Grace Mevissen is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Austria.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
While I was in Salzburg, Austria I was given the opportunity to work one-on-one with a 7-year-old Austrian boy. While talking with the mother I understood that my role would be to help him build his English vocabulary through games, books and music. The more time I spend with him the more I realized he was not the only one gaining a greater insight on culture and traditions. After I was finished sharing a story he would talk about experiences he has had growing up in Austria and we began to draw connections between the life of a twenty-one-year-old American girl and 7-year-old Austrian boy. I will be able to take my new insight with me to share with future study abroad students and eventually to my classroom.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I am an Elementary Education major with a German concentration. I felt it was essential to immerse myself in German culture to better improve my German and to learn about Austrian and German culture first hand. In order to teach German to the best of my ability I needed to fully understand all aspects so that I can convey the smells, sounds, tastes and looks to my students. My passion for the German language and culture has continuously grown over the years and I would love to share this passion with others.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Study abroad was an experience where I learned that there is no such thing as mistakes but rather learning opportunities. It was a time to be independent and yet connected to a culture unlike what I am familiar with. An opportunity to find passion hidden in an area of my life that I didn’t know existed. A time to take chances and let the unknown lead the way.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
After coming back from Salzburg I had some time to reflect on my experiences abroad. I realized that studying abroad was an amazing opportunity for me to grow spiritually, mentally, socially and academically. The largest influence that this experience had on my life will be reflected in my classroom. The language skills and cultural experiences that I had will help me better convey in German the traditions and cultural taboos that make Austria and Germany so special. Being the student assistant I improved my time management and monitorial budgeting. These are skills that I will be able to take with me when I start work.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
I have a lot of advice for future students embarking on a journey. Here is a little sample. Don’t get caught up in the details and forget to admire what is around you. Be sure to have a copy of your passport and a travel towel. Try to speak French even if you don’t know very much. They will appreciate the effort. Take time for yourself. If you are going to do extra traveling do it before and not after. Make the best of any given opportunity. Plan for the unexpected.