Come for the Course, Stay for the Castles

You did it! You survived first year!

Now what? You have the entire summer free to do whatever you want, so now is great time to cross seeing Germany off your bucket list. Every summer, The Rosenberg School of Optometry, in conjunction with the UIW study abroad program, hosts a 10-day trip to Heidelberg, Germany.

UIWRSO is the only optometry program that offers a study-abroad experience, and this trip is exclusively available to students who just completed their first year. In Germany, optometry students complete their Public Health course, normally taken in 3rd year. The course is instructed by Dr. Foutch, a UIWRSO professor. Taking this course, unlike taking other summer courses, does not cost extra- it is already covered by tuition as if you were taking it your third year. Your only out-of-pocket expenses are travel fees, and of course tours in Germany!

Even better, you don’t have any limitations on what you do before and after the 10-day trip. You can start saving money now and plan an extra trip before or after Germany. This past year, my friends and I spent two days in France before departing to Germany. After, we visited Italy, and Spain. With good planning, options are limitless!

The trip begins in Germany with a traditional German welcome dinner at one of the local restaurants. For those of you wondering, there are plenty of vegetarian options available. Then, you take the scenic route back to your housing. Housing is a brisk 15 minute walk from the main shopping plaza and is provided by the dorm-style rooms at the European Study Center (ESC) in Heidelberg. The building makes you feel like you are a local. It was once home to a German family and resembles typical German living conditions. There is a kitchen available on each floor that is available for use by the students as well as a laundry room. The first floor of the ESC is where you’ll report for your Public Health course. The class meets once a day, and classes range from 1-2 hours, depending on the tour scheduled for that day. Additionally, the evening always has free time scheduled.

Be prepared to walk! When I say you’ll be living like a local, I mean it. German streets are full of locals who either walk or bike to their destinations and you will too. At the beginning of the trip, you will be taken on a tour of the vicinity. On the tour you will be shown where to go to get groceries, shop, eat, send packages or take out money. Everything is primarily walking distance, however, you will also have access to the bus system. You will also be given a crash course in German culture and language to be better acclimated.

Tours are scheduled frequently and include trips to the Heidelberg castle, as well as other cities such as Ladenberg, Speyer, Schwetzingen, Neckarsteinach, Allen, and Frankfurt. Other tours include a visit to the Carl Zeiss Optics Museum, Schwetzingen gardens, as well as a boat tour.

On your free time you can explore the town (it is very safe at night), go shopping at the shopping strip, eat lots of gelato, listen to live music, try out new bakeries and restaurants, and even hike one of the tallest peaks of Heidelberg, which was my personal favorite.

The course concludes with a farewell dinner on a boat on the beautiful Neckar River.

The Germany Study Abroad program is a perfect way to wrap up your first year and the best way to take advantage of your last free summer. I guarantee if you ask anyone who went they will say it was the best decision they made- I know it was mine.

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