My semester in Germany is coming to a close soon. In many ways, this study abroad experience has been similar to the time I spent in Taiwan. Yet, not surprisingly, I was able to learn many things about Germany and myself that I wouldn’t have been able to learn in Taiwan, let alone back in the States at OU. I think that one major difference is that I had the opportunity to travel quite a bit while in Europe. When I was in Taiwan, I didn’t do much traveling in general. It might be because I’ve already traveled there many times, so there isn’t as much of a novelty to exploring the island. However, if you’ve been reading my blogs you know that I did have a really fun time on one trip where I had the opportunity to visit many Taiwanese elementary and middle school students, including those that I taught, in the southern city of Chiayi.

Aside from traveling, the way the academic systems are structured is the next difference that I can think of off the top of my head. I’ve gone into quite a bit more details in other posts, but essentially the systems in Taiwan and Germany require you to be significantly more self-motivated in order to succeed (at least from an engineering student’s perspective). However, I believe that Germany’s undergraduate academic experience is even more pronounced in this regard. No homework is assigned, no homework is due. Each final is worth 100% of your grade, and that’s it. No midterms, no attendance (in engineering courses).

I think that experiencing the challenges in these systems has given me a new reason to work harder when I get back to OU. I will now appreciate all of the work that professors put into structuring their classes as well as other things that I take for granted more often that not. In fact, there are many things that professors in the US do that they don’t really have to, like actually have multiple midterms in each class which is plenty of work. Any professor could just decide that they would only have a final, and that would be the culmination of an entire semester’s work, just like the way they do it here in Germany. Of course, I’m fairly certain there would be an uproar among students to a certain degree if any professor did decide to do this.

The point I think that I’m trying to get at is actually quite simple. I expected to go into study abroad and have an amazing time traveling and getting to meet new people. Academically, I was prepared to be challenged by learning the same rigorous engineering coursework in different languages. What I really had no clue about at the beginning of this academic year abroad was that the path to getting these different experiences out of study abroad turned out to be, not surprisingly, completely different from what I expected. It’s almost like I had a goal right in front of me, and in order to actually get there I had to do a complete 180 and take what turned out to be a treacherous path to get to something that I thought would require little to no effort.

These blogs will continue after I get back to OU, although I won’t be studying abroad anymore at that point. I hope to continue to post about my experiences throughout the rest of my academic career (and maybe even beyond that). Although this whole blog thing is actually an assignment that I am required to complete as part of the Global Engagement Fellowship, I am infinitely grateful that it has motivated me to recorded my experiences while abroad, something that I am fairly sure I would not have done otherwise.