Planning a Trip to Europe

In a few months, I will be going back to Europe for the third time! The past two times I went to Europe, I traveled to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. This time I will be going to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, and France. 

So far, I’ve traveled to 13 countries. After this trip, though, I will have traveled 17 countries in total. Right now, I’m still currently in the process of planning the trip. Some of the places I’ll be revisiting and some of the places are going to be completely new to me. I’m not going to say exactly where I’m going just yet. I’ll leave that for after I come back and can post pictures. 

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Pryanik: Russian Spice Cookies

Pryanik (Пряник) are Russian spice cookies. It is sweetbread filled with spices, marmalade, sweetened condensed milk, or caramelized milk. The spices used can be cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or cardamom. It is often served as a snack with tea or coffee. The city of Tula is most famous for Pryanik. In fact, Tula even has its own museum dedicated to these cookies.

They come in many shapes and sizes, so they can be as simple or as elegant and nicely designed as you want them to be.

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Tylskuu pranik

The Berlin Wall

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my departure from Germany. So far I’ve been really busy with appointments, studying, watching the World Cup, and readjusting back to American life. Now that I have a little bit of time, I would like to tell you one of my favorite highlights in Germany.

One month ago, my host family and I took a trip to the capital of Germany-Berlin! We walked around the city for a bit, went to tour the dome at the Reichstag, took a city bus tour, and saw the one thing I wanted to see most-the Berlin Wall!

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I remember that I’ve always wanted to see the Berlin since the 6th grade, when I learned it in my Social Studies class. And coming across the Berlin Wall that day was actually pure luck. I knew that most of the wall was torn down, and probably wouldn’t be able to see it still standing. We were actually looking for a parking spot, when we suddenly find a part of the wall still standing.

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Some history about the wall:

After WWII was over, the German Reich was taken over by the Allies and split up into four zones: (Western Germany) American, British, French, and (Eastern Germany) Soviet. And Berlin was split up into the same four zones. On August 13, 1961, the communist party of the German Democratic Republic began putting up barbed wire and a protection wall between East and West Germany. The people of East Berlin were basically deprived from the western world. They were not allowed to leave East Berlin, and if they try to escape-they were shot by the border patrol. However, Germans from West Berlin and West Germany were allowed to go to East Berlin by going through Checkpoints, such as Checkpoint Charlie (pictured above). At least 136 people died trying to escape, and over 5,000 people have successful escaped from the East to the West. Communism began to falter in 1988 and 1989 in countries like Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. And in 1989, an announcement from the East German government official Gunter Schabowski came-the borders between East and West Berlin were open. There was a huge celebration afterwards. People began hammering the wall down. After the wall came down, East and West Germany were finally reunited as one single state on October 3, 1990.

East and West Germany

East and West Berlin

Study Abroad Update: YFU and CIEE

Last week, I finally heard back from YFU. I received a letter, and I found out that I am an alternate for the Skylink Travel House scholarship (which is a scholarship to go to a Latin American country for a year). However, I’m only an alternate for that scholarship and not for any of the scholarships to go to Japan for the summer. I found out that the Skylink Travel House scholarship is actually not that popular, which surprises me. I guess it’s just me thinking, “Who wouldn’t want to study abroad in Latin America (or Europe or Asia or anywhere else)?” 

I also heard back from CIEE…again…A couple months ago, I came across the CIEE Leadership Academy. This particular program is brand new (not CIEE, CIEE has been operating for quite awhile now). Anyways…I applied for the CIEE Leadership Academy to go to China, and I was offered a partial scholarship of $1575 out of $6300. I was gracious that they even offered me that amount of money, but I ended up declining the offer. Now this happened about a little over a month ago. I recently received a phone call, and they increased their previous offer. I couldn’t say no to that offer! Which means…중국에 갈 거예요! I’m going to China!

Life can not get any better. In less than a month, I’ll be graduating. Then, I’ll be going to China for a month. A few months later, I’ll be going to Germany for a year. Sometimes I wonder to myself…is this really my life? 

*Knocks on wood* Don’t want to jinx myself!

Struck By Wanderlust

Last Saturday night, I attended the local AFS Potluck Social. I was amazed when I first walked in. There were exchange students from all over the world: Italy, Thailand, Japan, Iceland, Belgium, Pakistan, Germany, etc. It was so fun to be able to meet these students and even meet returnees, volunteers, host parents, parents of students currently abroad, and several of my fellow Speedwell recipients.This night was an eye-opener. One day, I’ll be attending an event just like this in Germany. I’ll be meeting other foreign exchange students from all the world in Germany, and perhaps meet future German exchange students. And maybe, I’ll be giving advice to those nervous and excited exchange students.This night also was a reminder of my passion for foreign languages, culture, and travel. Speaking of travel, meeting everyone the other night made me think of my memories of traveling..
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For as long as I could remember, my family and I would always go on vacation for two weeks in the summer. That’s when my love for travel started. The two states that we usually vacationed in was Florida and New York, because my relatives lived there (and we would always stop in North Carolina to visit more relatives when we drove down to Florida). For the past 17 and a half years of my live, I can remember at least vacationing or being (for whatever reason) in 16 states/districts: Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, Arizona, California. 

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However, it didn’t stop there. I also went to Canada (for about 2 hours), and my family and I had ice cream. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to South Korea and Germany during the summer. I left school about a week early (I had to finish my finals a week early), and my family and I (excluding my dad) boarded a flight to Japan. After we arrived in Japan, we later departed again to South Korea. I was so excited last year to go to South Korea. I remember counting the days down since January. Going to South Korea was all I would talk about. I never met my Korean relatives before, and it was the first time I met them. I spent two weeks in South Korea, and absolutely loved it. I went to Lotte World, Oeyeondo Island, Itaewon, Gyeongbokgung Castle, Namsan Tower, the beach, the Korean Folk Village, and quite a few other places. 

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After I came back from South Korea, I had about ten days before I departed to Germany. Those ten days, I became even more excited for Germany. When it was the day to leave for Germany, I was completely stoked. I was exhilarated by the feeling of traveling again. I said my goodbyes to my parents and left for the airport with my German teacher and several of my German Club members (it was a school trip). We boarded the plane (about 8 hours later?) and headed to London. Then, we boarded another plane and headed to Germany. I spent about a week and a half in Germany. Two of those days, we stayed in Switzerland (we spent an hour in Austria and Liechtenstein since we had to drive through the two countries). All in all, we were in Frankfurt, Rothenburg, Munich, Heidelberg, somewhere in Austria and Liechtenstein, and Lucerne. Some of the places we visited were Munich’s town hall, Olympic Stadium, Dachau, Neuschwanstein Castle, Nymphenburg Castle, the Black Forest, the Rhein River, and Lake Lucerne (which was absolutely beautiful).

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When I returned from my trip, life wasn’t the same to me. I missed traveling around, experience these cultures that were foreign to me, hearing the foreign languages everywhere, the delicious food, the people…I so badly wanted to return or go somewhere. That is when I realized that I was struck by wanderlust-a strong desire to travel. I also realized that I want to travel the world. I want to travel to all of the countries in the world. There are 196 countries in the world, however, and I only have so much time to live. Is it possible? Perhaps. But my goal is to visit at least 98 countries before I die-I would die happy if I accomplished this goal.

So far, I have only visited 9 countries. 89 more countries to go!
However, I still have plenty of time to travel around. Right now, I’m just going to focus on Germany. Oh the excitement of returning to Germany once again!

AFS-Germany Acceptance

Today at 1:25, AFS-USA emailed me to tell me that AFS-Germany has accepted me. Which means, I will be going to Germany for a year. Ich werde nach Deutschland für einen Jahr gehen! Everything is now starting to hit me. It was only three weeks ago when I found out I received the Speedwell Foundation Study Abroad Scholarship. My application was sent to Germany a week afterwards, and I was told that I would hear within four to six weeks. Well two weeks later, my acceptance came. 

To be honest, I was actually getting quite nervous after my application was sent to Germany. I was told that I had a strong application, but a few days after my application was sent-I saw that AFS-Germany was full. I was hoping I was one of those already accepted (and I am right). Even if AFS-Germany rejected me, I would have been completely satisfied with going to Ecuador or Paraguay (my second and third choices). 

Anyways, I am absolutely stoked. When I checked my phone during study hall, I first saw the words from AFS-USA, “You have been accepted…” and I automatically knew. I started to become emotional and I felt the (happy) tears coming. All my hard work has paid off. Hours and hours of filling out applications, writing tons of essays, getting teacher recommendations, and getting physicals has finally paid off. There was no greater feeling than those two moments: finding out that I received the Speedwell scholarship and finding out AFS-Germany has accepted me.

Last year, I went to Germany for a week and a half as a tourist. In September, I will be going back as a member of society.

Ever since I was younger, I was hit with the travel bug. My family always went on vacation every summer for two weeks, and I always loved it. I loved to travel, I loved visiting new places, and I loved seeing how different each state was from another. After going to South Korea, Germany, and Switzerland last summer, I acquired a strong case of wanderlust. I wanted to study abroad and experience life in a foreign country as if I was a citizen, and not just tourist. And I will get that chance.

Festivals. Schnitzel. The many types of sausage. The many types of bread. Karneval. Oktoberfest. Christmas markets. Living with a host family. Going to a German high school. Immersing myself into the German culture. Speaking German. Challenging myself. Becoming an exchange student. These are just some of the things I’m excited about.

Germany 2013-2014! Deutschland 2013-2014! Ich freue mich dass ich werde eine Austauschschülerin sein!

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Meine Ehre heißt Treue

So earlier today, I had the privilege to help out with the Battle of the Bulge re-enactment. I was walking through some of the German barracks and other German buildings, when I noticed a sign that read, “Meine Ehre heißt Treue.” I became very curious about this (of course), so I decided to look it up.

*Note-the ß in heißt is NOT a capitalized b (B). The ß is the German letter eszett, which is used for the double s (heißt=heisst).

Meine Ehre heißt Treue means My honor is loyalty.  Literally, Meine Ehre heißt Treue means My honor is called loyalty. However, this is actually an idiom that non-native Germans will not understand (myself included.) If my honor is loyalty does not make sense to you, think of it as For me, my honor is my loyalty or my honor is my dignity.

Meine Ehre heißt Treue was the motto for the German Schutzstaffel (also known as SS), which was used to pledge their oath to Adolph Hitler. Brief background information: The Schutzstaffel was a special (and elite) military unit that was formed in April 1925 (in Germany) by Hitler and the Nazi Party, so Hitler could use the men as his personal bodyguards.

I’m not going to go in depth about this, because World War II is a huge topic to talk about. There’s a lot of history with it, and it’s history that we all ought to learn-even minor things like the meaning behind words. Go out and explore the world, you never know what you will see, who you will run into, what you will experience, or what you will learn.