I had an amazing experience with the IES Abroad EU program, and there honestly isn't much I can say that was bad about my semester. Not only did I love living in the beautiful, sunny, and student-filled city of Freiburg, but I also learned so much about the EU that I never would have back home at my own university. The course excursions and extensive program travel were a highlight of my semester, and the trips were well-planned, offering us the invaluable opportunity to travel across Europe and visit many cities, while getting a unique political, historical, and cultural perspective on them that I likely wouldn't have gotten by visiting on my own. Both IES Abroad in general and the IES staff at our center in Freiburg were so helpful and organized and really made an effort to make all students feel comfortable and engaged while abroad.
Freiburg is an absolutely wonderful place to study abroad; it is a charming university city bustling with bikers (Freiburg is very eco-friendly!) and there are tons of things to do in one’s free time. Not only are there tons of restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bakeries to enjoy if you want to enjoy the wonders of German food, but there are also opportunities for shopping, enjoying local parks and the river Dreisdam, or venturing off on a short train ride into the neighboring Black Forest, where you can bike, hike, or ski! The EU program has so much travel incorporated into the semester, often to large European capitals, so having a home base in Freiburg, where it’s not overrun with tourists, was really great.
I lived in a student apartment complex with five German students and one international student. We each had our own rooms and shared two bathrooms, a kitchen, and living area. This living situation was nice because I had a lot of independence and my own space, but I still was able to engage with German students, practice my speaking, and learn about their lifestyles, studies, and interests.
On the topic of costs, which is often an important factor to studying abroad for many people, I would say that doing this program was really affordable, largely because the cost of living in Freiburg is fairly low. There are many options of where to buy food (stores and the local Münstermarkt), and groceries, toiletries and other living necessities were very inexpensive and much less than what you would pay for the same thing in the US (for instance, I could find a jar of jam for 1 Euro or a loaf of good German bread for 2 Euros). Although I’m vegetarian, I found that there were still many options for food, both eating out and buying food at the store. Freiburg also has tons of restaurants, pubs, cafes, and even a pretty good (and very inexpensive) student cafeteria, so there are lots of options for students at very reasonable prices. I won’t lie, the abundance of bakeries and cafes in Freiburg made me quickly addicted to the large array of delicious fresh German bread, pretzels, and pastries.
Although the course workload was definitely vigorous (probably more than other average abroad programs), I learned so much and gained a greater perspective on the EU, world events, and various European cultures. I might also briefly note is that this program is definitely focused on politics, international relations, and economics, and less so on intensive German-language development, understandably. However, being someone who really wanted to practice my German a lot, as I’ve been studying it for many years, I will say that I was a bit disappointed that most students on the program had little to no German language background, so I could not have those types of language engagements with them. Nonetheless, I still had many opportunities to practice German out in public and at home with my flatmates. I would recommend, however, for anyone thinking about studying abroad - to take a semester of German beforehand or have learned a little bit. It makes getting around and having simple interactions with locals much easier!
Overall, my experience in Freiburg and with the EU program was one that I truly will not forget. From visiting many beautiful and historic cities across the EU, to enjoying the Biergartens in Freiburg, to spontaneously deciding with two other students to venture on a 60km bike trip from Freiburg to France and back, the experiences I had were really irreplaceable. Without any hesitation, I would recommend this program to any student interested in the subject matter or who wants to experience life in an active, but charming German university city!