Reading lesson: A Year Abroad

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Read this interview. Then, complete the exercises below.

A Year Abroad

Victor is an exchange student from Houston, Texas. He usually attends classes at Rice University, but this year, Victor is living in Frankfurt, Germany. He is getting his degree in business. Read this interview about his experience.

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I decided to do a year abroad after I took a class about international business. My professors are always encouraging students to broaden their horizons because business is a global industry.

Is it difficult to study in another country?

I’ll be honest with you, it’s not always easy! I studied German in high school because my grandparents moved to the US from Austria. I thought it was a nice way to remember their heritage. I never had many opportunities to practice, though. So, when I first arrived in Frankfurt, I hardly ever spoke German. Plus, most people speak English very well. That was the easiest way to communicate.

Do you speak German now?

Well, I generally understand conversations, and I can sometimes keep up if the topic is familiar. I try to take notes if I learn a new word or phrase, but sometimes I forget to write these down. Occasionally, I meet someone who does not speak English and I have to use my German. That rarely happens, but when it does, I always learn something valuable.

What are your classes like?

I signed up for a few different courses that my university in Texas accredits. One course is called Principles of Finance. It’s a beginner course. This is perfect for me because I never took a finance course before.

Another course is called Microeconomics. It’s all about decision theory, or the way people make decisions.This is not an advanced course, but I already studied macroeconomics, so I know a little about the subject.

How are your grades?

My grades are alright. First off, the professors often give average or failing grades, so students have to work very hard to do well. Also, the grading scale is totally different from my home university. They give a point from 1 (the best) to 5 (the worst) based on a percent out of 100. So, if you get a 2.0 in Frankfurt, that’s about an 80 percent, or a B minus in the US. You can see why international students frequently get confused.

I was sad when I got my first low grade, but I adjusted quickly. Typically, I get good grades at Rice University. I think it’s easier when you understand the educational system including homework, tests and projects.  Now, I generally receive average scores and my expectations are lower. Still, I need a lot of help to pass these classes!

What kind of help do you get?

The university was great about this. After my first few weeks, a student advisor contacted me and asked about my progress. I explained my issues, and she told me not to worry. She said that international students usually have some difficulty during the first semester, but they seldom fail. She recommended that I join a study group. So I did! It was a great idea, too. I met several nice people and they became my friends.

I also hired a private tutor to help me learn some academic language in German, which is good for completing exams, projects and papers. Now, the language is not a problem. It’s only the content.

Do you ever miss home?

Sometimes, I think about my friends and family back in Texas, and I feel sad. It’s usually only for a moment before I remember that this year is a unique chance to have new experiences. I rarely miss home so much that I can’t enjoy this temporary life abroad.

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