Taking Part in a Language Immersion Program

I’ve known since I was young that I wanted to be able to speak German. Because of this, choosing German as my second major really seemed like a no brainer. Studying abroad for a year was a life changing experience. With BCA Marburg, I was able to immerse myself in German language and culture

The Marburg program includes a pre-semester Vienna portion. For me, there’s no other way to put it than that Vienna was everything. I loved living in the city. I loved the U-Bahn (subway), the hustle and bustle, the museums, the tourists, the beauty of it all. I was attending a language school and made many international friends. In August, when it was still unbearably hot, we would go swimming in the Danube, picnic in parks, and wander around eating ice cream. There were always places to go and things to see. In September, there were fall festivals to be attended, cool nights walking along the river, museums, churches and tourist attractions to be seen before we would leave. With all the things to do, the only time I spoke German outside of the classroom was when I was ordering food at a restaurant, buying a ticket to a tourist attraction, or paying for my groceries.

When I arrived in Germany, I was greeted with the rain everyone in Vienna had warned me about. My spirits were still high; I WAS about to move into a castle and form a lifelong friendship with my roommate. It turned out that my roommate was intimidating. Although she was nothing but sweet, she spoke to me in German so quickly that I would just nod. Marburg is the opposite of Vienna. It’s a small town, entirely cobblestone and hills. I was living smack dab in the middle; every morning I could see the tourists outside my window taking pictures of the place I got to call home. Since the town IS so small, speaking English with anyone outside of the university is a no go. The transition to German was messy, with a preference to stay with my BCA friends so we could talk normally and without feeling embarrassed. We would do things together German students thought were lame, such as visit Christmas markets.  I slowly started to meet people through my housing. We weren’t really friends, but they were likable and patient and would repeat words until I could say them correctly. Their patience and will for me to succeed was a special type of love.

After my BCA Besties left at the end of the fall semester, I was left with the big question of what now. I had finished all of my classes but two; my German acquaintances were at school for most of the day or writing papers. I didn’t have people to hang out with until the evening. I used what time I had with my friends to get close to them. I watched a television series with one friend. I would plan dates to cook with my friends.  I started joining every game night and movie screening possible. Since my days remained largely empty, I learned how to be alone. I got a library card and began to read like I hadn’t since high school. I got a gym membership and became a regular. I watched the American TV I missed with German subtitles and took notes. A friend from Hungary and I made games to study useful vocabulary. When my BCA girls left, they took any and all opportunities to speak English with them. Even though I still felt bumbling and awkward at times, I had to admit by the time the new semester started my German was the best it had ever been.

When springtime came, everything fell into place better than I had imagined in my wildest dreams. My new roommate and I were close, I had a solid group of friends to rely on, and I was actually excited about my classes in the new semester. There were a few moments in which I realized how good my German had become. One weekend, a friend invited me home with him. His parents do not speak English and I knew I would have to eat with them. On my last day, an uncle came to dinner. He attempted to speak with me in English, but my friend’s mom cut him off. She told him my German was perfect, I was obviously fluent, and there would be no need for him to struggle his way through dinner. A few weeks later, my history course had a discussion in class. The class was small and I was the only female, yet alone foreigner. I made a point in the discussion, which was disregarded by my peers. The professor then stopped the discussion, saying the point I had made was a good one, and asked me to repeat myself. I was so proud I was able to follow and contribute in a second language.

On my last day in Marburg, my friends threw me a surprise party. One of my friends had made pizza from scratch and another made chocolate cake. We sat and ate and laughed. Some of my friends had even bought me goodbye presents. We all reminisced about our time together. And although the entire evening was spent speaking German, not once did I feel awkward or bumbling or frustrated that I couldn’t iterate myself. I just felt loved and at home.

About the Author- Sara Kroboth ’19, Year 2017-2018 Marburg, Germany alumna

I am a senior international business and German major at Elizabethtown College. I spent my entire junior year studying at Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany. Because I had such a positive experience while abroad, I promote study abroad programs as an Outreach Coordinator for the Study Abroad Office.


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