The University of Iowa

An 'experienced' traveler

February 5th, 2019
in Freiburg

in Freiburg

On November 7, 2017, the most exciting trip I had ever taken was probably to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Natural History in Drumheller, Alberta, more than a decade earlier. While an extraordinary museum, I suspect most people can imagine more exciting voyages. But travel is expensive, and those trips weren't an option for me.

So, what changed on November 7, 2017? I went to FilmScene, as I had every other Tuesday since the start of the semester, for the Bijou Horizons series. This was the last night of the series, and they were showing Pop Aye, a Thai movie about a man going on a road trip with an elephant. And at the end of the film the names of everyone who had attended the entire series were put into a jack o' lantern-shaped bucket, and somehow my name was pulled out. I had won the Bijou Horizons Study Abroad Scholarship.

At that point, I had some decisions to make. Where to study, what to study, when would it be? I remember being under the impression at the time I could only apply for the Horizons money and thinking it would have to be a short summer program, so I went to the Study Abroad office for more information. As it turned out I was wrong. Any aid I was receiving could go to studying abroad, and what was more there was plenty of assistance I was eligible for to cover costs further. Basically, I could study where ever and whatever I wanted.

I settled upon the IES EU program for two reasons. First, as a poli-sci major a program focused entirely on the workings and history of the EU is a perfect fit more for me. Second, the field trips that are part of the program are all fantastic opportunities on their own. To have the chance to study how two world wars have shaped the EU in Berlin or being in London on Brexit day, for example. I knew this was the program I wanted.

So, with my program picked, I began preparing for my voyage. I took classes with links to what I would be studying. I applied for almost every scholarship I could. (And here I must offer an obvious tip. Make sure you write down the correct scholarship deadline. I missed out on applying for the Gilman because I wrote down the wrong deadline.) Next, I researched both where I was going, and the little practicalities involved with international travel. I’d never flown on a plane before! I had no idea if there was something everyone who flies on planes knows that I didn’t. Did I need to know what the deal was with airline food?

my bags

my bags

And finally, my departure came. Not wanting to pay more than I had to I only brought what I could take with me as a carry-on. If it didn't fit in my backpack or travel handbag, it wasn’t coming with me. So, I flew across the ocean, far more enthralled by the experience than anyone else who was sitting with me in economy class and landed in Frankfurt. From there I took a bullet train which went over 200 miles an hour (an extraneous detail, perhaps, but still incredible to me) before arriving in my program’s primary city of  Freiburg.

When I arrived at the IES Freiburg facility, the program director first greeted me and then asked if my other bags were outside. I explained that those two bags were all I brought. “Ah!” He said, pleased, “An experienced traveler!”


A native of Rolfe, Iowa, Lee Sailor is a political science major and pursing a minor in history at the University of Iowa. Lee is spending the semester in Germany on the IEW Freiburg European Union program. 

Interested in going abroad? Learn more about first steps