I’m really excited to share an adventure from Nathan Garbig today. He spent the summer studying abroad and his great photography on instagram helped me take a virtual vacation to Europe. He’s sharing helpful tips for anyone considering studying abroad in the future.
How long did you study abroad?
9 weeks – The official dates of my trip were June 19 through August 24.
Why did you choose to go to that country?
Germany actually wasn’t my first choice, New Zealand was. Wanting to go into International Public Relations, I knew that it was imperative to intern abroad this summer. So I looked into a PR intern abroad program in New Zealand, but it was just SO expensive. I’m talking 9,000 (not including travel or food).
Discouraged, I started looking on NKU’s Education Abroad website for other internship opportunities. As I was scrolling through, I read a titled that said “Ludwig Maximilians Universitat in Munich: Electronic Media”. I became interested, and I clicked. Turns out the program was both a study and intern abroad (1 month of each). Once I started looking at the pictures of Munich on Google, I knew it was a city I would like to spend my summer, plus my dad’s side of the family has a German heritage.
What languages do you speak?
Obviously English, but basic Spanish and German as well. Both languages have benefitted me thus far! I need German to get by in Germany, even though most people speak English. Actually, they speak so fluently that I sometimes forget that I’m abroad. But I also use my Spanish occasionally with my Spanish roommate. It’s cool to ask each other about each other’s respective language, even though his English is MUCH better than my Spanish.
What’s been your favorite adventure so far?
Can I say all of them?? The thing is, every adventure I’ve taken has been so different. My second weekend, I traveled to Prague with a group of 6 others.
I would never imagine a city that’s only 4 hours away to be so different, but the language, people, culture, architecture was very heavily influenced by Eastern European style. That’s the first time I really felt like I was away from the USA! And the streets and buildings are just magnificent. The city was untouched by all the war and turmoil, so some of the building, the castle and the streets were all built very early (Old Town was built in the Middle Ages). How cool?!
But then very different from our trip to Prague was our hiking trip in the Alps and seeing Neuschwanstein Castle.
So I told you that I really wanted to go to New Zealand to study abroad, right? Well it was because of the incredible landscapes. In the Alps, I was surrounded by the most breathtaking scenery I had ever seen!
The river from the Alps was crystal clear, the mountains towered above us like jagged skyscrapers decorated with lush green trees, and Partnachklamm, a gorge where you hike through caves along the river, might as well be the 8th natural wonder of the world. And then on top of all that, add the castle that Walt Disney based Sleeping Beauty’s castle to the perfect landscapes. And that’s Bavaria… absolutely breathtaking!
What obstacles did you have to overcome to study abroad?
Like most students in college, I am not Mr. Money Bags. How nice would it have been to just splurge on this trip with money to blow? No, that’s not how it works. My spring semester, I worked so hard with work and applying for scholarships.
So here’s what my spring semester looked like: I was a full-time student taking 15 credit hours, while also being actively involved in 5 student organizations. On top of that, I interned at a PR/Marketing agency in OTR, but it was unpaid so I realized I had to get another job ASAP. I took on a job at an antique store so that I could make a little bit of extra cash for the trip.
On top of that, I would volunteer for side jobs (like cleaning professional offices) so I could penny pinch as much as I could. And then, in my free time I applied, and applied, and applied for scholarships. I’d say I applied for a minimum of 10 scholarships, through NKU, my fraternity, my College of Informatics, local and regional foundations, and random scholarship websites that you can search on Google. Imagine writing essays for all of those… i just kept saying, “Nathan, it’s going to pay off!”
I can’t believe how much God blessed me, and I received enough scholarship money to pay for the program, plane ticket, passport, and Eurail pass cost. The only remaining costs were going to be food and weekend hostel rentals.
What do you wish you would have know before you left?
Gosh, there’s so much I wish I would have known before I left. I guess I’ll make a list for you.
1. Prepare yourself to pay for public restrooms. They’re about 1 Euro each time you go, so make sure that you use the facilities before you leave your dorm.
2. WATER ISN’T FREE. It’s considered a private good, and comes in a fancy .25 liter glass bottle costing about 2.5 Euro. Oh and don’t forget the other aspects of water that are different…
Carbonated water is considered water. You have to ask for Water without Gas/Carbonation.
I don’t think ice exists in this country. On a hot summer day, all I want is a water with ice. But… it doesn’t exist. 🙁
3. A lot of Europe doesn’t get as hot as Kentucky in the summer, which means that is minimal. My classroom, my dorm, and each restaurant I’ve been to have yet to be air conditioned. And there was a week that it was an average of 93 degrees F. I know that a lot of Europeans have great style and you want to fit in… but in this case, I should have brought more shorts and t-shirts.
4. Speaking of style, I was SO worried about what to wear in Germany. I was told that they have the greatest fashion, and so to fit in I needed to buy a lot of new clothes. Truth is, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a lot of Americans and Germans. If I would have known this, I wouldn’t have spent so much time shopping for new clothes.
5. You’re going to get homesick if you’re gone for 2 months. It’s inevitable. You start missing the perks of American living and the people uncontrollably. When this started happening, my tendency was to sit on Facebook to try to talk to them. Don’t trap yourself like that. Instead, get out and go on an adventure. There’s no way I can book an early flight home, so just hang out with your friends here and go adventure. Plus, every day spend in your room is a day wasted abroad. Things happen in your personal life back home while you’re abroad. But again, don’t wish that you were home to fix them. It will make you miserable during your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You gotta roll with the punches, and know that everything will work out for the better.
6. Don’t constantly stay on social media. Post your beautiful pictures on Instagram, make people jealous, but don’t worry about what is happening on Facebook.
What’s been your favorite meal so far?
So before I went to Germany, everyone told me that the country has awful food. Not true. My favorite meal that I’ve had thus far was at Augustiner Keller, a biergarten in a suburb of Munich. I had the Pfeffersnitzel mit Spaztel. So basically, it was snitzel (a pork cutlet covered in fried batter: think of fried chicken) with a delicious creamy pepper sauce and deep fried onions over the meat. The spatzel (egg noodles) was the perfect side for this hearty meal! And if you’re at a biergarten, you have to get a liter of the beer to bring out all the flavors of the food. I’m not even a big beer guy in the USA, but the beer in Germany has so much more flavor. I mean, Munich is the beer capital in the world.
How do you spend your weekends?
I touched on it before, but we get try our best to adventure as much as we can! So the first week I visited Prague, the next weekend we celebrated July 4th by Starnbergersee (or Starnberg Lake), and the past weekend we went to hike in the Alps and took a day trip to visit Neuschwanstein castle. This upcoming week, I’m taking a trip to Salzburg and Vienna in Austria, and then I am planning to visit Venice, Zurich and possibly even Morocco (we’ll see on that last one).
Do you have any budgeting tips?
So at the beginning of the trip, I just splurged. It took me a while to get into the rhythm of being abroad. But if you’re going to be abroad for a month or longer, you can’t eat out every day. It adds up so quickly, and you’ll realize that you should have cooked at home more often. Good thing though, food is so inexpensive at the local grocery in Germany. For example, box of pasta is .75, and sauce is 1 Euro.
I decided to do the following: eat breakfast at home, and then either pick dinner or lunch to eat out. I also gave myself about a budget of $10-$15 a day for food. So this will really only cover 1 meal, plus a few snacks out. But by putting a cap on the money you spend each day, it makes you conscious of your spending habits.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering studying abroad?
DO IT. Yes, there are a lot of worries. I worried about finances, being away from my family and friends, meeting new people, speaking the language, hating my classes, getting homesick, something bad happening back home, and much more. I’m a high stress person, so I think of all these things. Actually, most of these things have happened to me. But each challenge and difficulty has helped me grow as an individual.
Plus, when are you going to get this opportunity again? Once you have a full-time job that gives you a week of vacation each year? Probably not. Take a risk, breathe, and relax. It’s all going to be okay.
In the words of my favorite musical artist, Ellie Goulding, “What are you waiting for?????”
You can follow more of Nathan’s adventures on his instagram account.
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