FU-BEST Alum: DL Moffitt
DL Moffitt is from Louisville, Kentucky and attended George Mason University at the time of his FU-BEST program. As a European History major, FU-BEST was a great fit for DL and now he holds a position as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Dresden, Germany.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION
Why did you choose to study abroad in Germany? As a European History major, it was important for me to contextualize my education in the European context. The FU-BEST program was the only direct enrollment program offered that would also allow me to learn a new language.
Why did you choose Freie Universität Berlin/FU-BEST and what did you study there? I chose FU-BEST because I was excited by the opportunity to challenge myself with learning a completely new language. The program hosted classes that ranged across the spectrum of social sciences, e.g. Germany in the European Perspective, Pop Culture: Germany and American Trends, Islam and Europe.
How did you learn about study and research opportunities for international students at Freie Universität Berlin? The Global Education Office at George Mason University.
LIFE IN BERLIN / IN GERMANY
How would you describe student life at Freie Universität Berlin? Whether it was through discussions, Stammtische (bar hopping), thrifting, music and movie festivals, or soaking up Berlin’s rich history that mixes well with modern day art, I would say that student life at FU Berlin can be thrilling. The easy-going atmosphere situates you in a cultural center where you are bound to meet people who will become some of your closest friends.
What did you find most rewarding about your time in Germany? What did you find most challenging? The most rewarding and valuable take-away from my study abroad experience in Germany was diversifying my experiences to navigate difficult conversations about race and cultural differences. Learning to connect with Germans, Turkish refugees, and other U.S. students became a critical skill during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, when it was important to understand and discuss the election results with my peers. The most challenging experience I had was dealing with the implications that race had in some of my interactions. Although nothing happened to me physically, there was a period of time when it was difficult to find a place outside of the FU-BEST program where I could express and articulate myself as I had known how to do in the U.S. However, with patience and immersing myself with good listeners, I was able to develop connections with locals who exposed me to many corners of Berlin. The increasing comfort that I felt reminded me of home, thus Berlin became a second home for me. This feeling ultimately led me to feel comfortable enough to travel to other German cities, across Europe, and even to Africa in a matter of one year.
What was, as you see it, your most “German” experience? Flix-Bus. My most “German” experience would have to be taking advantage of the transportation network that Germany has to offer. The FU-BEST excursion to Frankfurt am Main would not have been as notable if a few friends and I had not hopped on the connection to Heidelberg for 5€. The sunset at the castle, trying Maracuja (passionfruit) ice cream for the first time, and the traditional German dinner that came later, would not have been possible at such an inexpensive rate without FlixBus. Many of us mistakenly thought that Germany was a one-dimensional country, and were pleasantly surprised by the dynamics of each city, state, and region. That day trip, and the many that came afterwards, showed us that no two cities within Germany are the same.
LIFE AFTER FU-BEST
How did studying abroad impact your academic and professional goals? Academically, studying abroad affirmed both my ideas about the benefits of study abroad and the importance of interactive learning. While pursuing a career in public service, I wish to encourage aspiring teachers to learn a new language while studying abroad. One major benefit of cultural immersion for teachers is the ability to connect with various students from different backgrounds and languages, empowering educators to navigate U.S. demographics that are becoming more diverse each year. As a result of the critical and rigorous space that the FU-BEST program provided, one year after the program I was able to qualify for and become a 2017 Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Dresden, Germany. The FU-BEST’s intensive German-language classes allowed me to learn 4 semesters of German in 2 semesters, satisfying the Fulbright program’s language requirement. I will also attend Columbia University’s Teachers College in Fall 2018. Although, I had not gone to Germany with clear academic goals or career trajectory, studying abroad refined my aspirations and continues to connect me to opportunities that I could not have planned for.
TIPS AND ADVICE
What advice do you have for prospective students considering studying abroad in Berlin/Germany? Whatever you have heard about Berlin or Germany, whatever you have been told to expect, just leave it in the States. It was the hardest and scariest thing for me to do, as attending FU-BEST in August 2015 was my first time leaving the United States, but this experience and its rewards were most powerful only after I stopped trying to prepare for everything and even put myself in a few uncomfortable situations. If I had listened to my family I would have never gone, if I had listened to my mentor I would have never been to East Berlin, and if I had been afraid I would not have had the courage to first explore several cities in Germany and branch out to 22 other countries. It can be scary travelling to a foreign country, but it becomes a lot easier when you begin to realize that they are also people just living life a little different. The same can be said about people who move across states in the US. Studying in a city that has gone through several governments and is still standing as a cultural powerhouse for Europe can be a life-changer, as it has proven to be for me. It’s a matter of perspective.