Getting the official acceptance into the Academic Year in Freiburg program was a slightly surreal moment for me. Suddenly one day I’m sitting at home during winter break and I’m effectively told “next year you’ll be sitting in Germany, living in Germany, learning in Germany.” The moment was fantastic and I felt so proud of myself for getting there. I have not felt this excited since I got ready to leave for college. This is something that I have wanted to do since I first started talking German classes six years ago as a freshman in high school. I finally, FINALLY had the chance to live a dream. Preparing to go has been a mixture of elation and trepidation though. On one hand I have wanted this for the longest time. On the other, I am leaving my friends for almost a year; I’m sacrificing a lot here for the unknown in Germany and for the first time ever, I’ll be away from my beloved hometown, Chicago, for more than three months at a time. A lot of what I was feeling was like what I felt when I first got into college too. It was suddenly so real and you notice how different your life is in a moment.
It was like getting into college also in that when you apply for a program like that you have a lot riding on whether you get accepted or rejected: you have to decide whether to lease an apartment, how to approach relationships, choose classes appropriately and so on. I personally planed my life assuming I would get accepted to AYF; even though I felt very confident I’d get accepted after talking to my advisors and such, there was still that horrible sinking feeling that I would not be accepted at which point I joked that I would have to go back and tell all the people I told I would be living in Germany next year that in fact I was not doing that. None of that happened though of course, and now I’m preparing to go to Germany for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Ultimately, you come to realize that this is the experience of a lifetime, and to pass it up wouldn’t be worth what you might risk by staying back in Madison for the year. The pros certainly outweigh the cons in this situation, and the energy and excitement you get from embarking on a journey like this smothers the fear. What a great feeling.