International Studies & Programs

Hard to say goodbye to Germany

The last days in Aachen were even harder than the first, as I had to say goodbye to this new home that I had found, and the close friends that I had made during my experience.

Back to News

Published: Wednesday, 20 Dec 2023 Author: Garrett Ruhala

Garrett at the Bundestag in GermanyAlthough it has been over a year since I finished my MSU education abroad program in Aachen, Germany, I take great pride in being able to carry the experience with me and reflect back on my time studying abroad almost every day. Experiencing daily life in Germany, working in a fast-paced research lab environment, traveling to new and interesting places, and meeting people from many different countries helped to transform the way I think and interact with the world around me.

I strongly feel that the first and last days in Aachen were some of the most transformative days of my life. Before embarking Garret sitting on stone wall overlooking Luxembourgon this international journey, I had only met the other two Spartans traveling to Aachen for this study abroad program two or three times, and for less than an hour each time. It seemed like suddenly, we were on an overnight flight to Frankfurt, all of us leaving our home state for a place none of us had been to before.

On our first full day in Aachen, I remember reflecting on the stress and uncertainty we all felt during our first night, alone in our individual rooms around the city. We took a walk to get our bearings, and the fact that we were living in Germany for the summer had started to set in. We ate some delicious döner kebab for our first meal, then walked to the nearby Westpark, Garret holding Spartan flag at UROP Symposium in Germanywhere we quickly learned about the lack of drinking fountains and bathrooms in public spaces. That first day was a microcosm of the many to come: we soaked up every opportunity to adventure, explore unfamiliar places, and continue to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

I had the opportunity in Europe to do many things I would have never thought possible, like going to watch a Bundesliga soccer game in Dortmund on our second day in Germany, or visiting the DLR and Jülich research centers, where we were able to learn about the innovations in research happening in the area around Aachen & Cologne, and taking a city tour of Berlin that spanned hundreds of years into history and the many important world events that took place there. I was able to experience the hard-working, no-nonsense, and cutting-edge daily life in the German workplace, and struggle through speaking to the baristas at the cafe during our break from German class (luckily a lot spoke English!).

The last days in Aachen were even harder than the first, as I had to say goodbye to this new home that I had found, and the close friends that I had made during my experience. The stress and uncertainty in the initial days of the summer faded to a sense of wonder in my surroundings, and an ever-growing urge to take in and enjoy every experience that I could. As the days in Germany ticked away, I couldn’t help but to feel thankful for the opportunities that I had gotten to be a part of because of my education abroad experience through MSU, and for how much I had grown and learned about myself during my time in Aachen.

Name: Garrett Ruhala
Status: Senior
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Almont, Michigan
Program: RWTH-Aachen Research Program in Germany