People of the World: Hard Lessons and Moving Abroad Alone

People of the World is a new section for you to share your stories of traveling, the people you meet and the lessons you learn. It is published every Wednesday. To submit your story, email 

Author: Katarina, Biology Student in Switzerland (originally from US)

Growing up it had always been my dream to study in Germany for a year. My first year living aboard was honestly fun and easy- I met students from all over the world, learned German, and connected with my German family history. I was hooked and decided that I wanted to stay and complete my biology bachelor’s in Germany. I took the German language exam, applied, and was accepted.


That second year was the worst of my life. It turned out I was in way over my head and I failed almost every class I took. My dream was unraveling and I was at risk of losing my residence permit. On top of that my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I had a stalker, I was constantly sick from the stress, I hadn’t put in the time to create a supportive network of friends in Germany, and I dated guy after guy who didn’t understand me at all. I was stressed, lonely as hell, and to top the year off, I got myself kicked out of the house over Christmas. I started to resent my situation, Germans, and Germany instead of looking at the choices I was making.

Eventually I realized that I was the only person who could turn around my life and what I was feeling. I decided that I wanted to stay in Germany, to become a biologist, to be healthy, to fix my relationships with my parents and friends, and to stop the train of boyfriends (that last one took a bit longer). That vision of the life I wanted is what pulled me through that awful time and it has pulled me through tough times again and again after that year. I started waking up every morning and running, organizing up my schedule so I could work on one university task at a time, putting effort into my relationships, and learned to embrace my new German home.

My life is so much better because of that horrible year alone and stressed out in a foreign country. Moving aboard and learning to face challenges will make you who are. Today I am so certain about what I want and I trust myself completely to find a way to flow past any obstacle I will face in my future. I have so much more compassion for others who are struggling and I’m on way to having great relationships, great health, and a challenging and exciting career path. Go and find out who you are and what kind of person you want to become. Never stop learning.

With love from Switzerland,


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