Addison Novak is an Ambassador who studied in Austria
Major: Psychology and German
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to gain a new perspective and to experience personal growth and independence. I have been taking German since 7th grade and I'm a German major, so I traveling to a German speaking country was a very important factor in decided were to go. I have always been interested in Austrian culture and have had friends that have study abroad there before, so I had heard many wonderful things about Austria. I also wanted the opportunity to be in Europe so I could travel to many different countries when I was there.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
We had the opportunity to take a group excursion to Mauthausen, which is a concentration camp in Austria. Even though I had read about the holocaust and its tragedies countless times in classes, it was a completely different experience actually being there. What stood out to me the most about this excursion is when we walked down the infamous "Stairs of Death". These are stairs that led down to the base of a quarry that inmates had to walk up and down every day, usually with huge blocks of granite on their backs. When I walked down them, it was a warm, fall, day and I had the privilege of wearing good walking shoes. Even so, I still had a lot of difficulty walking on the rugged path. I can't even imagine what it would be like walking down those stairs in ill-fitting shoes, on an icy day, with a block of granite on my back. This is an experience that will always be in the back of my mind and one that gave much more depth to my understanding of the holocaust.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
People really aren't lying when they say that study abroad will be one of the best times of your life. Spending three and a half months in a different country is something that truly changes a person. I went on excursions to many places within Austria and learned so much about the culture, traditions, and people living there. I also visited three other countries: Ireland, Germany, and Spain. All of these new experiences and adventures combined with the wonderful group of people on my program created so many incredible memories and laughs that I will never forget.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
One of the greatest personal benefits that I received from studying abroad for a semester is a stronger sense of independence. On a daily basis, I had to buy my own food, cook for myself, and navigate public transportation in another language. I learned how to plan day trips as well as trips to different countries by myself. Another benefit was simply gaining a new perspective, allowing me to interact and relate more easily with different people. This fresh frame of mind also has given me a deeper understanding of things that I am studying as by enabling me to see things from a new point of view. Studying abroad in a country where they speak a different language helped me improve my fluency in a second language, which will help me in the long run both academically and professionally.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
The most important advice that I can give CSB/SJU students who are considering planning to study or intern abroad is to simply keep an open mind. It is inevitable that you are going to come across people, places, and events that are strange and new to you, but it is through these foreign encounters that you will learn the most about they culture you are in and yourself! Don't be afraid to experience something totally new! Another piece of advice is to take advantage of every single opportunity you can. Travel to different cities in the country you're staying in or go to a swing dancing night that a local pub is putting on. New experiences is what being abroad is all about!