Alumni Spotlight: Kevin Varley

Kevin studied abroad in Berlin from January to May 2013. Originally from St. Louis, he is a 21-year-old senior at Iowa State University studying History, German and Political Science. He enjoys reading, writing, all things study abroad and is counting down until he’s repatriated to Germany.

Why did you decide to study abroad with GlobaLinks?

kevin varley study abroad in germany with globalinks

I decided to study with GlobaLinks after looking at several other providers. Their location in Berlin really caught my eye as a change from other smaller universities in Germany. What really sold me was their partnership with the host program FU-Best. The Berlin program offered great opportunities to take advantage of exploring the city as well as the rest of Europe.

After I applied to GlobaLinks, I was very impressed at how quickly they responded and how personable the staff was. I genuinely knew that they wanted me to have the best experience possible and would do all they could to help me along the way. I never had any concerns or hesitations knowing the GlobaLinks support staff were right there with me.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

One unique experience I had took place at the famed Hofbräuhaus in Munich when I traveled around Bavaria with my mom and sister. We sat at the long wooden tables typical of German restaurants and ordered our food. Among the crowd of tourists were locals, some dressed in the traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls, and over the varied conversations a polka band played.

In this very Bavarian setting, I struck up a conversation with an older German man sitting at the table next to ours. He told me how he had met his friends at the brewery every week for over forty years and I spoke about living in Berlin and traveling with my family. All of this took place solely in German and at the end of the evening he was surprised to find that I wasn’t a true Berliner, I was actually just a German-speaking American student. Going abroad helped me practice speaking enough, I could surprise and impress even the Bavarians.

What did GlobaLinks do for you and what did you need to do on your own?

GlobaLinks was very helpful in their application and orientation process. Acceptance to the program was given through GlobaLinks as well as class sign-ups, housing and any visa applications. The staff was clearly well experienced and made what seemed like a rather daunting process actually quite simple. GlobaLinks even offered group flights to Berlin before hosting a weeklong orientation.

berlin germany, by iowa state student kevin varley

On your own there is not very much to do outside of obtaining a passport prior to departure. GlobaLinks made great use of a simply laid out pre-departure checklist of items you needed to take care of. Once you arrived in Berlin and finished the orientation process, you were released to the FU-Best program and from there it was your own prerogative of how involved you wanted to be with GlobaLinks. Though I loved the fact that our Resident Coordinator still made a point of checking in every once in a while and hosting meet-ups for everyone to get together and hang out.

What was the best place you visited outside of Berlin?

My favorite visit outside of Berlin is tied between Paris and Nuremberg. I traveled to Paris on my own during spring break and loved having that solo experience. I was free to explore the city on my own, could go at my own pace and seek out the specific things I wanted to see. Paris is such a unique city with its own culture and feel that can not be replicated anywhere else. There’s such a grand history in the city that I could not get enough of.

On the other hand I traveled to Nuremberg as part of a FU-Best sponsored excursion. The simplest way to describe it would be like having a weeklong field trip with a large group made up of your best friends. Each day had a few activities like a city tour or a museum visit scheduled, otherwise we were free to explore. There were plenty of opportunities to go out at night, our transportation was all covered and it was a great trip that I will not soon forget.

What is one piece of advice you’d give future study abroad students?

My advice to future study abroad students is to take advantage of any and all opportunities. Experience and adventure doesn’t happen without venturing outside of your comfort zone. Studying abroad is all about discovery and you never know what you’ll find unless you put yourself out there. Find those things you always dreamed of doing and make it happen. Take the chance to travel solo, close your eyes and point your finger on a map and go there or make a spur of the moment choice to get away for a weekend. Heck, you could eat nothing but döner and currywurst if you wanted. Go out there, see the world and have a great adventure you won’t ever forget.