Alumni Spotlight: Myiah S. Smith

Smith is an environmental and arts enthusiast who loves to immerse herself in other cultures, ideas and ways of life.

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Why did you choose this program?

I choose IES Freiburg for a number of reasons over IES Berlin: because Freiburg was considered the “Green City of Germany”, and as a Culture and Politics major concentrating in Ecology & Fine Arts, it seemed appropriate to place myself in a leading city of ecological and green values.

I also remember as an adolescent reading about the Black Forest and the German Alps, and I was in awe with the deep green trees set against the foggy backdrop of the forest. I fell in love with the photos, and knew that one day I would hike through them. Never did I imagine I’d study forestry of the Black Forest and Swiss/German Alps! As a native Washingtonian, I also welcomed the allure of a slower pace city with an opened mind. Rest assured that IES Freiburg was my best choice!

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

Using the extensive abroad search and application profile provided by GU’s Office of Global Studies, I was able to utilize the resources to find a program perfect for my studies and interest. When I found IES Freiburg, only the Language and Area Program was available as an option. I then positioned my school, working alongside my dean and abroad advisor to add IES Freiburg Environmental Studies Program. In doing so, I was able to petition and get approved for a dual semester study abroad with two separate IES Freiburg programs. I appreciated the flexibility and assistance in the process.

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

I recommend IES Freiburg to those who are interested in the Environment, the European Union and politics, or those who are interested in German language and area studies. IES Freiburg is perfect if you like hands on learning with lots of trips, executions and activities. If you prefer programs which give you the range to explore and experience without the burden of overhead requirements and checklist, then this is perfect for you. IES Freiburg balances studies, program sponsored trips, monthly events, and a 24/7 on call staff that you are free to access at your discretion. Have fun and learn a lot!

Request what you want and advocate for your needs. Speak to a former participant, because IES Freiburg allows you to request specific housing (even rooms if available), so if you know where you want to live, kindly ask they place you there. Same goes for classes. Even if you get on site and find what you're studying no longer fills that annoying school requirement, request to switch out! Study up on what IES Freiburg has to offer, and don't be afraid to ask for something else!

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

I spent the weekdays in class, waking up at 8am (I am NOT a morning person) to catch the 8:28 tram (I'm very quick) into the city center of Freiburg, Germany. I’d make it to my 9am and spend the time engaging on theories about urban planning and the human scale, how to accomplish the three pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability, and have deep discussions about human behavior and its impacts on the environment. I’d often be done with class no later than 2pm.

My class schedule varied greatly, because our program (IES ES) was set with intensive three week courses divided into 5 modules. Each module class typically started at 9am, but day to day it varied. Some days class would end at 12pm and start again at 3pm, and other days there’d be a full day trip. I enjoyed the variability because there wasn’t much of a dull day in class!

After class was complete, I'd often grab a Doner with friends and talk about our day in class or our weekend plans. I’d return back to my student housing complex where I’d complete homework (if any) with other IES students. On Wednesday evenings, I would cook dinner with a friend I made from the other IES (Lang & Area) Freiburg program with his cohort of friends. On Thursdays, I would cook community dinner at the student housing complex. I usually cooked dinner once every week with a friend. If we weren’t cooking we’d have Netflix movie nights in the lounge and snack on German chips and cookies. Sometimes we'd go out during the week to grocery shop together, or go to the various markets. We’d explore the city, try new foods, explored new parks and ride random tram lines back and forth.

On the weekend, I was out dancing. I love to dance, and my close friend did too. Nearly every Friday, ladies night at Mamita Dance Club meant we'd get in for free. I’d spend the evening swaying, dancing bachata, and laughing all night. Such a great work out! On Saturday I’d sleep in to catch up on the mornings spent up before 11am during the week. Some Saturdays I’d go to the flea market, other days I would cook brunch with the IES students. The weekends consisted of chill outings, homemade food and deep discussions about the future, our hopes for the world, and what we’d do next weekend.

Here and there IES Freiburg arranged non-academic and academic weekend trips (which entailed a lot of hiking for the IES ES students). I managed to travel to three other cities while studying abroad in Germany in my free time with other students. I visited a total of four out of country cities, and 2 cities during my time in German (all without missing class time)!

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

I knew before getting to Freiburg that the ES program would be very physically intensive, and it was. the first week was the hardest week, with the most amount of hiking. After getting accustomed to the lifestyle, I was able to adjust. Instead of taking the tram to class, I wish I had the courage to ride the $20 auction bike I had purchased. I solemnly rode it, despite Freiburg being a bike and pedestrian friendly city (like really, the city is actually designed around the pedestrian, not the car). I shouldn’t have allowed my hesitance to get into the way of the commute I’m sure I would have enjoyed. Besides, I could have saved the ticket money and spent it on a trip or execution. This spring I’ll be sure to ride my bike to class!

How was the living accommodation?

I loved my housing placement, and IES filled my initial housing request, a mini apartment place all to myself! It had a bedroom space with floor length windows, a large closet, a full bed, a desk with chair, and a table complete with seating. I also really enjoyed my electric ceramic stove top, and the microwave was very much like an oven (it cooked pizza and fried fish sticks too!). My bathroom had a shower and standard utilities. It was a spacious accommodation, not too large or too small. I was happy that it was all mine that semester!

The housing complex, the FIZZ, consisted of single student apartments. There was a lounge space, laundry, and study rooms in each building. The tenant assistants, and the kitchen were on the main floor of the main building, where I was housed. The tram stop was right outside the door, making commutes to class and into the city very effortless! I really enjoyed the community, which consisted of university students and professors, they were a very vibrant bunch!