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Coming home after three weeks in Europe has felt differently to me than I thought it would. During the last few days of the trip, most people (including me) seemed to be of the opinion that while the trip has been great it is time to come home. Now I find myself less sure that I was ready for the trip to end.

I already find myself missing quite a bit from our daily routine in Europe, from the wonderful breakfasts to seeing the old, beautiful European architecture every day. As much as I enjoy the comforts of home, resting at home now seems a bit drab compared to life on the go in Europe.

What I miss most, however, is being with our group itself. I came on the trip knowing few people in the group, but by the end I had found many new friends. I miss exploring each city with our group, experiencing a foreign culture together. This trip has taught me that while seeing Europe and learning its history is well worth it and an incredible adventure, being in community and caring about people is more important. We were created for community, and God has shown me that through this trip in a strong way.

I also know that now I have a greater appreciation for people who live in other countries and cultures than I do. Our human community is a global one, and worshiping at three different churches in Europe helped show me how the body of Christ is indeed global as well.

It has been a fantastic trip, and I am confident that I will continue to look back and learn from it in the future.

Final Thoughts

Three weeks in a bus traveling around Europe is a long time. We saw so much and experienced so much it is hard to collect final thoughts on it all. It was a great trip that has filled my mind with memories. As I sit here, back in America, I am very thankful to be home. However, this trip was full of great experiences and I Would like to highlight a few just as the thoughts come to my mind.
Amsterdam was a great start to the trip. The city was always alive with people and it gave it a very exciting atmosphere.
Brugge was incredible. The town looked like something out of a movie and walking around it lit up at night was even better.
Paris was my favorite. So many famous sites to see and seeing the Eiffel Tower at night was amazing.
The castles in Germany made me wish I could have been a king. Neuschwanstein was the best by far, with its setting in the alps and its appearence.
Munich, Prague, and Berlin were all great cities.
The food, especially the bread and cheese and chocolate, was great (and the waffles in Belgium).
So much history everywhere, and it is crazy how big of a footprint WW2 left on that part of the world.
We got to avoid Michigan weather for three weeks!
I am even more thankful now for our men how died there in WW2 especially after visiting the concentration camp and seeing firsthand how cruel and sick the enemy was.
Finally, as great as Europe was, it makes me appreciate living in the USA even more after visiting it.

Final Thoughts

A few days removed from the trip and it feels great to be home. It is very nice to have free water and to be able to go to a bathroom for free. Its nice to be in my own bed, with my own sheets and pillows. It is very nice to be able to walk on the sidewalk and not have to worry about bikes flying by. Life is easy when everything is in English and all the people around you speak perfectly good English. It is great to not have to rely on hotel wifi for communicating with friends and family, checking e-mails, or posting pictures. It feels great to be back in the United States.

This all being said, I miss Europe. It was amazing to see the history of the many cities we visited, with some of that history dating back before the United States was even a country. I miss the hospitality and friendliness of the Europeans. Joop (our bus driver), our many tour guides, and the hotel and restaurant staffs, all gave us a warm welcome to their countries. This interim trip brought great experiences. The Norte Dame, Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Wall, and Dachau are a few of many things that I will remember forever. The trip also provided a great chance to meet people and build lasting friendships with fellow classmates.

I would like to thank my parents for providing me with the opportunity to go, and supporting me. I would like to thank the professors for the guiding, planning, teaching, and all the hard work that went into the preparation for this trip. I am thankful for all those in Europe who helped make our trip a great one! (Shout Outs to Joop and John “The Legend”). I thank my fellow classmates on the trip, it was a blast going on the trip with you all!

Home…

It’s hard to believe that we are home already!!  What a fantastic trip with a fantastic group of young people, along with an outstanding colleague (Ron) and bus driver (Joop)! Although we are trying to get things back to normal, we can reflect on this trip with fond memories and praise God for the safety and blessings we experienced!

 

At Home Reflection

We have all been home for a few days now. I did not go straight back to Calvin but am actually in Ann Arbor with my family. It was special to come back and immediately be able to give them the little gifts I got all of them and share my stories with them .

What was also interesting was their questions for me. They have been following this blog and wanted to know about the people posting and what I was thinking in certain photos they saw. I felt like I get to relive the trip in a way by just showing them my photos I took and going through the ones posted on the blog. They asked me about the people in the pictures and wanted to know if the formed opinion of my class mates they had developed were accurate. Most of the time they were pretty close to reality with a few surprises.

It made me realize that I knew some people on the trip extremely well but others, even though were together for about 20 days, I hardly knew. It makes me wonder if I had my an effort to actually befriend everyone on the trip how my experience would change. I also wonder if I had made this effort to know everyone if it would have hurt the strong relationships I had on the trip.

Overall I feel like I did meet a lot of people and that I made some very close friends along the way. It will be interesting to see how many of us stay in touch and how many the friendship fades.

Back in the US of A!

Hello!

We have finally arrived back in the land of the free and the home of the brave! In fact, we are almost arrived back home to Calvin! It has been an eternally long day traveling, but it was all so worth it!

A few highlights of my trip were definitely staying in Brugge, Belgium, visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, eating dinner at the Hofbrahaus  in Munich, Germany and visiting the WWII museum in Oosterbeek, Germany.

I feel that I learned a lot on this trip about how a number of different things operate in Europe. I also learned a lot about myself and others. The group we were with was so awesome and I feel that everyone got very close! I wouldn’t trade the people I spent the last month with for anything! All of your (readers) children, siblings, grandchildren, etc., are awesome and I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know all of them!

Tackling traveling around Europe was definitely something that was on my bucket list, and I can now proudly and thankfully cross this item off of my list!

Thanks, everyone for making this trip unforgettable! I love you all!

love,

Sam 🙂

On Our Way Home

As of right now, I am on my last bus ride for this trip. As we make are way from the the Detroit Airport back to Calvin college.  This trip was amazing we did so many fun things and I got the chance to meet so many great new people on this trip.

I made so many great memories from all cites and countries that we visited. One thing that I truly enjoyed was trying all sorts of new food that was actually very good. The best meal that we had was in our last city of Bremen. German schnitzel, an absolutely amazing meat dish, was good I wish I could have gotten seconds! It was such great food.

The only thing that I wish we could have done was spend more time in Amsterdam, because there is just so much there in that city, and to see and it was probably my favorite place that we visited.  I loved this trip and would recommend it to anyone. I would tell people that this trip was amazing and  was very well organised and lead.

Favorite Places: Quaint Town and Big City

Wow. What a journey. This trip has taken us  all around Europe providing us the opportunity to see amazing places and experience foreign cultures. Looking back on our trip, it is difficult to choose my favorite place as I enjoyed every location we visited. However, if I had to make a decision, I would have to narrow it down to two different categories: a small, walkable town and a large, metropolitan city.

My favorite small town was definitely Brugge, Belgium. This city is actually one of the larger cities in the country of Belgium, but everything important was within a reasonable walking distance. Brugge was a very quaint town that felt as if it could be set in a Disney movie. There were many rivers and canals that ran through the city, many having beautiful swans. When we arrived at night, it was quite eerie with there being fog and mist; however, this caused a really awesome effect when the steeple buildings and town squares were lit up. I really enjoyed our group tour of the city learning about famous sites such as the Begijnhof, the Church of Our Lady with Michelangelo’s famous Madonna and Child statue, the Rozenhoedkaai, and the Burg Square. The food here was also amazing as they are noted for their Belgium waffles and chocolate. Finally, some of my friends and I found a secret tavern at the end of a skinny and easily passible alley where we enjoyed the local beer.

My other favorite location was the large city of Munich and the surrounding region of Bavaria. This entire region of Bavaria as a whole had its own unique culture and people which I really enjoyed. Seeing the picturesque Alps and the Neuschwanstein castle is something truly to behold. The capital of Bavaria in Munich is located in the scenic countryside just nearby the Alps mountain range. This city has a Bavarian touch that really no other city on the trip has to offer. Within the downtown area we were able to see famous sites such as the Frauenkirche, the New and Old Town Hall, Marienplatz, Hofgarten, Asam’s kirche, the National Theatre, and the world famous beer hall of the Hofbrauhaus. At the Hofbrauhaus, we were able to experience the Bavarian culture first hand with liter sized beers, pigs knuckle dinner, giant pretzels, and waiters and waitresses dressed in liederhosen and dirndls outfits. When I was on the Summer Program to Germany I also was able to experience seeing the Olympic park and stadium, the BMW Welt, and the Allianz arena, home of soccer club Bayern Munich.  Munich and the region of Bavaria has so much history and culture and would probably be the most livable city for me personally.

Well, when given the choice for my favorite place on this trip, I would have to say for small town, Brugge, and large city, Munich.

Ross Tenney

 

Going Home

After over eight hours in the sky, we are finally back home! It’s been an amazing trip, and I’ll remember it forever, but it is really nice to be back home. It is really nice to have free public bathrooms, public drinking fountains, and free refills. I am sure I will go back someday though.

Some of my highlights of our trip were climbing the tower in Delft, being in Paris at the the time we were, touring Nauschwanstein castle, the city of Amsterdam, and the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. But this short list does not do justice and I am sure there I things I loved but forgot. Simply put, this was the trip of a lifetime and I was blessed to be a part of it.

 

Back in the USA

Hey ya’ll. I have the pleasure of giving a few thoughts about the trip as we take the bus back to GR. I was just thinking about some of the things I will miss and stuff I will not miss. Enjoy

I will miss:
-great chocolate
-awesome pastry stores
-great beer (gasp)
-cobblestone streets
-good public transport
-vast countrysides
-quaintness
-the lack of suburbia
-narrow streets
-the abundance of cafes

I will not miss:
-living out of suitcase
-the sniff test
-paying for the public restroom
-having to pay for water at a restaurant

That’s all I can think of at the moment but overall, it was a great trip.
Now to get back on this time zone! Whew!

WWII and the Holocaust

Prior to this trip, I thought that my favorite excursion would be the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Mercedes-Benz tour. Even though both turned out to be fantastic, our learning of World War II through visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp and the Holocaust Museum quickly became my favorite item of this trip. When I arrived at the Dachau Concentration Camp and saw places such as the gas chambers and barracks where the prisoners slept, I gained a better understanding of the pain and suffering that millions endured not very long ago. Reading in a textbook about the torturous work that these prisoners did does not do justice to what really happened. This understanding can only be attained by walking where they walked and seeing what they saw.
In addition, our group also had the chance to visit the Holocaust Museum in Berlin, Germany. Here, we learned about the Holocaust from a very personal perspective. The museum has collected several letters where parents are writing to their children, husbands are writing to their wives, and so on. I noticed in a majority of these letters, a common phrase or statement was made by the writers: “I am going to die”. The work that the victims were forced to do and the torture that they had to endure was enough to convince them that they were not going to escape this unimaginable event. I can’t imagine having to go through anything where I would know my fate and there’s no way of changing it.
Thanks to the Holocaust Museum and the Dachau Concentration Camp, I now have a fresh perspective of one of the world’s worst events. It’s a perspective and experience that will never be forgotten.

 

LAST FULL DAY IN EUROPE

Yesterday, was our last day on the road and in many way
it was bittersweet. It will be great to be home and see our
loved ones but it will tough to say good bye to people
that you have shared a month with. It has been a wonderful
educational experience.
In the morning, we boarded that bus and headed back
to the Netherlands. After a three hour bus ride, we arrived
at the Airborne Museum at Arnhem. It was a terrific museum
that helped explain one of the most troubling battles of
World War ll. It not only told the story of the battle, “Operation
Marketgarden” but it did a great job of telling the consequences
and impact on the local population.
After the tour, we traveled to our hotel and final meeting of the
trip. It has been a wonderful trip and experience for me and I have
truly enjoyed getting to know the students. It will be hard to
say good bye but hopefully I will see some of them on campus
over the next few years.

Heading Home

23 days later and the trip is done,

So much learning but even more fun.

From Netherlands, to Belgium, don’t forget France,

Germany, to the Czech, we never hesitates to advance.

Bikes, bikes, and just a few more

Amsterdam was memorable, never a bore.

Before you knew it Belgium had come,

The chocolate was amazing down to the last crumb.

Paris rolled around, with so much to see,

Could have used more time there, I think most would agree.

From the Tower to the Louvre, remember the Arch,

Walking through the catacombs, dark dark dark.

In Trier, met some locals and swapped stories

Learned much about the culture, both trials and glories.

Next few days filled with castle galore

I have never seen anything like these before

WWII has left its mark all over the place,

The honor of soldiers one can’t erase.

Sitting in the airport exhausted from the constant moving,

The trip was execellent I think all would be approving.

My favorite trip by far, this I will bet,

New friends, new memories, never to forget.

 

To Joop

There’s something to be said about being a true master of a craft, be it carpentry, engineering or bus driving. Joop, our bus driver and tour guide for this trip, displayed expertise all across the board. The maneuvers he pulled in the crowded and narrow streets of the European cities we visited with the large Mercedes Benz bus he was driving were nothing short of amazing. He displayed mastery not only in his driving but also in his commentary and information about the various sites we visited and drove past. He knew the history of every city, the significance of every monument and the hidden secrets of every region we travelled through. From sitting and talking with him at group meals, I was able to see the deep love of traveling the world he has and we had great discussions about things he likes about the US better and things he prefers the European way. This was such a good indication to the benefits of traveling and seeing how different people live. We can experience a different part of the world and appreciate parts of it, while also gaining a greater appreciation for parts of our way of life. As I figure out exactly what I want to do with this life of mine, I look to people such as Joop for inspiration to do whatever I do the best I can possibly do it.

Interesting experience on communicating people without using English.

The time is shifting and these three week trips just ended. Besides knowing the history and culture of Europe, I also learns how to communicate with people who spoke a language which I cannot understood. For the people who concerns about language,I have to say that it is not a big deal for most English speakers to travel in Europe. In the most tourist places , English is dramatically common and almost everyone can speak it.This fun facts of the trips are that all the country we visited do not use English as their formal language. Based on these facts, I and my friends met many interesting situations.

I and my roommate always walked out of the tourist place to find place for eating. The nice thing is that compared with tourist attraction area, all the price becomes quite decent and foods are more local people favored. As drawbacks, sometimes the English menu is not available for guests.

Since a lot of people spoke good English in big cities like Amsterdam and Paris,we did not have any trouble until we spent time in Nürnberg. Since the people in some local places does not speak the English, we have to use little bit German and pictures of menu to order foods. At the place I ordered the schnitzel and the JT ordered the kebab.When the local restaurant owner asked us middle size or big size of water, we have no ideas about what is going on. Since the German word of middle is “mite” which sounds similar to meat, JT thought they are asking about meat. This misunderstanding let JT got some immovable water in the glass. Since the place we come provided a giant schnitzel and kebab in a quite good price and good tastes, it does not bother us too much. However, this let us to take care of some common words of a language.

Another time I interacted with local was when I stayed In Czech Republic. When we reached a local grocery store and try to buy some non-sparkling water. We had trouble since the employees does not talk in German and English. We had to use body language to let people understand. Fortunately late on one employee understand “gas” we mean and we got what we wanted. Although There are just two small things in the trips, I had a different but interesting experience.

For the future traveller, my suggestion is to know some common sentences of destination if possible. Also, sometimes body language will help a lot since it is generally work over countries.

Lorin Smits

During our time in Europe I noticed many cultural differences. One of these is the more relaxed and family-oriented pace of life. For example, we found that most restaurants didn’t open until late morning and on Monday’s they opened even later. Stores usually closed around 6 pm, which was sometimes inconvenient for us. One night we were complaining about this and our bus driver, Joop, told us they closed so that they could go home and eat dinner with their families. He told us Americans could learn something from Europeans about spending time with their families. “Americans live to work, but Europeans work to live.” I thought this was very interesting and it goes to show how a slower pace of life can at times be beneficial.

Another example of the more relaxed vibe in Europe is how restaurants are in no rush to get their customers out the door. It would occasionally take a while for a waiter to even come to the table and start with drink orders. After ordering and receiving our food it was expected that we would stay and eat for a while. The waiters and waitresses would check in our table minimally. Once we were finished, they would clear the table and allow us to stay and talk until we asked them for the bill. I thought this made our meals more relaxing and enjoyable, and allowed us to appreciate the place we were in and the company we were with.

A Theme?

World War II and all its resulting damage have had a huge impact on this trip. The itinerary gives you an idea of this, listing the US WWII Military Cemetery, Dachau, the Zepplin Platz, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Airborne Museum. But it’s all the stories that our tour guides and our driver, Joop, tell that prove the depth of it. Nearly every town or city we entered had been affected in some way by WWII or the following events which led to the Berlin Wall and the Cold War.

When cities here have new buildings, it usually means that the old ones were destroyed in the War. The towns and cities in East Germany and the Czech Republic are rundown and still recovering from the Berlin Wall and Soviet control.

Yet the people who survived are the lucky ones. The ones who lived through Nazi rule, Allied and German bombings, battles, starvation, communist rule, and the countless horrors of the Holocaust. Those left to pick up the pieces rarely had time to grieve their old way of life or the people they’d lost. They had to regroup, rebuild, and make do as best they could.

The fact is our professors didn’t make WWII the theme of this trip. They didn’t have to. WWII and its aftermath made up a defining period of history for the Europeans. The war was fought here. They can’t escape or ignore it like we so often do in the USA. I am grateful for the eye opening experience of seeing the evidence of this painful history first hand. It makes me appreciate even more those men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom and our lives.

Reflections on Europe Trip 2015

Today marks the last day of the Business, Enigineering, and Religion trip. It’s been an unexplainable experience shared with wonderful people. Exploring a different continent is an eye-opening experience. You don’t realize how small you are and how big God truly is until you engage His design outside of your usual context. While some find this shrinking, I find it energizing. Out of the billions of people in the world and thousands of countries, God has placed me specifically at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan USA for a unique purpose. Seeing all the places I have on this trip broadens my worldview and further equips me to carry out that purpose as I realize the greatness of this earth and the people who inhabit it.

Seeing new places is not the only way in which my world was broadened over these last three weeks. Our group was made up of engineering, business, accounting, pre-law, pre-med, art, communication students and more. With such a broad group of people comes a wide range of ideas. Hearing the stories and perspectives of people different than myself is also a way to learn. As you experience places rich with history, each person is drawn to a  different aspect of what happened there. While some are fascinated by the political context within which that history occurred, others are concerned with the happenings of the church. Each person understands things differently and moves on to teach us their perspective. I am so thankful for each of these students and the things they have taught me this trip.

Reflecting on this trip also leads to a deep appreciation for Professor Brouwer and Professor Plaisier. Not only did they facilitate our adventures, while keeping us safe and comfortable,  but they brought with them their knowledge and experience.  They shared this with all of us and therefore deepened our learning. Our explorations were undoubtedly enriched by their guidance.

This trip is one I will never forget. It has been the experience of a lifetime and I am so thankful to all who made it possible.

 

 

 

Mercedes

The other day we visited the Mercedes plant in Bremen. At the plant we got a guided tour from Claus and John the legend. On the tour we got a chance to see how the vehicles are assembled first hand. The process was not what I expected. Rather than have a line for each model that mass produces one type of car, there was one line that produced multiple styles of multiple models. The automation system they had in place to make this possible was extremely impressive.

What I found most surprising however, was Mercedes intentional focus on their people. They did not simply set a line worker down in a spot and have him repeat the same mundane task all day for years on end. Mercedes implemented a system that allowed their employees to work on a variety of different tasks all in the same day. This isn’t a system Mercedes was required to use. They made a choice to use this system, even if it is not the simplest method, in order to benefit their employees.

Mercedes has a part of their plant sectioned off specifically for training their employees. Our guide told us that line workers are trained there for three years before they can apply to get a job on the assembly line. They clearly are not content to hire any person that wanders through the door; rather, they make a deliberate, and costly, effort to obtain the best employees in the field. And from the sound of it, they have no shortage of people hoping to work in their plant.

Mercedes demonstrates a genuine interest in what is best for its employees, and the company reaps the benefits that come along with this level of care.

 

Weserstadion

This past Thursday after we visited the German Maritime Museum, me and a few guys decided to walk to SV Werder Bremen’s stadium, Weserstadion. It was chilly outside, but not too cold, when we embarked on our journey. Our path ran alongside the Weser river and a small winding pasture on our left with people walking and playing fetch with their dogs. As usual, we had to dodge the local bikers as we walked at a brisk pace. After about ten minutes we could see the stadium’s light posts poking into the sky. Another ten minutes later we arrived at the stadium. We walked inside and asked the lady working there if we could take a tour. She began looking to see if any tour guides were available, but to no avail. Nothing was open later in the day either. We asked if we could take a self-guided tour, but that was shot down too. We were all pretty bummed we weren’t able to see the stadium. We were about to start walking out the door and back to our hotel when the lady working there chimed in to tell us that the team was practicing outside at the other side of the stadium on their practice pitch. Awesome! We walked to the other side of the stadium to find a couple fields with guys wearing green practicing soccer. Sweet! Some of the players were pretty skilled, but there were some that stood head and shoulders above the rest. They did a crossing drill with some of the best players. They just had a knack for placing the ball wherever they willed. We were so impressed we started recording with our phones. The weather made a turn for the worse and became brute cold. We were so enthralled with the practice we didn’t even notice how cold it was until we started walking back. We sped walked to fend off the cold, arriving back at our hotel within fifteen minutes. We got back feeling cold but satisfied.

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