Alumni Spotlight: Darby Joyce


Why did you choose this program?

AIFS is one of my university's affiliate programs for study abroad, which meant that I was confident in being able to easily transfer credit and work both with my school and with the program throughout my time in Germany.

I chose to go to Berlin in particular because my major specialization is Europe, and because I was intrigued by the excursions and courses offered by the program.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Between the staff of my school's international education office and the AIFS staff, I received help with scheduling travel, transferring credit between schools, and becoming accustomed to the basics of living in Berlin.

My personal responsibilities included managing money, learning the routes for public transit, navigating airports and customs, and knowing enough of the German language to allow me to interact with others in public.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Remember that when you're studying abroad, you're a guest, and that you need to respect and learn about the culture that you're visiting. Some of the students on the program with me sometimes became frustrated when locals didn't speak English or when things happened that they weren't used to, and going into the program with that frame of mind will really limit how much you learn from your time there.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I had class four days a week for a few hours a day, which left the rest of the day to explore the city, socialize with other students, and try new foods during meal times.

Since I was in Berlin during the winter, the sun set pretty early, which limited how much I could do outside, but I often went to museums or historic sites to learn more about the city's past and how it's shaped present-day Berlin. Through AIFS, each week had at least one cultural excursion that I would go on, such as tours, restaurant visits, and even a weekend in Prague, Czech Republic.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I had only taken one semester of German language when I went to Berlin, and I was worried that the language barrier would be tricky, especially if I needed help while in the city. Luckily, nothing happened that would be dangerous for me if I didn't know the language, but I did run into some situations where I didn't know the German I needed and the person I was talking to didn't know English.

I learned through these experiences just how innovative I can be, from conveying ideas with minimal words to using signs and pictures to say what I needed to say. Needing to figure things like that out made me more confident in my ability to communicate past barriers and to solve problems on my feet.

Did you travel outside of your host country while studying abroad?

Absolutely! You have a few options here - each AIFS program offers an optional excursion for an additional fee, and it's because of that option that I was able to visit Prague while I was studying abroad.

If you save up and plan your own travel, however, there are plenty of places not too far from Germany that you can go to as well, and traveling through the European Union is especially easy. During my session, I had friends spend weekends in places such as Vienna, Dublin, and Copenhagen.