April 9, 2024 by

Marburg Castle in Germany.

You may be a Cedarville student or a prospective student trying to discern whether Cedarville is the university God has for you; either way, I would like to share my study abroad experience with you in the hopes that my travel tale might inspire you to embark on your own international academic adventure.  

Although my stories from abroad could fill whole volumes, I am going to relate my experiences in three sections: language, faith, and practicality. First, however, a brief introduction is in order. I am a senior linguistics major, who spent February-March 2023 in Vienna, Austria, taking German language courses and April-July 2023 studying at Marburg University in Germany. The Vienna portion of my studies was language preparation courses, while I spent an entire semester in Germany taking linguistics courses taught in German. 


Learning German 

Now, whether you already love the German language or don’t know a word of that lovely tongue, I think you will appreciate the value of language and culture immersion. As a student of linguistics and the German language, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to live alongside, take classes with, make friends with, and fellowship with German-speakers in Austria and Germany. 

An unexpected challenge of studying abroad in Vienna — and one common to other international cities — is the prevalence of English. Here I was doing my best to be immersed in German, but with Viennese baristas and bookstore workers switching to (nearly perfect) English at the slightest hint of an accent. However, it is an exciting experience to progress from being overwhelmed at the flow of German and ending up speaking English to being able to confidently conduct oneself in German and convince the locals to stick with their native tongue. 

Below is a very typical Viennese shot — the magnificent Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) framed by a sausage from the local würstelstand (sausage stand). And you can see me enjoying the fruits of my German-speaking endeavor, a fresh wurst! 

A wurst with the Stephansdom in the background.

Once I got to Germany, however, I spoke hardly a word of English, which was a fantastic opportunity to improve my speaking skills! In the photo at the top of this blog post, you see a view of the castle where I lived — yes, I lived in a castle — with about 35 other students. Most of the students in the castle-turned-dorm were German, providing me with no end of language and culture immersion opportunities. Throughout my time in the castle, I spent countless hours cooking, eating, studying, and playing games with other students, as the dorm did an excellent job of emphasizing community. Through my rapidly growing knowledge of German, I was able to develop meaningful friendships with those around me, as well as to excel in my courses, which were taught in German. 

View from a kitchen window.

How My Time in Austria and Germany Shaped My Faith 

Although the German proficiency I acquired is a skill that will serve me for the rest of my life, I want to also paint a picture of some ways in which my time abroad has shaped my faith. Since I spent more time in Germany and became better acquainted with German than Austrian culture, I want to focus on my faith experiences in Germany. 

Although we think of Germany as a strong Protestant country thanks to Luther and the Reformation, the church there has long been shrinking, with the churches often housed in old, exquisite buildings filled with few, and often elderly, congregants. In this context, it was a blessing to be able to engage with a small, but solid church community in a neighboring town and to be a light to those with whom I was living. I quickly found that even those who claimed to have some sort of faith often did not know the basics of the Gospel. 

Through this cross-cultural experience, I was able to apply all that I’ve been learning at Cedarville, sharing my faith with others and engaging in meaningful conversations. This opportunity to live among those who did not share my beliefs and share the Gospel with some of them has deepened my gratitude for the Lord’s salvation, my appreciation for His faithfulness, and my zeal to share His truth with others. 

View from a an airplane window seat.

A Practical Look at a Semester Abroad 

Finally, I want to take a moment to talk about the practical side of studying abroad, both the benefits and the “how’s” of studying abroad. We’ve talked about some of the linguistic and spiritual benefits of studying abroad, but this experience also comes with personal benefits, such as gaining confidence and independence, learning to navigate cross-culturally, and developing perseverance. While abroad, I learned to safely and confidently navigate international and local travel, both solo and with others, as well as to overcome challenges in daily life. 

Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse into what my life was like in Vienna and Marburg and how my understanding of language, culture, and faith deepened in my time abroad, you might now have an inkling of a desire to also go abroad during your time at Cedarville. A question I’ve gotten often when I relate my study abroad saga is, “But how does that work practically? Is this something I, too, could do?” And my answer is “YES!”  

Regardless of your major, here is an opportunity for you to pursue studying abroad! The Study Abroad office can work with you to find a program that is just right for your academic goals. Financially (since that’s indubitably also at the forefront of your minds), Cedarville makes studying abroad a viable option for students by applying all aid and scholarships to the study abroad program cost, making the cost of a semester abroad roughly equivalent (possibly even less expensive!) than a semester at Cedarville. All that to say, I hope that my experience has inspired you to pursue a study abroad program during your 1000 Days at Cedarville! 

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