal growth, and I can already see how this experience will continue to shape my professional life. If you have ever wanted to study abroad, I highly encourage you to take advantage of the wonderful offerings that UMSL provides. I know that I am forever grateful for this amazing opportunity.
Program: UMSL short-term Business in Bremen program
Major: Information Systems
Term Abroad: Summer semester Junior year
When I first decided to study abroad, I was very excited as to opportunities to learn about a new culture, but I can’t deny that I was absolutely terrified as well. I had never been out-of-country before, let alone going solo in an unfamiliar city where English wasn’t the first language. Nonetheless, I came to the conclusion this would be an excellent experience and a time to get to meet lots of people from other cultures. Since I’m a business student, I chose to take a class in Digital and Social Media Marketing Strategies by one of our own UMSL professors. For this particular study abroad program, we were to study at Hochschule Bremen, a university in Bremen, a northern city of 543,000 people.
Prior to the beginning of the program, I did take a detour for a few days to the UK, where I got to travel in Scotland and England. I was forced to learn the ways of the London Tube very quickly, but I had an amazing time getting to see the sights that I had only dreamed of seeing. I then flew to Zurich, Switzerland, and got hit with the full force of jet lag. But after a couple days, I took a train to Bremen to meet my other fellow UMSL students. I met most of them for the first time over there, but we quickly formed into a tight group. At the university, you could take 1 or 2 classes that took place Monday to Thursday; personally, I only took one class so I could take the afternoon to explore Bremen.
This year, we were booked at a hotel for a month, which was a few blocks away from the university. Prepare to walk everywhere! But stay off the red sidewalks; you might get run over by bicyclists if you’re not watching! The city tram, as well as walking and biking, are the main modes of transportation, but fortunately, we were given month-long tram tickets to get to the university easily. The city center had lots of great shops, historical places, and one of my favorites in the market, fresh fruit. I have never seen so much fresh fruit to the extent that I saw in Bremen. The traditional German food was delicious, and I was quickly familiarized with rostbratwursts and locally brewed beers. One point that I would recommend is becoming familiar with the train schedules, Euros and other currency, and speaking/reading basic German.
On the weekends, many students took their own trips, or went with the university-sponsored trips. The summer team university group did an amazing job to provide many different tours and trips for people who weren’t familiar with the area. Lots of local events, including tours to Mercedes-Benz, a pub crawl, and karaoke, were options for the 200 students that came from 35 different countries. Over the course of the month, we got to see Berlin, Hamburg, Groningen in the Netherlands, and experience the Waddensea. I was not prepared for walking barefoot the entire 8 miles across the minefield of seashells in the Waddensea, but it was definitely an experience I will never forget! Nonetheless, kayaking in the canals in Groningen was probably my most favorite experience in Europe.
I would say it was an eye-opening experience that I will never forget anytime soon. I got to meet a lot of cool people, and see culture in a new light and perspective. I had never experienced the feeling of confusion trying to read food product labels and trying to count Euros quickly, something I had always taken for granted in my comfort zone back in STL. Being the foreigner in Europe was definitely an opportunity to see the world through fresh eyes, and would be an experience I would recommend to anyone to do within their lifetime.