Posted: September 21, 2020

Studying abroad had always been a goal of mine. However, the experience itself has ignited a lifelong desire to experience the world.

A brief stop while hiking in the Austrian Alps in Upper Austria

A brief stop while hiking in the Austrian Alps in Upper Austria

Nestled in the heart of the Black Forest is the small city of Freiburg, Germany. This gem of the Black Forest is only fifty miles from Strasbourg, fifty miles from Switzerland, and a four hour train ride to Paris. I was lucky enough to spend ten weeks in this wonderful city while I interned at the University of Freiburg, under the supervision of a Ph.D. student there.

Going to Germany marked the first time I had ever travelled outside of the United States. Not knowing a single word of German, I stepped onto a plane June 4, 2018 and twelve hours later landed in Zurich, Switzerland. At this point I was quite tired, however my journey was just beginning. From there I took the two-hour train ride from northern Switzerland, through the black forest, and into the German countryside. Upon seeing Freiburg for the first time, I was awestruck. The Altstadt (old town) seemed to be straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, with even a thirteenth century gothic cathedral to complete the picturesque scene. Upon entering Freiburg, I made my way to what would be my living quarters for the next couple months: an Airbnb flat-share. The flat was situated in a beautiful residential part of the city, only a five minute bike ride to the old town. Unique to my study abroad experience was the challenge of arranging my own living situation, and I was able to share the flat with a man name Wendelin. Although Wendelin was much older than myself, we hit it off quickly and became close friends throughout my time abroad, sharing stories about life and travels over homemade Indian food one night and plates of kraut and pork the next.

After taking a week to adjust to my new surroundings I took it upon myself to explore France, being that it was only a train ride away. The first stop on my tour was Strasbourg, a city that is substantially bigger than Freiburg and with it's own distinct culture. I was lucky enough to celebrate this culture twice: once on my own, and again with the entire French nation as I watched France win the World Cup at a cafe surrounded by the happiest people I have ever seen (an unforgettable experience to be sure). While in France I also took the opportunity to experience its wine culture. The region of Alsace is world famous for its wine, and happened to be conveniently located only twenty minutes away from Freiburg by train. I was able to learn about the local wine culture and visit the homes of some of the wine producers in the region. Hearing them talk about the craft of wine-making, their lifestyle, and taste various wines they produced was truly remarkable.

From France I then headed southeast, visiting my friend and fellow Penn State student at her grandparents' house in Neuhofen, Austria. I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Austria while on break from research and during my time there hiked in the Austrian Alps, reaching lookouts I had only seen pictures of in the past. I biked through the farm lands of lower Austria and toured the city of Linz, a bustling city that had suffered immense damages in WW2, only to rebound from the destruction to become a beautiful beacon of industry.

From Austria, my friend accompanied me on a brief excursion to Paris, and we arrived to the city via a high-speed train (that exceeded speeds of 300 mph!). While in Paris, I had the opportunity to experience the city by day and by night, walking along the river Seine, viewing the Eiffel tower, and marveling at the architectural feat that is the cathedral Notre Dame. Finally, we caught a night bus back to Freiburg where I then continued working as a researcher at the university.

During my time as a researcher at the university I focused my work on terrestrial lidar point clouds, hoping to utilize software to extract volumes, diameters, and heights from scans of tree plots. This work was very interesting and rewarding, as it relates to both forestry and GIS (my major and minor, respectively) and falls in line with what I am interested in researching further as a graduate degree. In addition to my time working with lidar, I also assisted other professors from the university on their individual research projects. This included learning about the process of pressure bombing, leaf-area-index, and forest-floor light sensing devices.

Although this research was fulfilling, and I truly enjoyed all I learned and the lifelong connections I made, I ultimately fell in love with Germany and the surrounding area through the travelling I did while abroad. I was fortunate enough to have the time while abroad to explore Freiburg and the surrounding cities. I will always be thankful for this experience and have learned many life lessons along the way. Travelling can open your eyes to the world and your soul to the people you meet. Putting myself in new situations and getting out of my comfort zone helped me to experience a small portion of the world, and I cannot wait until I am able to do so again.

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802