When I first came to Freiburg, I had no idea what to expect. My German hadn't seen much use outside the classroom, this was my first time living abroad, and I knew that I would not know anybody involved in the program. The affair could have gone in a few directions. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.
The IES Abroad staff created a community of individuals, a whole comprised of students from vastly different academic backgrounds. By providing us with numerous resources (ranging from the helpful "Cool Places to Go" to the essential "What To Do & Where To Go If Anything Bad Should Befall You"), our lovely administrative staff gave us a solid foundation which in turn made us feel more comfortable branching out in our own directions. While feeling always welcomed to attend IES events where I would get to know my fellow students better, I never believed myself put upon by the program, never saw my attendance at said events as being obligatory. In short, as I was getting settled in, IES was there if I ever needed them yet gave me room to pursue my personal plans (i.e. international travel).
Freiburg itself is among the most beautiful cities I've ever visited and I plan to return! The people were quite friendly and always willing/able to switch into English if need be. Though there are some labyrinthine parts of the city, the ubiquity of maps allowed for safe navigation while the exemplary public transportation system facilitated my dorm-to-class commute. (One could buy either a bike or a Strassenbahn Semester Ticket for a reasonable amount; having a personal preference for reading/looking out windows while traveling, I chose the Strassenbahn Semester Ticket). The Black Forest is, besides being readily accessible (especially with the Semester Ticket, which at designated time intervals allows one to take regional trains for free), nothing less than utterly absorbing in its beauty. In fact, from the Münster to the numerous art museums, this city was brimming with top-notch aesthetic experiences.
All in all, the IES Language/Area Studies Program in Freiburg was so much more than the typical study abroad experience. It was another home - and still is, for me. I look forward to returning to this wonderful city, reminisce about old memories, and make many new ones!