Ellen Kimball '11
- Major: History
- Minor: Latin American Studies
- Study Abroad Program: IES Berlin, German and IES Buenos Aires, Argentina
Why did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your year in Germany and Argentina specifically?
My first priority for my study abroad experience was to improve my fluency in both German and Spanish, so it made sense for me to pick a country where each of those languages is spoken. I also wanted to have two very different experiences that would contrast each other both linguistically and culturally. From the beginning I was strongly drawn to Berlin because of its fascinating history and amazing cultural scene. While I considered studying in Spain, I really wanted to experience Latin America, and everything I had ever heard about Buenos Aires drew me to the “Paris of South America”.
Can you briefly describe your academic program while abroad and how your Bowdoin education prepared you for your time abroad?
In both Germany and Argentina I was adamant that I wanted to take university classes with host-country students, not only to challenge myself, but also to experience their university system. In both countries I took a mix of classes with my study abroad provider and at the local university. My university classes were particularly challenging because everything was conducted at such a high level in the target language, but I felt very prepared to handle a challenging work-load after two years at Bowdoin. I really came to appreciate my Bowdoin professors’ availability outside the classroom and personal attention after experiencing systems where that level of contact just isn’t available.
What do you believe was the value of study abroad for you personally?
Without a doubt I gained confidence simply by proving to myself that I could adapt to two very different experiences in one year. As an individual I’ve become more independent, and I now think of myself as more of a global citizen than I did before.
How is the learning that you gained abroad impacting your academic work and engagement here at Bowdoin?
I’m working hard to maintain my language skills by taking literature classes and attending the weekly German and Spanish tables. In addition, I’m completing a history Honors Project on the escape of Nazis to Argentina post-World War II, the idea for which emerged from my study abroad experiences in Germany and Argentina. Since returning to Bowdoin I find myself constantly (and sometimes unconsciously) incorporating experiences from study abroad into my perspective in all my classes, regardless of the department.