Erfurt, Germany, 2015/16

For the academic year 2015/16 I was awarded the Verband scholarship and had the fantastic opportunity to study abroad in Erfurt, Germany. Throughout my time studying German, political science and history at CMU I have had some really great experiences, and even studied abroad previously in Bielefeld, Germany. However, if I had to choose one experience that truly impacted me on a personal as well as academic level, my year in Erfurt was definitely it. Although I feel it is a nearly impossible task to boil down all of my thoughts and feelings about this amazing experience and how great this opportunity was into one short text, I will try to give a brief snapshot of my experience.

Erfurt is a quaint city of approximately 210,000 which lies in the Green Heart of Germany, Thuringia. Although it is a relatively quiet city, there is always something going on in Erfurt and plenty of opportunities to explore the city and the beautiful surrounding region with the unlimited travel cards provided to students by the university. In addition to being a beautiful old German city, it is also a very fascinating one for those interested in history and culture such as myself, as it is home to a great deal of history due to its links to Martin Luther, the DDR and so on. Erfurt, being a smaller city and off the beaten path for tourists, was also a great place to improve one’s German skills and really fit in and get a feel for what everyday life in Germany is like.

University life in Germany was also great. Due to the nature of the program you are set up with housing in the city or at the university in the form of an apartment, giving you a nice amount of freedom. There are also several people there who will help you get things situated and clear up the stereotypical mess of German bureaucracy you will encounter when you first get there. I felt that I was able to always challenge myself at the university and learn a lot, as well as explore new areas of study that I may not have been able to do at CMU. Classes were always interesting and I was able to make lots of friends from all over the world, and even met my girlfriend there! Despite taking quite a lot of classes and being involved in a few extracurricular activities, I never once felt that I didn’t have enough time to travel or go on random adventures around Thuringia. 

During my time in Erfurt I got to travel quite a lot, not only within Germany, but also throughout Europe, visiting countries such as France, Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and so on. Even having visited so many other countries, I felt that most importantly I was able to really get to know my city, Erfurt, and the region. A large part of that was due to becoming friends with local club members from the VDAC (Verband), and becoming close friends with many local people such as Horst, the local club president, and Jürgen and Rosi, a local couple I got to know through a program called “Fremde werden Freunde”. Through spending time and speaking with them I felt I was really able to learn a lot about German culture, attitudes and life. 

I think that you will find that no matter where you might end up Germany or what you decide on, all of these kinds of experiences are possible. All you have to do is dive in, give it your all, and just be open to whatever doors may open along the way. I really cannot recommend this program more and I am so thankful I was given this opportunity. Just go for it!

-Ken Herrema