Lessons in the International Classroom

GVSU student Matthew Kuncaitis took himself out of his comfort zone by traveling to Germany and around Europe. Here is his story.


Having never left the United States prior to spending an entire academic year abroad, you could certainly say I was nervous for many reasons! I decided to go to Germany, a country in which I had low language experience and no connections to people I knew, to attend a university in a town whose entire population matches the student population of Grand Valley.

I was nervous for similar reasons to other students studying abroad. My friends and family would change when I was gone, maybe I would have trouble making friends, or maybe I would just get homesick. However, the funniest thing that I remember thinking before I left was simply, “Maybe I’ll be bored.” This seemed logical; after all, with the town’s population being the same as Grand Valley, I thought there wouldn’t be much going on! Now that I look back on my year abroad, as bad as it may sound, I can’t believe that I thought my life was exciting before I studied abroad.

If anyone would have told me before I left that I would be hiking in the Swiss Alps, wine tasting in Southern France, spending the night in Paris, witnessing a historical moment in Berlin, clubbing in Prague, or spending a week in Barcelona, all while studying, earning credit, and staying within my budget, I simply would not have believed them.

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If someone told me that while studying abroad I would make friends with people from Germany, France, England, Poland, Romania, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Singapore, and South Korea, I probably would have asked how I would ever meet all those people.  I would not have believed them if they told me that those people would soon be some of the best friends I have.

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As for the “small, boring town,” I admit that it is small, but I also admit that I have never been to a town so rich in culture, history, architectural design, events, and, most importantly, caring, fun, and friendly people. Yes, my family and friends back home changed, and I missed them at times, but the experience I had abroad was so monumentally priceless and eye opening that it does not compare to any hardship that could result from these changes.

Students considering study abroad should absolutely never let these fears of change or nervousness restrain them from living what I believe are some of the greatest experiences they may ever have in pursuing their education. To future students, you may not be aware of what you are missing. There is a big world outside of Grand Valley, and it’s up to you to discover it.

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When you travel, be prepared to get more than you expect when you study abroad. Studying abroad is a truly priceless experience that will force you to see the world and yourself differently. You may never know what you are missing unless you go for it.

-By Matthew Kuncaitis (GV student)

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