Studying Abroad at Aalen University by Lauren Graham

I knew that I wanted to make friends while living in Europe, but I did not expect to meet so many friends and travel companions through the international student building that I live in here at Hochschule Aalen. I have been here almost six weeks now and I have been absolutely blown away by the magnitude of difference between America and other cultures. I have made so many friends from so many different countries and walks of life. I never thought I would find myself being the only American in the room, but never mind being the only American because most of the time I am the only woman in the room. I grew up having certain perceptions of different cultures, and being abroad has completely changed my viewpoint on how I evaluate people and how to approach individuals who live by a different set of values. My two best friends here are both men from Jordan, and they have taught me far more than they can realize. I truly think that I have been fundamentally changed as a person in the short amount of time that I have had the privilege of living in Germany. In Charleston, I left behind my five roommates who I love dearly. These girls look like me, talk like me, act like me, dress like me and behave very much like myself. In Germany, I am surrounded by people who are nothing like me, yet I have never felt so accepted in all of my life. My favorite moments so far have been on small trips throughout Germany that I have experienced with my new international friends. Two weeks ago, we went to Munich all together in two different cars. We planned to take a detour and stop at Neuschwanstein Castle on the way. This castle is the model for the Cinderella castle that basically represents the Disney brand. As a child, I was obsessed with Cinderella, and I dressed up as her for Halloween for several years in a row.

Pictured: Me at three years old on Halloween as Cinderella

Seeing this castle in real life and being able to walk around it was like a dream come true for me. It was even more memorable because of the people I was with and the memories that we made together along the way. It was about a forty-five-minute hike up to the base of the castle, but I would have walked ten miles for the view we got at sunset. I know that my time in Germany has only really just begun and there is so much more for me to learn, but I am already reminiscing on the memories I have made so far with the new people that I already feel so close to.

Pictured: Me at twenty years old at the location of the “real” Cinderella castle
Pictured: Front entrance of Neuschwanstein Castle (Cinderella Castle)

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