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Bobcats without Borders

A New Perspective

Apsara at Muay Thai Practice in Berlin
Apsara Fite
Major: 
Computer Science & Engineering
Program: 
Germany
Term Abroad: 
Spring 2022

Q: Initially, what made you decide to study abroad? Why did you choose your program?

A: I came into college knowing I wanted to study abroad, since I love traveling and having new experiences. Also, we had just come out of quarantining for two years during the pandemic - I wanted to get out and see the world!

Q: How do you think COVID-19 uniquely impacted what you learned as a study abroad student?

A: I came in when the pandemic restrictions were being lifted, but I noticed a cultural difference when it came to following guidelines with the pandemic. Germans don't politicize or have much of an issue with wearing masks and following guidelines, compared to Americans. It's done for the benefit of everyone.

Q: What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

A: There are so many, but I think the people I met there are what truly made my experience in Berlin fantastic. I made friends with lots of different people who really helped me integrate with the Berlin way of life.

Q: What was your greatest challenge abroad and how did you overcome it?

A: Learning German, probably. I went to Berlin knowing basically no German, and so it was somewhat difficult to navigate the city initially. It got easier and easier as time went on, but it was a confusing first few months. After spending a lot of time learning German, talking with German friends, and actively listening to conversations, my German is much better.

Q: How did your coursework abroad compare to your courses at UC Merced?

A: They have different expectations of the students. German students have a lot more responsibility to teach themselves the material, since most courses don't require attendance, homework, or midterm exams. A lot of courses are based solely on the final exam, and students are expected to manage their time over the semester to learn the material. That being said, German professors are more relaxed when it comes to grading or rescheduling exams.

Q: What did you gain from your study abroad experience?

A: Aside from German language skills, a new perspective on daily life. Germans have a very different day-to-day experience than I think Americans do. A big factor to this is urban planning. Germans have access to a fantastic public transit system, shops at every corner, and many parks. The German daily life is much more relaxed and is much more convenient than the American daily life.

Q: What advice do you have for students considering study abroad?

A: Hang out with the locals. It may be difficult, but I'm sure you can find a local club that fits your interest or some kind of volunteering organization. It is essential to learning the language and living like a local.

Q: Describe a typical day abroad.

A: I would walk to class, walk to a park and hang out with friends, make food or grab a meal, and go to martial arts practice. There were parties around twice a week at the international dorm, so I would sometimes go to those as well.

Q: If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go and why?

A: I would go back to Berlin. I miss the friends I made there dearly. Also, the transportation system is fantastic - I love not having to drive everywhere.