It wasn’t an easy decision to spend my fall semester away from the LBJ School. My taste buds lamented the great barbecue I would be missing. And missing out on a whole season of Texas football seemed sacrilege (at least it did before they actually started playing). But I felt that one of the few places in the world that could rival Austin was Berlin, and there just so happens to be a world-class policy school there. I’ve traded tailgating for Oktoberfest, and Franklin barbecue for Turkish kebabs.

The diversity of the Hertie School of Governance was the first thing I noticed upon arrival. Only about 40% of the student body is German, and the school has done a great job of representing every continent with the remainder. The faculty has also been recruited from a broad spectrum of academic and professional institutions. At Hertie I’ve come to enjoy a classroom environment where there isn’t a dominant student background. There’s only been a small bit of America-bashing so far, and most of it has been light-hearted and a result of our current lack of an operating government.

Boat Tour

Boat tour in Berlin

Another great advantage of this program has been Hertie’s governmental connections. They maintain close ties with all levels of government, from the city of Berlin, to the German government, all the way up to the EU. This has been especially useful since I am currently researching the European chapter of Dr. Busby’s Emissions Reduction Policy Research Project. Access to this additional professional and career network will undoubtedly prove invaluable.

While I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying the full –time hipster-fest that is Berlin, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to travel and explore Europe. I’ve already been to London and Krakow, and I’ve got a mid-semester break trip to Paris and Amsterdam in the works. The best part of European train travel is that it gives you plenty of time to get your assignments done en route to amazing destinations.

While it was extremely difficult to stay goodbye to LBJ for a semester, I’m very happy that I chose to do a semester exchange. For the first year students, whatever happens to be your interest, I strongly encourage you to consider doing the same. I’d be happy to sit down and talk with anyone interested in studying abroad, whether at Hertie or elsewhere. For the second year students, I miss you guys and here’s hoping the Longhorns give us a season that will make me regret my time away.