From Bookworm to Bräumeister: a WLC Senior’s Journey

CATEGORIES: Spring 2018
WLC student, John Bardsley, holding the fruits of his labor as he learns to brew in Germany

Tell me a little about yourself- how did you end up at ISU?

I am a 22-year-old native Iowan currently studying in Marburg, Germany. My hometown is Cedar Rapids where I attended John F. Kennedy high school. Had someone told me when I was 16 years old that I would attend Iowa State University, I would have scoffed at the idea. In Cedar Rapids, Cyclone fans are almost nonexistent. Lying to the south is Iowa City and to the north Cedar Falls, each within an hour’s drive. I was hesitant when given the idea to visit Ames “just to see,” what it is like. I really had no connection to the University but, fortunately, I went ahead and made the drive to Ames.

Can you describe what you study at ISU?

I study Speech Communications and German at Iowa State. To be able to study abroad and graduate on time, I took classes during the summer and completed speech communications. In Marburg, the classes that are taught in German qualify as German credits, and, upon the conclusion of my last semester in June, I will graduate with a double major.

How did you end up in Germany?

How I ended up in Germany instead of France or England or somewhere else is a more difficult question. My first choice was, in fact, England; Germany didn’t even come to mind, although I studied it in high school. Fortunately, I did not fill the foreign language requirements for an undergraduate student at Iowa State so, once again, I found myself in a classroom learning German. But this time around, I absolutely loved German. After that, I made it a goal of mine to reach a high level of proficiency in German. Since being immersed to the highest possible extent is the quickest way to learn a new language, I looked at the options available for Germany on the ISU study abroad website. After two long years, I have reached C2 level proficiency, something I am very proud of and something that every motivated student can accomplish.

How did you end up in your work program?
One thing I absolutely hate is extended periods of sitting around, being unproductive. As the semester break approached, and I was faced with almost two whole months of downtime, I knew that I needed something to occupy my time. I began looking for opportunities on WorkAway to move outside of Marburg to work for a brief period of time somewhere else in Germany. Loving beer as I do, the golden chance to spend five weeks at a small craft beer brewery in Franken (northern Bavaria) was naturally the perfect fit.

How does your experience in Germany compare to learning in a regular classroom? Anything easier? Harder?

As a student from the States taking classes in German, I would say that everything is harder.

Outside of that, the most difficult aspect about studying here is the difference in expectations. The teachers seem a lot more business-like in their approach. You meet for the one lecture per week, the teacher is there to teach, not laugh or joke, and the students are there to take notes, and that’s it.

Honestly, I believe German universities could learn from American universities in this regard. Crafting a good relationship with one’s professor, as I did in Ames, is a great feeling and helps foster a better learning environment.

You’re a senior this year, right? Any post-graduation plans?
Nothing is solidified so far. My ambition right now is to extend my stay in Germany by another 6 months or so through an internship. After that, I would love to stay in Germany, or Europe for a little longer. This is the time of my life when I want to live overseas. But someday in the not too distant future, I will return to the U.S.

Do you feel that any aspects of your experience will help you in your career after graduation?
As someone that wants to work in Germany after graduation, my time abroad has been an invaluable asset so far. Above all else, my German language skills have improved so much over the past 7 months.

It has also given me an enhanced feeling of independence. I have been here seven months, and there were periods that were difficult, most notably in the beginning. But, you figure things out, and by doing so, you become more confident in your abilities to handle stressful situations.

Do you have any advice for students hoping to go abroad?

I would advise students to seriously consider studying abroad. The life experiences and personal growth I gained through a full year abroad are priceless. Having said that, an extended study abroad program also comes with some sacrifice. Your family and friends will be thousands of miles away. Everything you have gotten used to as a student in your university city will be flipped around and, suddenly, you will be left to forge a new life in a foreign country that is totally different. The satisfaction I feel and the confidence I have gained through my months overseas will be with me for life and truly have altered who I am.