Looking Back on My Exchange Semester in Bamberg by Mikaela Franco

Now that I am once again back in the United States, I can hardly believe all that happened during my semester abroad at the University of Bamberg. When I began making arrangements to study abroad back in the fall of 2018, I had absolutely no idea how things were going to work out. Of course the pandemic changed everything and left me with a few disappointments, but overall I would have to say that I actually ended up having a better time than I had expected to. Above all, the pandemic was the way I came to stay with the Deckers, who ended up becoming my adoptive family during my time in Germany. Their hospitality was overwhelming; without their support, I would probably not have stayed in Germany. But they also got me through more than just the difficult and uncertain times of the lockdown and the following period of extremely limited social contact. For just as all that was ending, at the end of May, things here in the US took a bad turn. It was unsettling in so many ways, and there were days when just knowing that I wasn’t alone in the house was all the comfort I needed to keep me going. If I had been alone in my student apartment during that time, I would have done a lot worse. And besides the darker times, we also had so much fun together—hiking, biking, playing Scrabble, and going out to eat.
It has been a little difficult to readjust to life in the US, but not as bad as I imagined. Sometimes little things catch me off guard—such as the fact that stores are open here on Sunday, or the fact that we have to drive so far to get anywhere. But these small things aside, I feel like I am readjusting pretty well. In the end, my time in Germany was designed to be everything I needed: the comfort of family life in a small village combined with the challenges of having to navigate new and unfamiliar things: studying at a foreign university, the public transportation system, the bureaucracy, etc. This gave me a strong base while still taking me way out of my comfort zone. I know that God answered all of my prayers for His help through my time abroad—and even though I could not see what lay ahead all those cold, anxious nights I spent praying in February, He knew and He already had a plan in place for me. Without His help and providence, I never would have made it through this semester and had such a good experience.

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