Reflecting on a Year Abroad July 13, 2011Posted by Christine Morrison in Fulbright, Germany, Undergraduate.
Tags: challenging experiences, culture, professional accomplishments, rewarding experiences, travel
My flight home is approaching far too quickly. As I pack up and close out this chapter of my life in Germany, I find myself doing a lot of reflecting on my experience here. I would like to share some of these reflections in hopes that they will encourage others to pursue time abroad.
The most challenging experience I have had this year – more so than the first 24 hours after my arrival – has been getting ready to leave.
It took a few months to get settled (figure out my resources, develop a routine, get my research on track, etc.), but it became a comfortable and familiar life that I love. Yet only a year later, it is time to put everything in suitcases. While I am excited to return home and see my family, it is difficult to think about the end of this chapter.
The most rewarding experience I have had this year is my relationship with my supervisor. I spent a lot of time with her in and out of the lab, as well as on trips to meet with collaborators. She set a great example for me as an accomplished professor who overcame the challenges associated with being a woman in a typically male-dominated field. She became a mentor for my own scientific career and helped me answer many questions I have about entering a professorship.
My greatest professional accomplishment is the scientific publications from my research here, but I think even more important are the skills I have learned and can apply to my PhD work. This year abroad was, in hindsight, the perfect transition from a bachelor’s student to a PhD student. It has allowed me to make the mistakes I did not even know I needed to make to be a better grad student. To put it plainly, I believe I will be able to “hit the ground running” when I start my PhD work this September.
Travel and Culture
Another important part of my experience here has been traveling and cultural exchange. The people I have met and the countries I have visited have given me new insight into intercultural communication and international relations. I also have a newfound appreciation for the culture, food, people, traditions, land, and language(s) that makes each country unique. Even after being here for a year, I still find it amazing that from any point in Europe, one can be in a completely new environment after no more than a few hours on a train.
All in all, I highly recommend that students consider applying for a Fulbright scholarship. What I learned this year has redirected some of my goals, reaffirmed others, and also created new directions, which I think is an important process to go through as a student.
If I can give one piece of advice to students selected for a Fulbright scholarship, it is to take it! I applied for graduate school the same year as the Fulbright scholarship and I grew so excited about graduate school, I was unsure if I would accept a Fulbright scholarship if one was offered to me. As soon as I arrived at my new home in Germany, I knew that I made the right decision, and that was before I knew what the year would bring. Now that my Fulbright experience is ending, I honestly cannot imagine having done anything else this year.