The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Study Abroad: Immersing Yourself in a Different Language and Culture

Leah+Ruck+24+studied+in+Freiburg%2C+Germany.+Courtesy+of+Leah+Ruck
Leah Ruck ’24 studied in Freiburg, Germany. Courtesy of Leah Ruck

Every year, juniors at Bates decide to take a semester or a year abroad all across the world. This is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in different languages and cultures and expand their horizons beyond Bates. As summarized below, I reached out to three current students and asked them to reflect on studying abroad.

First, I spoke to Leah Ruck ’24 about her experiences abroad as a Junior. As a German minor, Leah was a part of the IES Language and Area Studies program in Freiburg, Germany. While in Freiburg, all of her courses, which covered a variety of different topics, were taken in German. Examples include an art history course, “Between Conformity and Provocation: German Art from 1933 to the Present”; an environmental studies course, “Environmental Policies and Green Business in Freiburg”; a film studies course, “Film, Language, and Filmmaking”; a core German course, “German Language in Context: Independent Abroad”; and a final course in politics, “Germany in the 21st Century: A Country Between Past, Present, and Future.”

Ruck worked with German professor Jakub Kazecki to choose a program and location that fit her preferences, narrowing her choice down to studying in Freiburg or Berlin with the IES program. “I was drawn to Freiburg’s abundance of outdoor spaces and the idea of being able to hop on a train and visit the Black Forest,” she said. “I find that I’m happiest exploring in the woods, or mountains, or wherever when I’m in Maine, and I wanted to make sure that I could have that same access in Germany.”

When asked about something she learned abroad that’s different from the Bates experience, Ruck indicated: “By the time I went abroad at the end of my junior year, I think I had grown so accustomed to being at Bates and seeing the same faces, doing the same things, and just existing pretty comfortably in my home state. Which isn’t bad! But, I was excited for a change and going abroad to Freiburg gave me that opportunity. This was my first experience abroad and living somewhere outside of Maine. I got to figure out what it means to be ‘me’ while exploring an old city that is five or six times the size of Lewiston, and being part of a university that has over 25,000 students.”

Finally, reflecting on her experience as a whole, she stated: “I loved my time in Freiburg, which makes it hard to pick just one favorite thing. But, I don’t think my experience would have been what it was without the people that I met there. I was fortunate enough to have such a great group of friends and was able to travel around and make so many meaningful memories with them.”

Next, I spoke to two students who plan on studying abroad in the future. Ellie Millard ’26 shared their plans for studying in Spain during the winter of 2025. As a Hispanic Studies minor, Millard said that Spain was their ideal location because it would grant them the opportunity to get closer to achieving fluency in Spanish. Millard is looking forward to the immersive experience they will gain by studying abroad and its impact on their language learning: “Unless you spend time consistently speaking a language, and not just formally like in class, you need to experience it in an environment where it is originally spoken to truly immerse yourself while learning the slang, nuance, and informalities of the language.”

Furthermore, Millard chose to go to Europe because of its accessibility and the fact that they have family in England close by. By spending a semester in Europe, Millard hopes to visit other countries in the region, such as France, as well as see museums and explore the rich art and history. At the same time, they won’t have to deal with the bitter winter cold of Maine — a true win-win situation in their book!

Lastly, May Whelan ’25, who is set to study in Spain next semester with IES Madrid, picked her program because of its emphasis on cultural immersion: all of her classes will be conducted in Spanish, and the program focuses heavily on the language and culture of Madrid. She hopes to come back from her semester abroad as fluent in Spanish as possible, getting to a point where she is able to speak with others without feeling tempted to resort back to English.

Whelan’s  program is composed of students from various colleges across the country, and only two other students at Bates. She hopes that this will help broaden her horizons and meet new people. At the same time, she hopes to come out of Madrid with a sense of independence that she does not quite have at Bates. While abroad, May will live in an apartment, cook her own meals and learn to navigate a major city. Coming from a small town, living in a big city and the possibility of language barriers within it might pose challenges, but she is determined to overcome them.

Studying abroad is a chance for students to immerse themselves in another culture and language and diversify their perspectives. By living and studying in a whole new environment, students are bound to return with unforgettable memories and new experiences. For these reasons, even if you are not learning a foreign language, studying abroad is an incredible opportunity to consider as many programs do not include a language requirement (especially those in countries where the language is not taught at Bates!). “Bates in Berlin,” for example, is a special offering for Fall 2024 led by Professors Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir of the Department of Politics and Professor Jakub Kazecki of German and Russian Studies. For students interested in spending a semester in Berlin with a group of 20 to 25 Bates students, the program is currently open for applications. The program has no foreign language requirements, and students of all class years may apply.

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About the Contributor
Luciana Zaiet, Staff Writer
Luciana is a sophomore from Edgemont, NY, and is double-majoring in English and German. She began writing for The Student in the fall of her sophomore year. In her free time, you can find her drawing, crocheting, learning the guitar, taking walks or just spending time outdoors.

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    Rick CantatoreFeb 5, 2024 at 12:58 AM

    This site is amazing!
    I will be looking for more articles in the
    near future!

    Reply