Accomplishments and Aspirations in Germany

This is an excerpt from a larger piece for the Honors Program at Elizabethtown College. In it, Niklas shares many of the revelations and new habits he gained through his semester in Marburg, Germany.

Once we got to Marburg, we were given a Studentenausweis (Student ID), which on the back side had a Semesterticket (semester ticket). With this piece of paper, we were allowed to take every public transport option within the state of Hessen and even some trains outside. I made sure to take advantage of the ticket as often as possible, and, by far, my most common destination was the Frankfurt am Main airport. Not every time was to fly. I made the 90-minute-long journey about 8 times. What may turn out to be the most important airport trip was early one Friday morning, when I didn’t go to the airport itself, but the huge business center in the train station. This was due to an information session of the European Flight Academy, the Lufthansa-run flight academy. The four-hour-long presentation covered what seemed to be every aspect of the academy, and I figured out what my goal immediately following college is, and listening to the first officer of an Airbus A320 talk about her job convinced me, once again, that this is my goal.

One of my largest sources of satisfaction from the semester has been the exercise habits I picked up. Already in Vienna, I made a point of walking as much as possible, going by foot even when traveling along public transportation routes, and always taking stairs, no matter how out of breath that made me four floors later. This ended up being just a warm-up to Marburg, where there was an almost 100-meter (about 300-foot) elevation difference between the house I lived in and the nearest grocery store. While there was a bus that drove up the hill once an hour, I often refused to take it, preferring to go by foot, even when carrying a heavy shopping bag. The daily routine necessitating at least 20 minutes of walking to get anywhere had me well conditioned after four months there, and I lost all the weight I had gained from the fall semester. Since coming back, I have made conscious efforts to walk more, which is very difficult on a campus as small as Elizabethtown’s. On top of the daily walking, I also spent a lot of my free time walking. In almost all of Germany it is possible to leave your front door and reach a hiking path within 5 minutes of walking, a feature I took advantage of multiple times a week. Walking at a brisk pace while listening to, and occasionally loudly singing along to, when no one else was near, music in the woods, isolated from the stress inherent in human interactions and from the draining droning of cars’ engines, was one of my favorite ways to spend my free time. I even ended up spending a couple of my days off just walking. Combining this with the free public transport of the Semesterticket let me walk whatever way looked most interesting, with peace of mind knowing that if I happened to get tired, I would be within a half hour’s walk of a bus stop of train station. Every family member of mine, even my great aunt who lives centrally within Berlin, has easy access to large networks of hiking area. Not one of my friends in the United States can claim a similar situation. This was yet another factor confirming that I need to move to Europe as soon as my life allows it. These walks were useful tools to maintaining my mental health during the semester.

After this amazing semester, I now have a concrete plan for my next couple years and several major goals of varying importance. Most importantly, I gained valuable experience in living on my own, away from dependence inherent in living at home or in a college dorm. I learned how much more I enjoy learning languages than learning most other things, and I was so proud of the level that my German reached while in Vienna that I now am disappointed by how broken my speaking feels every day. With this discovered enjoyment, I have also made an increased push toward trilinguality, trying to work toward my Danish speaking being at a similar level as my listening, with plans to start working on learning Dutch soon. I made very good friends that have dissipated around the United States and Europe, but most importantly I made connections that will make my sentence here in Elizabethtown approach being enjoyable. I am taking steps to live in Germany during the longer upcoming breaks, something I wouldn’t have the confidence to do without this semester.

This paper, and its associated presentation, is part of a series of study abroad narratives written for the Honors Program. If you are an Honors student, you too can earn four Honors credits through your study abroad experience! To learn more about the BCA program in Marburg, please click the hyperlink.

About the Author: Niklas Byriel ’21 – Spring 2019, Semester in Marburg, Germany

I’m Niklas, a junior German and Computer Science major. I plan to move to Germany as soon as possible to become a pilot for Lufthansa.


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