Studentische Monatszeitung für Duisburg, Essen und das Ruhrgebiet

STUDIUM & FREIZEIT

Between Excitement and Anxiety: A Year Abroad in the United States

Going abroad is as frightening as it is exciting. [pictures: Larissa Lienig]

17.06.2019 13:40 - Gastautor*in

By gutest author Larissa Lienig

My heart stops for a beat. I am logged on to the online application platform of the College abroad. There it is. My future written in bold black letters: “Your status: Accepted”. I don’t know how to put my emotions into actions, so I just sit on my bed and stare on the screen. Finally, I can smile, from one ear to the other. I will be going to the United States of America.

When I started studying Journalism and Public Relations (JPR) in October 2017 at the Westfälische Hochschule for Applied Science in Gelsenkirchen, I already had my eyes wide open for the opportunity of a semester abroad. My faculty offers a one year degree program with the Juniata College in Pennsylvania, US. Wanting to specialize in Public Relations, I took it as a huge opportunity to do my bachelor’s degree in a country that has a great impact on the industry. There is only space for one student in this program and I am lucky to be chosen for this by the professor who is an Abroad Agent at the JPR faculty. This is when my journey begins.

Why It Is Important to Follow Up

Shortly after the first confirmation of my professor, I received an E-Mail from the international office of Juniata College. It contained calendar details for the course of the academic year, estimated costs, as well as information on the online-application process. The link leading to the latter does not work and I had to get in touch with the Juniata office. I felt stupid to bother them with this issue, especially because the steps were self-explanatory. But the E-Mail that returned from the US was kind and they replaced the link.

Later, there were several more questions arising, which were essential for the completion of my application, and I got less shy to articulate them. After I logged on to the platform it was time to pre-select the classes I would be attending at Juniata. It was a disaster. They have to be similar to what I would be doing in Germany. It was semester break and not possible to reach the responsible professor in person for the acknowledgement of the classes. We corresponded via dozens of E-Mails. I must have been really annoying.

However, in the end I was more scared to make an error in the application and maybe not get accepted, than to bother the people who are there to help. I learnt that I have to go after the information I need. Even if this sometimes means to get the feeling of annoying people. I am responsible for the success of my year abroad. Studying in the US is very costly. When I told my parents I am accepted to Juniata, they were full of excitement. Excitement soon turned into apprehension. My Dad retired this year and they would not be able to fully support me financially. During my first application I did not want to make the decision about money.

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Everything will fall into place, I thought. And it did. My grandparents stepped in and offered to cover the costs. At first, relief spreads across my chest, just to be shut down by a feeling of guilt. Is it selfish to take the money? I looked into additional sources of funding. My home university advertises a scholarship by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and applying for government grant for international students is promising. I promised myself to not live off my grandparents and find a part time job when I’m in the US – this also enhances the overall experience.

Overcoming the Overwhelming

Anticipation of the year abroad, the people I will meet and experiences I will make goes along with a feeling of missing out. I cannot put life in Germany on hold. Family and friends continue to make memories, without me being a part of them. My grandparents are over eighty years old. I am afraid something might happen to them while I am gone. Applying for scholarships and student grant consumes a lot of time and energy, as does the finalization of the college application. Time I ought to invest in my last semester studying in Germany. All this piles up to an emotional pressure impending to overwhelm me from time to time.

When it gets to this stage, I take a deep breath. This year offers so many opportunities to learn about things I would not be able to experience at the Westfälische Hochschule for Applied Science in Gelsenkirchen. At Juniata, I take a class on women and gender equality in communications. During orientation week, new students go on a multiple day adventure to get familiar with the region and people on campus. I take part in a friendship family program, assigning me a host family for cultural exchange. And for Christmas I will fly home to be with my family and grandparents. This way, my conscious is at ease. Looking at the time ahead, there is no choice other than to embrace and grow with the challenges and opportunities. Facing them with an open mind should lead to a great experience, one way or the other.

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