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Off-Campus Study

Notes from Abroad: Casey in Salzburg, Austria

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Casey  Hartfiel ’17, an Economics and International Relations major currently studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria.


My name is Casey Hartfiel and I am a junior studying Economics and International Relations at Lake Forest College. After six years of learning the Spanish language, I decided it was time to get another language under my belt, so I am studying German in Salzburg, Austria this semester. The program began with an extensive German language orientation course and I realized that my experience learning German would be quite different than when I learned Spanish.

As I grew up in middle school and high school, I gradually learned and heard Spanish, but I did not grow up hearing German. This has affected me more than I thought it would. When I see a German word, I really have to think about how to pronounce it. Usually I pronounce it wrong, and then I hear it pronounced correctly and have to repeat it many times. Luckily my German professor is fantastic and the locals are kind and helpful when I speak German to them.

I am furthering my German knowledge by interacting with Austrians on a daily basis. I have started volunteering at the train station to help out with the refugees that are traveling through Salzburg to get to Germany. Many of my professors at the University of Salzburg have said that the refugee situation is “Austria’s biggest predicament since 1945.” This statement added even more value to the volunteer work. In addition to helping the refugees, I get to know other Austrians when I volunteer there and I ask them about their culture and how to say some words in German. I have learned that interacting with locals is the best way to further my German knowledge and, specifically, the Austro-Bavarian German dialect.

My study abroad experience has been incredible thus far and cannot wait to see how my German skills have developed by the end of the semester. I plan to continue German when I return to Lake Forest. I want to thank G. Dale Smith ’37 and Ruth Peterson Smith for awarding me a scholarship to participate in this program. Both of you are helping to make my academic background more diverse and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity.