Growing into Bigger Shoes
"Before arriving in Germany I really had no clue what life would be like or what experiences were in store for me. A semester earlier, I undertook another exchange program at Elon University, in the USA. Something always prodded me towards adventure and the desire to find a new reality. In America, I realized how much opportunity waited in the world at large and when I came home to Australia, I wanted more. The opportunity to study in Germany came completely by surprise, but I jumped at it.
Being as far from home as geographically possible, as soon as I landed, I knew my time in Germany would help me grow into an adult. I remember our first excursion, and my friend, Vitor, from Brazil, who explained how much our department valued initiative and creativity. Maybe being in a new environment gave me courage, because I immediately volunteered to take photographs for the event when I saw it needed to be done. I’d never been the official photographer for an event, but once I was committed; I had to do my best. I wouldn’t have taken a risk like that back home. However, that first decision set a precedent for the whole semester and I only realize afterwards that I was redefining myself into somebody I wanted to be; something I could only do by stepping into an alien world.
Over the course of the semester, I became the administer for our department’s Facebook page, created the office hours for all my fellow interns, managed the team calendar and developed episodes for a podcast. Moreover, I took a gab at leadership in our business simulation and became a manager for a department while creating a bicycle scheme with my fellow international students.
However, the most important part of my experience was the connections I made. I remember stories from the 1800’s, where university students would spend summer vacations touring Europe on horseback, visiting the families of their school friends each year, so that when they graduated, their degree was second to the network of connections they’d cultivated. I feel the same, because in one semester I now have friends in six different countries who won’t allow me to stay in a hotel when I visit.
But it’s just the beginning, because I have another semester ahead of me and another opportunity to explore and redefine myself. The opportunities are boundless."