July 13, 2023

McNair Scholars Perspectives: Taking Opportunities & Adapting to Obstacles while Studying Abroad in Jena, Germany

McNair Scholars Perspectives: Taking Opportunities & Adapting to Obstacles while Studying Abroad in Jena, Germany

Written by Luis Sanchez Chavez (McNair Scholar)


Hello, my name is Luis Sanchez Chavez and I am a McNair Scholar at Francis Marion University. I am studying Mechanical Engineering and I plan to graduate with a Bachelors of Science in the Spring of 2024. To me being a McNair Scholar means being able to overcome obstacles foreseen and even ones which were not. One of the great benefits of being a McNair Scholar is the opportunity to enjoy a semester abroad at one of our partnered universities.

Although being thousands of miles away from home, family and friends can be quite challenging, it is that mindset to be able to take on hardships and open up one’s mind to new opportunities and experiences that has made many of my fellow McNair Scholars and I successful. To say the least, I was excited to know I was going to be able to go abroad even when at times I felt scared, nervous, and doubtful of how it was going to pan out. The chance to study abroad is an amazing opportunity. The McNair Scholarship was made to truly give a student a well-rounded experience during that student’s time at FMU. It is the opportunity to open up to a new culture, styles of learning, language, etc. that truly prepares you far more than just a regular education. I can truly say that due to the scholarship and the opportunities that it has given me directly and indirectly that I am a better student, friend, and member of the community. Though I am not yet done with my experience here in Jena, I already feel more prepared for the real world. Now I would like to share a little of my experience while being a student abroad in Germany.


I was lucky enough that starting in April 2023 I would be given the opportunity to study abroad at Ernst-Abbe-Hochschule Jena (University of Applied Sciences). It has always been a dream of mine to come to Germany. As a future engineer, I have always admired German Engineering feats and that may be due to my “slight” interest in the automotive field, but that’s a conversation for another time. From the moment my plane landed in Frankfurt and I looked around, it quickly hit me that I was in a new place and I was going to experience a whole lot. I will say I was slightly over confident in my Traveling abilities and my small knowledge of the German Language, but I managed to survive the first hours without any hiccups really. That is if we don’t count being faced with the fact that there are different waters like “still” and “with gas” to choose from and almost getting lost right before getting to my new home for the following four months.



It has been the simple nuances that have made the experience great, like being exposed to public transport in a way that I had not been before or realizing how everyone even from a young age is so independent. I will say that just to add to the greatness of the experience the food is amazing especially the pastries and bread. Making friends was a struggle, but the ones that I have made have been amazing to me and nothing but kind. I have felt so welcomed from the start. It has been the countless conversations about the cultural differences and the little things that have made my experience so memorable so far. The education styles are also very different but I would argue that in a good way. It makes it so that the responsibility of learning is just as equal on the professor as on the student in a way such as that of a perfect harmony.

In my time at EAH I have been invited on two excursions. One of them was to Munich and the other one was to Hamburg. Both great experience and part of the reason why I was able to make friends and connections with students and professors I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. The were excursions are designed to give the students an opportunity to develop connections and learn about companies in the areas to which we went to. I not only got to explore two great cities, but I was able to get an insight on many German businesses which was just beyond amazing. In these trips I learned about German history, the history about many companies, but also the different traditions in the different parts of Germany.

Luis Sanchez Chavez_Munich

During my time here in Germany, I have been able to travel around the state of Thuringia and to the places I talked about earlier. I hope that before I leave I travel some more to really take as much as possible back with me. It is hard to describe what aspects of it have impacted me the most because there is just so much and I have learned a lot from it. The experience has been mostly great, but I have even learned from the few challenges as they came up. That is what is so awesome about studying abroad it may not all be roses and dandelions, but you learn from it. I just know that in the future I will come back to Europe and Germany and thanks to this opportunity I will be more than prepared.