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. 

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

5 Months Down, 5 Months To Go

*Written in February

It’s been about a month since I last posted. Since then, I went to Bamberg and Forchheim for my HZC (Halbzeitcamp/Half stay camp). Unfortunately, I can’t post any of my own pictures from Bamberg or Forchheim, because my camera recently broke.

Anyways, I still can’t believe that I’ve already been in Germany for 5 months. It’s amazing how fast time flies.  During my exchange since now, I learned a lot about the German culture, I got to know a lot of people from other cultures, learn a new point of view and values, and so on. Everything I am learning is definitely not something you can read or learn in a book. It’s something you need to try for yourself. When you go to a foreign country, don’t just be the average tourist. But actually try to learn about the culture, and get to know one of the locals. You’ll be amazed just how your point of view of other cultures and people changes.

Before I came here, a lot of Americans have the stereotypes that Germans eat sausages and drink beer all the time. Also when they speak, it’s like they are always shouting.  And that is definitely not true. It’s the same thing with other people from other cultures when they think about America. It’s not true that we all eat hotdogs and hamburgers, and are obese.

But that’s the whole point of a foreign exchange. Dispel stereotypes from your mother country, learn the culture and values of a foreign land, and then dispel stereotypes from your hosted country.

Gedanken und Meinungen

Ich wohne schon in Deutschland seit twei Monate. Ich habe viel Unterschiede zwischen amerikanischen Kultur und deutschen Kultur gemerkt, und unten steht meine Gedanken und Meinungen von meiner Beobactungen.

I’ve already been in Deutschland for 2 months. I’ve noticed a lot of differences between American and German cultures, and below are my thoughts and opinions from of my observations:

  • Germans are more direct, and they don’t beat around the bush like Americans do
  • Chocolate and cakes taste 100 times better here than in America, especially chocolate.
  • German food is delicious. Schnitzel, Maultaschen, und Bratwurst, oh my!
  • German fashion is more stylish
  • It’s completely normal for guys to wear scarves, and nobody judges them for wearing scarves
  • Some guys seem to care a lot about how they look, the same way girls do
  • It seems like I’ve seen more people with blue or green eyes than brown eyes
  • German TV shows are longer than American TV shows, and the commercials are longer too (but instead of having multiple short commercials, they have only 1 or 2 long ones)
  • The meat is bigger, and products are bought locally
  • It’s okay to wear the same outfit for a couple days in a row
  • Germans care less about sports than Americans (except for soccer)
  • Not everything is made in China
  • Clothes and some other products (like soda and water in a restaurant) are more expensive to buy here than in America
  • Deutsche Sprache, schwierige Sprache” (German language, difficult language…it sounds better in German, but absolutely true)

First Two Weeks

Tomorrow is the two week mark since I’ve been in Germany. Before I came here, I thought the German culture and American culture/lifestyle were at least a little bit similar. Well, I was wrong. The food/meals, school, transportation, etc. are a lot different.My life here is completely different than my life in America.

Food/Meals: The meat and other foods are a lot larger here than I expected. The food is always fresh, and almost always prepared-unlike in America where we seem to just grab something out of the freezer and cook in the microwave. For Fruhstuck (breakfast), I normally eat muesli on schooldays and eggs or bread with meat, cheese, and meat on weekends. During school, I’ll have Pausenbrot (bread or a sandwich eaten during breaks). Then after that is Mittagsessen (lunch), which is the largest meal of the day. Lunch for me is always something different: Maultaschen (my favorite), spaghetti, pizza, cordon bleu with french fries, sausage, doner, etc. And then is Abendsessen (dinner), which is usually just bread or brezel with meat, cheese, butter, etc. German food is delicious, especially the desserts.

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School: The school I am attending is called a Gymnasium. In the Gymnasium that I’m attending, there are Grades 5 through 12 (I believe). My classes change everyday, and each class (or lesson) is 90 minutes long. 3 days a week I have 3 classes (or blocks) and I get to leave at 1 pm. In between each period is a 15 minute break. On Monday, I have 4 blocks and I get to leave at 3:30 pm. After the third block, there is a 30 or 45 minute break for lunch. On Thursday, I have 5 blocks..which means I don’t get to leave school until 5 pm. Leaving at 5 pm isn’t actually all that bad. The class subjects are almost all the same like in America except for Religion. All my classes (except for English and Spanish), are taught in German (of course). The first couple days, I didn’t understand at all. But everyday, I learn more German and understand more and more. Something else that is different is that we are allowed to leave the school during the breaks (well, not leave leave), to enjoy the fresh air or go into town to get food.

Transportation and Punctuality: I go to school everyday by bus, however, not a “school bus.” Every school morning and afternoon, I get on the public bus and it is always packed of school kids-so it seems like a school bus. But on the bus are kids from different schools and can get off wherever they want to. Public buses here are really convenient, you can pretty much go anywhere by bus-but you have to wait sometimes awhile for them to come. The cars here, I was told, are mostly manual and not automatic. And the trains and subways..can’t say anything about them yet because I haven’t been on any so far. As for punctuality, when the bus is scheduled to come at a certain time-it will be there exactly at that time. If you have plans to meet someone, always be there at the schedule time.

Environment: The Germans definitely care about the environment. The streets and sidewalks are always clean, and never littered with trash. They recycle and have individuals recycling bins for paper, glass, plastic, etc. And they conserve water. I really wish we did this in the United States. I never really realized how much we’re wasting until coming here.

So far, I like my new life in Germany. Like I said, it is definitely different. Sometimes it can be a little difficult being in a new culture. So far, I made a lot of mistakes and mispronounced a lot of words. But it’s from these mistakes, that we learn the most.

Below are some pictures of Wertheim, two of the castles in my area, the Main and Tauber rivers, etc.

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Goodbye, Pennsylvania

My last day in Pennsylvania was bittersweet. I’m glad I was able to spend it with my family and friends. Time has gone by so fast. At first, I wished I could just go to Germany right away right after I came back from China. Now, however, I’m glad I had one month to settle back at home and embrace life in the US again. I was able to do everything I wanted to do before I left: eat my favorite foods, visit my friends, go to my favorite places, watch movies at the movie theater, absorb my surroundings, spend time with my family, host exchange students (from Korea).

I will soon embark on a journey of a lifetime. Tomorrow I will leave my hometown and go to Washington D.C. (my  4th time..this year!) for orientation. Then on Friday, I will depart from the USA to Germany by plane at 17:30 (5:30 p.m.). Finally, I will arrive in Germany on Saturday morning around 7:30 a.m.

Right now, I feel very excited. I am so thankful that I even have this opportunity. I just want to thank everyone who has supported me starting from when I decided to study abroad: my family, friends, the AFS volunteers, fellow AFSers, my teachers and peers, coworkers, and everyone else (there is just too many to name). Thank you, I will make you guys proud by being a valuable representative of the US and learning as much as I can. See you guys in 10 months. Make sure to follow my adventures here on my blog!

Goodbye, Pennsylvania. Goodbye, USA, Hallo, Deutschland.

Packing List

I have a little less than two weeks left until I leave for Germany. I started packing in the beginning of August for Germany, because my suitcase still had some items leftover after I came back from China. I am almost finished packing; All I need to pack is some last-minute items (hairbrush, flat iron, etc.) So here is my list for reference to anyone else who is traveling abroad for a year in Germany:

  • 4-5 jeans
  • 2 blouses/nice shirts
  • 5-6 T-shirts
  • 3 longsleeved shirts/sweaters
  • 2 tank tops/camis
  • 4-5 pajama pants
  • 2 pairs of jean-shorts
  • 2 pairs of gym-shorts
  • 2 leggings (one warm)
  • 1 dress
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 fall/spring jacket
  • 1 winter jacket
  • 1 hiking boots (if you live near the woods)
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 1 winter boots
  • 1 flip flops/sandals
  • 1-2 week supply of undergarments
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 10 socks (short and long)
  • Toiletries
  • Camera
  • Laptop and charger
  • Flat iron
  • 3-4 notebooks, folders, and pens
  • German-English dictionary
  • Converter/adapter
  • Host family gifts
  • Wallet and passport
  • Eyeglass case
  • Contacts and solution
  • Rain gear and umbrella
  • Medicine
  • German notebooks
  • Korean notebooks
  • Chinese notebook and books
  • AFS paperwork

So far I have one suitcase and one bookbag packed. I still need to pack my language study notebooks and books, but I’m not sure if I will have enough room in my suitcase or bookbag…I am also bringing my fanny pack, but I am contemplating if I should bring my big purse or not. I will surely have enough space to fit my language items in there. *I have decided to put my language notebooks and books in my laptop bag.

Some suggestions I would recommend to other exchange students/travelers is to put TSA locks on all your bags and to army roll your shirts and shorts/pants. Put the locks on the pocket with the most important items in them. You don’t want anything to be stolen when you are on the airplane, walking around, or just going out in general. Army rolling your clothes helps you save a lot of space in your bag and suitcase.