Megan is studying German at Queen Mary and reflects on her time studying abroad at the University of Mannheim in Germany during a global pandemic and several Lockdown restrictions…
Whenever I thought about going on my year abroad, one thing always came to mind: travel. I love to travel whenever I have the opportunity (my bank account on the other hand does not…) and I’d always seen my year abroad as a chance to explore the parts of Europe that I had never seen before. That was my plan. I saved up and I was ready to explore what Europe had to offer. Sadly, that’s not how my year on the continent went. Instead, a pandemic decided to hit the world and put a stop to all those travel plans. Surprisingly though, now looking back on the year I spent in Germany, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to my year abroad.
I understand a pandemic year abroad where you can’t leave the country you are studying in doesn’t sound the best, but not being able to leave Germany was the best thing that could have happened to me. It meant that I fully explored what Germany had to offer. Once the Lockdown rules had eased a bit it meant that I could travel around and see what Deutschland had to offer and it did not disappoint. It meant that I experienced the Bavarian culture of eating my weight in pretzels and drinking way too many steins, or the German way of enjoying a hot day by going to a lake and spending the whole day swimming until the sun has gone down.
Yes, I could have equally had these experiences in a normal world but the fact I couldn’t visit another country meant I truly embraced what I had on offer to me, and it made me fall in love with Germany all over again. It also meant that I made amazing friendships with the people at my university. We would spend our weekends sitting watching the sun set on the river or going on walks in different villages nearby just because we had the chance to explore them.
The main thing I took away from my time in Germany during a pandemic and what I would encourage anyone to do when studying abroad is don’t spend all your weekends in other places – spend your time exploring the country you’re living in. It’s surprising how many hidden gems you will find and how strong the friendships you make will be just by staying in the country you’re studying in.