Drop everything and study abroad.

Holland Cathey is currently studying abroad in Germany for Environmental Studies and Sustainability. Check out her first blog post below.

Guten Tag!

I’m Holland and I’m studying abroad this semester in Freiburg, Germany!  I’ve been planning my study abroad experience as long as I can remember and I honestly cannot believe it’s finally here!!  The countdown is on and there are just 18 days until I leave.  February 27—once a far away and distant date, just 18 days away!

In these last few weeks before I leave, I find myself hyper-aware of all the things I anticipate missing like seeing familiar faces every time I walk past the Corner, all my friends in HackCville and in AXO, and even big events like Foxfield!  I’ll miss the creature comforts of home and the ease of constantly speaking my native language.  At the same time, I can’t wait to put that on hold for a semester and just GO!

Freiburg is a notoriously green college town on the edge of the Black Forest.  Just a few miles from the borders of both France and Switzerland, it’s perfect for a semester of new experiences!  I’m studying global sustainability and German with a minor in environmental science and chose this program (IES Freiburg: Environmental Studies and Sustainability) specifically because of all of the amazing classes I will have access to and the culture of sustainability in Freiburg.  I get to immerse myself in a culture where environmental stewardship and sustainability is a lifestyle, rather than a distant fact we have yet to come to terms with.  If what I’ve read is correct, you can earn some pretty nasty looks from other students if you fail to separate your trash correctly in Freiburg!  Even at the fairly progressive UVA, I couldn’t even get my first year roommate to use a re-usable water bottle!

I’ll take ecology classes in the shadow of the Swiss Alps, snowshoe through Liechtenstein, and learn about sustainable energy first hand. While abroad, I hope what it is about Freiburg that makes it so “green”—and bring that knowledge home!  My goal is to use my experience from both Freiburg and Charlottesville to gain a unique perspective on sustainability and environmental issues and ultimately help solve related problems in the future.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it’s about more than academics.  Improving my German and studying sustainability is important to me, but what I’m personally most excited for is exploration.  Freiburg is located within an hour or two by train to France, Italy, Switzerland, and even Liechtenstein! It has always been my fantasy to study somewhere where I can hop on a train and explore whatever city I happen to get off at.  I find myself visualizing an idyllic semester packed with weekend trips, gothic cathedrals, and the picturesque views of the Schwartzwald, but what I am looking forward to most are all of the moments that won’t be caught in a photo.  I can’t wait for the first time I successfully have a conversation with a local—in German! Exploring a new city, culture, and language is all about meeting people and getting lost—and that’s what excites me the most!  I can’t wait be lost in Freiburg, absorbing new sights, sounds, smells and experiences.  I’m ready to throw myself into a brand new situation and see what I make of it.  I’m ready to see everything and feel anything.  A semester abroad is so much more than the photographs—it’s a life changing and inspiring time and I’m ready! Right. Now.



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