I was in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany for three awesome weeks before I was sent home due to COVID-19. When I arrived I was greeted by a local German student who lived in my building. I had some time in my room to rest and unpack before meeting the group of IES students and student guides for dinner at a local restaurant. We got to know each other and made plans to find grocery stores, cook dinner, and explore the city together. I was nervous about making friends, but once I was there it was pretty obvious that everyone wanted to hang out with everyone, since we were all in the same boat. This sense of group support and connection continued throughout my time there, and we kept the group chat going even when the program went remote. I also became friends with one of my flatmates!
Our classes didn't start until we had already gone home, so unfortunately we never met our professors in person. Online classes were difficult because all online classes are, but the professors were really wonderful about trying to make the experience less stressful. The IES Abroad staff gave us mixed signals about COVID-19, which is understandable given the unprecedented nature of the crisis, but it was incredibly frustrating and stressful for the students. Our on-site staff told us IES would never send us home, but that was not based on any real policy, so when the Chicago office sent us home we had no warning at all. However, staff changes were made after the fact and they let us know by email.
All in all, I had a great experience and I still miss my time in person with IES. If COVID-19 hadn't happened, it would have been perfect! I absolutely recommend going abroad with IES!