Julia Littlefield '11

  • Majors: German
  • Study Abroad Program: IES Berlin, Germany

Julia LittlefieldWhy did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in Germany specifically?

I had always planned on spending a semester abroad from Bowdoin, as I believe that studying abroad greatly enriches what a college student can learn during their undergraduate years. As a German major, I knew that having the opportunity to study at a German university would not only improve my language proficiency but also deepen my understanding of the culture about which I've learned so much about at Bowdoin. I decided to spend my semester in Berlin, specifically, as I am very interested in urban studies and architectural history, and Berlin is perhaps the destination to study urban changes over time.

Can you briefly describe your academic program while abroad and how your Bowdoin education prepared you for your time abroad?

I attended the IES Berlin Language and Area program, which allowed me to take IES courses as well as enroll into courses alongside Germans at Berlin's Humboldt University. I took one IES course and four Humboldt courses, my favorite class being a small seminar on Berlin's architecture at the turn of the 20th century. We never met in the classroom but instead took weekly walking tours of the city and picked one site to research for our final grade. Having been challenged at Bowdoin by the intensity of small class discussions and independent research projects, I felt prepared for Humboldt's small seminar courses. More specifically, I have taken many environmental and urban history courses in Bowdoin's Environmental Studies Department, which prepared me to properly analyze sources and successfully conduct independent research in this field of study. It hardly needs to be said that the knowledge and support I've received from the German Department prepared me to accurately communicate my ideas in German.

What do you believe was the value of study abroad for you personally?

It is difficult to describe the value of studying abroad for me personally in a few sentences. Before coming to Bowdoin, I spent a gap year in southern Germany as an exchange student, so I was already aware of how much an individual can learn and grow from being challenged socially and academically abroad. However, the courses I took at Humboldt University solidified my interested in urban studies and architectural history, so much so that I would like to eventually continue my education after Bowdoin in a combination of these fields.

How is the learning that you gained abroad impacting your academic work and engagement here at Bowdoin?

Upon returning to Bowdoin last fall, I decided to undertake an honors project studying the relatively forgotten pieces of Berlin's architectural history, namely a former train station that now stands seemingly purposeless as a partial ruin. While the Anhalter train station was never discussed in any of my courses, its quiet, eerie presence in the urban landscape always fascinated me when I walked by it.  The decision to pursue an honors project was a direct result of the positive learning experiences and intense engagement with this area of study that I'd had abroad at Humboldt University.