A Short Reflection…

When you ask me, “How was your summer? What was Germany like?” the only answer that I can give back is that it was a life-changing, unforgettable experience for me. The Summer in Germany program is more than just taking Engineering 202 in a different schedule, or (very possibly) my only chance to study abroad during college, or a time to spend nurturing friendships with my peers for the next three years. More than that, it was a chance for me to be an independent adult, encounter new people (especially ones that I would never meet on campus at Calvin), and open my eyes to a world much larger and sometimes beautiful in far different ways than my home. Studying abroad showed me news things about myself and the world that I’ve been so lucky to be able to immerse myself in! Continue reading

Reflections on Europe

Germany was fun. I wish I could still be there, but at the same time, I am glad to be back in North America, where I have a working phone and am within two time zones of my family and friends. I hope to return to Europe in the future, hopefully multiple times, for both business and pleasure.

While in Europe, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about German language and about German culture. I learned a lot about numerous other languages and cultures. I learned a lot about living life on my own. I learned a lot about the ways of the world and how people from all kinds of different backgrounds survive. I even learned a little bit of statics and dynamics.

I made lots of friends. While I had very few interactions with other Europeans during the first five weeks, I had countless interactions during the last week. While I am sure traveling with others would have been really fun, I am glad I spent my time traveling alone. This meant that if I wanted to talk to someone on the train, I had to talk to the stranger sitting across the table from me. This meant that other people were more likely to start a conversation with me. I met numerous people and had some great conversations in English and in German. I even had a three hour conversation in motions and pointing with a mixture of English, German, Spanish and Italian words.

I saw places I have always wanted to see. I went places I have always wanted to go. I did things I have always wanted to do. I also saw things I have never wanted to see, been places I never wanted to be, and done things I have never wanted to do. However, both statements are summaries of numerous learning experiences and memories that I would never trade back for anything.

All in all, my experience in Europe changed me. It helped me put a new perspective on life. It changed how I interact with others. It helped me to realize how much my friends and family back home mean to me. It helped me to realize how much I have in America that I take for granted every day. It made me realize how big the world is, and how much there is to explore, but also how small the world is and how easy it is to get out there and see it.

Pictures From Europe

With a total of 7,813 pictures from Europe, it is impossible to pick just three to post. Therefore, I scrolled through all of the pictures and randomly selected three, which I will talk about here.

 

Shown is one of the palaces of the Kaisers in Potsdam. It was found in a giant park/garden along with two other palaces. This goes to show the division in society and form of government in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Shown is one of the palaces of the Kaisers in Potsdam. It was found in a giant park/garden along with two other palaces. This goes to show the division in society and form of government in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

 

Shown is a German town along the Rhine, between Koblenz and  Frankfurt. The town is very symbolic of the architecture in Germany, and of many small towns in southern and western Germany.
Shown is a German town along the Rhine, between Koblenz and Frankfurt. The town is very symbolic of the architecture in Germany, and of many small towns in southern and western Germany.

 

Shown is  the Oder river looking south from the auto and pedestrian bridge between Frankfurt Oder, Germany, and Rzepin, Poland. While the two sides of the river are very similar, the region as a whole is much different from most of Western Germany. Many of the buildings and much of the infrastructure are run down and lacking in any architectural or cultural expression. The effects of Soviet society are still very apparent. Also seen in the picture is a rowing competition along the German side of the river.
Shown is the Oder river looking south from the auto and pedestrian bridge between Frankfurt Oder, Germany, and Rzepin, Poland. While the two sides of the river are very similar, the region as a whole is much different from most of Western Germany. Many of the buildings and much of the infrastructure are run down and lacking in any architectural or cultural expression. The effects of Soviet society are still very apparent. Also seen in the picture is a rowing competition along the German side of the river.

What’s it like?

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Picture of my favorite building on the trip, the Cologne (Köln) Cathedral, which is on the right. We had the chance to climb a narrow staircase to the top for a spectacular view.

 

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This is the Technical Museum in Berlin. I think it should be a mandatory stop for the program. The place was amazing.
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These two pictures are of the bus ride to the airport in Berlin on Saturday when we left. We all packed on the bus, and somehow other people managed to fit on as well. This was a twenty (maybe longer) minute ride. This shows the front of the bus.
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…and the back of the hinged bus. Some of the locals were not very happy.

First Week Reflections

I am surprised by how similar European culture is to North American culture. There are definitely a few noticeable differences: Cars are smaller, public transportation is superior and better utilized, dehydration is a serious problem, bikes and recycling are the norm, food is natural and therefore much healthier and better tasting, and coorpratism is minimal. At first it seemed almost every German I interacted with was quite rude by Colorado standards. However, after several days this seemed to change. I think that they are just not as welcoming to tourists and unfamiliar people, but once I learned the ways of the city, ordering food, etc., I blended in better. The other major difference is prices of goods. Most things cost a lot more here than back home, except for food, which is significantly cheaper.

Sachsenhausen

The visit to Sachsenhausen was powerful, but not in the same way I was told it would be. I was told it would be a mind blowing visit that would make me stop and cry. While there were some moments that certainly had an effect of this nature, there were only a couple. For the most part, it was more of a historical experience than an emotional experience. However, hearing the shear numbers of people who went through the camp, and seeing the enormous size was powerful. Also somewhat moving was seeing the last mass grave, behind the front wall. This grave was dug after the camp was liberated, as a necessity given the massive numbers of people still left there who were malnourished and/or diseased. This served as a strong reminder that even after the war was over, Europe was still in pain for a long time. In conclusion, the trip was valuable, just not what I expected.