Back to SummaryWendy Chuah - Student Advisor Profile
Before going to Berlin during the first quarter of my junior year, I knew absolutely nothing about German culture, German people, German history, and not a word of the German language. Heck, I had never even been to Europe before.
I was born and raised in Australia, then moved to the San Francisco in the tenth grade. I was lucky enough to have another incredible international experience of studying abroad through Stanford. During the few months that I spent in Berlin, I learned and practiced a foreign language in my everyday life, traveled to eight different European countries, attended world class performances in the Berlin Philhamonic and opera houses, and completely fell in love with the most cultured and cosmopolitan city in the world.
I was also fortunate enough to make some truly life-long friends with other German University students through the language partner program. All the Stanford students and the German University students met one evening at the Stanford villa and the set up was ultimately a “speed-dating” situation where we were supposed to talk to everyone and then choose a German student to be our language partner. The girl who I asked to be my partner has now become one of my best friends because I spent so much of my time in Berlin with her and her best friend. I was able to practice my German with them as they took me to many interesting sites around the city that were untouched by tourists, and invited me to their homes where we would cook dinner together and bake Weinachten keks (Christmas cookies). Forming these life-long, international friendships, was the most rewarding and valuable experience of being abroad.
Before going to Berlin, I had no prior experience or even exposure to the German language. So when I arrived and was paired with a host mother who did not speak a work of English, I was a little worried. The language barrier made for some interesting and comical interactions during the first couple of weeks and we both became quite adept at dramatic hand gestures and dexterous at looking up words in the dictionary. My host mother was the most loving and warm-hearted person I could have ever asked for, and as the weeks progressed we were able to have complicated and intense conversations about our lives and backgrounds. I have visited her twice since I left last year, and always know that I have a welcome place to stay when I go to Berlin.
Along with the extremely rewarding social experiences I had, my time abroad in Berlin allowed me to experience a different, more environmentally conscious way of living, which has sparked my interest in sustainability for a future career path. This past summer I returned to Germany to participate in the Krupp internship program, where I worked for Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. I was responsible for developing the company’s sustainability initiative, which was both an exciting and meaningful project to be a part of. As a Political Science major and Psychology minor, this internship allowed me to explore the intersections between my two academic concentrations. Developing features such as a carbon offsetting model and company sustainability pledge site, I was able to apply my knowledge of psychological theories to group and public behavior in order to create projects that proved to be more effective on a social, corporate, and global scale.
Berlin is a city bursting with a young, cosmopolitan vibe fused with a rich history and unparalleled cultural heritage. It is like no other place in the world; where the new is contrasted with the old, where you can find the best falafel joint next to the tastiest Thai restaurant, and where you can attend the opera every week (something that I was fortunate enough to do through the Stanford opera class) and then stay at your favorite bar until 4am. The Bing Overseas Studies Program is unique in that it allows students to go a foreign place and have everything: housing, meals, events, classes to tripsd all set up for them. This leaves students with the single responsibility of experiencing a new city as thoroughly and enjoyably as possible. Studying abroad has been the best thing that I have done at Stanford, and I would encourage anyone who is even considering studying abroad to do so, as I would not trade this experience for anything in the world.