As an International Relations major and German minor at Goucher College, part of my graduation requirement is to study abroad. The requirement is narrowed by my fields of study to a semester long program in a German-speaking country, so Berlin was the natural choice.
I spent the fall semester of my junior year in Berlin at FU-BEST and it was the best experience of my life. It was incredibly transformative, opportunity-expanding, and truly amazing.
The range of subject courses offered covers any major. I took European Legal Traditions, History of European Diplomacy, and Islam and Europe, along with the B2 level German course. The subject courses were incredibly interesting. My professors were knowledgeable and well-experienced and respected in their fields. The German course was by far the most challenging German class I have taken in my ten years of studying the language, which I so appreciated. All of the courses were fairly challenging, but no more than the courses at my home institution. Most of my friends who went abroad returned with stories of spending their entire semester going to an hour of classes a week and partying the rest of the time, which just didn't appeal to me. I liked the academically rigorous structure of FU-BEST, though I found it be a good balance between work and fun.
My homestay family was amazing. We got along well, and they were so supportive of me in my studies, learning the language, and in general. I had a minor medical issue while abroad and my host mother helped me make doctor appointments and figure out the insurance paperwork. I fully intend on inviting them to my wedding in the future.
I met so many interesting people at FU-BEST, many of whom have become close friends I've visited since returning to the US. I also met my boyfriend here at FU-BEST, which was a bit surprising since we actually go to school in the same city.
The FU-BEST staff was a great source of support. They were able to help me quite a bit with the aforementioned medical issue and with any questions we had during the semester. The variety of events they planned to help us get acquainted with the city resulted in some great stories, new favorite spots, and new friendships.
Being in Berlin was geographically advantageous to traveling all over Europe affordably. I had opportunities to travel, with FU-BEST and without, to The Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and all over Germany as well to cities like Munich, Leipzig, Hamburg, and Dresden.
FU-BEST's travel opportunities were also amazing. The weeklong excursions were incredibly educational, while also providing plenty of free time for the opportunity to explore new cities.
I also got a few really cool opportunities through my classes to meet with people in the foreign service and diplomacy field. At the time, I was planning on starting a career in the foreign service after graduation. Talking with them and hearing about the lifestyle and their experiences with it actually caused me to change direction in terms of my aspirations. Getting that kind of exposure early on helped me realize what I truly wanted out of a career and directed me towards new avenues.
All in all, FU-BEST was one of the most important experiences of my life.