Alumni Spotlight on Alexis Peppin; High School Student in Germany

alexis studying in germany

Inspired by her family history, Alexis Peppin was determined to learn German, but found it difficult to learn in the classroom and wanted to be able to practice with native speakers. Studying abroad seemed like the perfect solution and she left this January to begin her new adventure abroad. Now two months into her Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Program in Germany, Alexis opens up about what she was surprised to learn about the language, the culture, and herself since moving abroad.

1. What inspired you to study abroad and specifically in Germany?

A lot of reasons led to me studying abroad actually. First, it was because of my great grandfather. He died when I was five, but I still have great memories of him. When he was younger, he lived in Germany, but he had to leave because his great grandfather was Jewish. I then started taking German as a sort of way to connect to my Opa (this is what I called him). The more I learned the German language and culture, the more I fell in love with it. During my junior year, I started looking into ways I could improve my German because I was taking the school’s last available German course. I started thinking about studying abroad and knew it was the perfect idea. I’d get to improve my German, experience German culture first hand, and connect to my family’s past.

2. What have you discovered about German culture and life since living there?

My idea of Germans were in part shaped by the way they are presented in American culture. On a TV show, even recent ones, the “bad guy” often has an exaggerated German accent. Germans are often shown as unfriendly. This actually makes me super mad now because this could not be any less true about Germans. They are genuinely friendly. They are invite their neighbors over for coffee regularly and put an emphasis on opening their homes to strangers. Germans spend so much time doing life enriching activities and less time alone watching tv. If it’s a nice day outside, everyone is walking outside, getting ice cream in the altstadt (old town), or visiting with neighbors at the nearby playground. They put a lot of emphasis on getting to know their community and in general live peaceful lives.

german home

3. What is your favorite word or phrase in German?

My favorite word has always been Schokolade (chocolate). I like the way it sounds (and eating it). Recently I learned a new word that’s just ridiculous: sitzpinkler. It means a man who sits down on the toilet to pee. I read it in a book by John Green (An Abundance of Katherines) and was sitting next to my friend Anna. I had no idea what it meant (it’s not really a word they teach you in class haha) so I asked “Anna, was heisst das auf Englisch?” (Anna, what is this in English) and she just started laughing.

4. What’s it like to learn a language through immersion?

It’s the best way there is. Learning German before I came here was hard because there was hardly any way to practice. It’s very hard to find anything German in America and hardly anyone speaks it. But here I can find everything in German. Now I can practice by reading books and watching tv shows and movies in German. And, if I have a question about anything, I can ask anybody. It’s the best.

german blog photo 2

5. Do you have any tips for how students can make the most of their study abroad experience?

Whenever you have free time, go do something outside. Go for a bike ride, take a walk, meet up with a friend, anything. There is so much beauty in your community to explore. It’s also scientifically proven that spending some time outside like this is good for you.

Try it. If it smells weird, try it. If it looks weird, try it. I found out that I like Teewurst, which is a spreadable sausage. If you don’t like it just politely say no, but always try it first.

Stop contacting home so much. I know you love your parents and friends and that they want to hear from you, but break off most contact with them. Talk to your parents around once a week and your friends even less. My solution was to start a blog, that way everyone could feel like they were hearing from me. Soon you’ll be home and can talk to them again, but for now just enjoy every moment you have because they go by way too fast.

Last but not least, stay busy! Join some clubs, even if you wouldn’t normally do that. They’re a great way to meet new people and get involved. Say yes to invitations to sleepovers and parties even if you don’t know the people that well. Always be open to new ideas, new foods, new activities, and new friends.



6. Did someone inspire you to study abroad or to travel (ex. A teacher, friend, role model)?

Mainly just my great grandpa. If he didn’t have to leave, I could’ve grown up in Germany (or most likely I wouldn’t have been born at all). I wanted to see what life would’ve been like growing up in Germany.

7. If you were talking with a friend who was unsure about studying abroad in high school, what would you say to persuade them to go for it?

Do it do it do it do it

Why are you unsure? Whatever reason it is, it’s not worth not going. Studying abroad is amazing! Do you not want to go because of school? Colleges love unique candidates and studying abroad is most definitely unique! Is it because of money? Fundraisers! Or get a job! I worked two jobs over the last year to earn the money and it was definitely worth it.

Studying abroad is the experience of a lifetime. It teaches you so much; about another culture, about another lifestyle, but most importantly about yourself. I can’t think of any reason not to do it.

8. What are your plans for after the program and how have your travels inspired these goals?

Just three months after I get back I’ll be starting college, so that’s my first goal. Living in Germany has made me never want to leave, so I’m looking into coming back here for college at some point. It’s also influenced the major I want to pursue. I’m now thinking of a major that has to do with international relations.

Mostly though, it’s changed my outlook on life. Before I traveled abroad, I would be hesitant about opportunities for great experiences, but now I want to jump on every amazing opportunity thrown my way no matter where it takes me. I realize now that life isnt about following the set of goals given to us by society (i.e. go to college, get married, have kids, etc), it’s about having life changing experiences and growing and changing as a person. I’m definitely going to spend more time traveling the world now.

9. Any other additional thoughts or tips you have for anyone wanting to travel for a change?

Do it. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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