Languages@Muhlenberg.edu
Newsletter 2002
 
From Muhlenberg to Bonn:
Seven Months of Adventure and Discovery

Karnaval 2001, Köln Germany
During my semester break from Muhlenberg College, the realization abruptly struck me that I would soon be leaving family, friends, and college behind to take part in a semester abroad program in Bonn, Germany. Having previously lived in Germany for several years, I had already rejected many of the stereotypes associated with the German people: skinheads, hairy armpit women, lack of modernization. Nevertheless, as my day of departure grew nearer, so did my reluctance to leave. But there was no way for me to turn back. With my suitcases packed and my family in the car, I was on my way to Dulles International Airport. As they called for final boarding, I said my good-byes and began my eight-hour journey to Germany.

Upon arrival in Frankfurt, I can recall immediately feeling secure, without a worry or concern on my mind. Walking through a familiar airport, I was excited to be surrounded by everything German. From the airport, I managed to catch the appropriate train to Bonn, the city that would be my new home for the next seven months. I was met at Bonn's main train station by a staff member of AIB (Akademie für Internationale Bildung / Academy for International Education), who drove me to meet my host family. We pulled up to a small, comfortable looking house located in Bonn-Beuel, where my host mother and sister, and their dog, Mona, eagerly greeted me at the door. The remainder of that first day was spent unpacking and getting to know my host family and the surrounding area. That night I turned in early, feeling confident that the coming days would bring enjoyment and many incredible experiences.

Fortress in Würtzburg, Germany
   That Monday marked the beginning of our two months of intensive German study, taught by the AIB staff. On the first day of classes we immediately jumped in to the German language, reading articles, reviewing grammatical structures, and strengthening our vocabulary. The time spent with my host family and German friends exposed me to the various idiomatic phrases and the slang used by German youth. After all of the practice, my German skills were put to the test during my semester at the University of Bonn. My lectures were entirely in German and although it was at times rather difficult, I was completely capable of attending classes, understanding lectures, and receiving excellent grades. Between living with a German host family, the two months of intense German courses, and a four-month full-course semester at the University of Bonn, my German had improved to my own expectations and those of the AIB staff. Not only had I gained confidence in my ability to converse using the Germany language, but I was also speaking German regularly, as if it were my native language.

Aside from improving my German, the seven months abroad included an enormous amount of traveling. Many of the others on the trip decided to travel outside Germany to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and other parts of Europe. During my stay, however, I chose to take advantage of Germany's excellent railway system and took trips with friends to other cities throughout the country. The various trips allowed me to take in many more aspects of the German culture, something I could never experience by just studying Germany from a book. The trips with friends and family made for many great pictures and memories that will last forever. Although my study abroad program was about four months longer than those of friends studying in other parts of Europe, my time in Germany still seemed to pass by at an extreme rate.

Eric Milford stands to the right of four new friends from his visit to Germany

By the end of the seven months, I had grown attached to Bonn and many aspects of the German culture. On my last evening, my host family and I sat at the dinner table, ate an incredible German meal, and talked about our experiences. I feel that we grew fairly close during the previous seven months, so knowing that I would be leaving them behind so soon was quite difficult. Around ten o'clock that evening, we said our final goodbyes and I headed out for one last night on the town with my two closest friends in Germany, Lafayette students Andrew Bostian and Geoff Gresh. We met at our favorite pub and sat around reminiscing about the experiences we'd had. I knew my time left there in Bonn was limited. I decided to walk home that night, stopping by all of my favorite places in the city, trying to prolong my final night as much as possible. The next morning, I took the train back to Frankfurt and closed out my semester abroad with great memories and an eagerness to return.

Eric Milford, '02