Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, USA
So, I arrived in Beloit today for my eight weeks of intense Russian language summer school. A week ago I was just getting acclimated to the Midwest weather, time change and language, but now I'm going to be immersing myself into the Russian language for eight weeks this summer. Yes, there is no rest for the weary... but I'm obviously not that weary, since I'm just "go, go, go!" lately! But all the orientation and fun informational meetings and whatnot happen tomorrow, so I should probably get some shut eye and dream some good Russian dreams! :)
Bis später! :)
Location: Münster, Germany
So, we all had to write a reflection essay for our German professor back home... and for the future students who get to experience this Münster Semester Abroad. So I thought that I would share that here as well. Enjoy!!
My Münster Semester Experience, Spring Semester 2010
Well, where to begin. Writing such a reflection paper at the end of the semester can be hard sometimes, because we have done so much within the past four months that I have to think hard, back to all the fantastic memories in Europe. This semester abroad in Münster, Germany has taught me a lot and I have experienced so much, as well. With studying abroad, far away from home, family and friends created a lot of different emotions for me. But, meeting my family and getting to know them has made me feel so much at home, sometimes I forget Im in Germany. It is not only my host family that has made for such a wonderful study abroad experience, but also the many trips that our Luther group made to popular places around Germany. Not all of the trips were Luther instigated, rather we had a lot of free time: many free weekends and also, the Big Kahuna: Ostern Ferien (Spring Break). Although so many unforgettable memories were had during my free time of travel, the time that I spent in Münster will never be able to be compared to anything else in my life. Münster is the perfect city for college students to come and spend a semester not only studying, but also getting to know the city, its people and culture. Now, we all know how good experiences can be, but sometimes there is this thing called money, that gets in the way. Something, though, that I never failed to remember was that I am getting the chance of a lifetime to spend a semester through my college in Germany, its really unbelievable. Then that makes me realize that money is not really everything. I may be on Germany this one time, therefore, I should really get all I can out of it while I am here. Expenses do, obviously, play a role within a semester abroad, but it is definitely not the main object.
Starting with emotions, because they were ever-changing throughout the entire semester
Naturally when we first arrived in Münster I was horribly tired, but more so, I was nervous to meet my family. During fall semester I had had e-mail contact with them and constantly e-mailed my host sister almost everyday. I knew they were super excited to meet me and have me stay there for four months. Even though we had had contact, naturally I was still nervous. After meeting them, things got on just fine. I had the emotion of so much excitement throughout the entire semester, although at points it would be lower than at other times. I think this was quite natural though. Once I got into the swing of things, I let that excitement slip away, which was not good. Every second here should be remembered. And that excitement was overcome by some sadness and a lot of tiredness. It seemed that the majority of the semester there were always things planned with the group or for other things, which got to me a lot. By the end of the semester, I was totally exhausted, but the excitement of just being in Germany was always lingering in the back of my mind. Always having that feeling made every second worthwhile!
My family was really good about making me feel happy and at home in a foreign country. The initial meeting that I had with them was a little unnerving, just because I was unbelievably tired and I thought my German was atrocious. But they were so so welcoming and the first couple of days I spent the majority of time sleeping and hanging around my house with the family. This is a really good situation to be in when studying abroad; living with a host family, I mean. The entire semester, barely any German was spoken and that was completely my choice. They were very capable of speaking German, but the main reason I came to Germany was to make my German much better. By the end of the semester I can confidently say that I have extremely fluent in German and keep a long conversation going. It is crazy how much your language skills can improve with living with a host family. It is also just so much fun! After having lived in a college setting for a couple of years and then spending one of the semesters once again in a family setting, like during high school, it reminded me how awesome families are. Plus, there is free, home-cooked meals, so you do not have to pay for the main meals of the day. The dynamics of my family was fantastic because it helped me realize that families in other countries are not so different after all. That aspect right there, was very comforting to me in the first couple months. Soon after having lived with them for a bit, I felt like another daughter of the family and was involved in the family dynamics and semantics. My family was a huge part of what made my experience so incredibly unforgettable.
Within the group from Luther, we made several trips, lasting from just one day to a week and a half to places all over Germany. These were all so well organized and at the beginning of the semester I was crazy excited to have so many trips to different places in Germany. The places that we visited this semester were: Köln, Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Amsterdam (Netherlands, obviously), München, Potsdam and Wittenberg. I do not think Im forgetting any, I hope not, at least. Every single trip was different and loads of fun. But at the end of the semester, I was completely exhausted and had the feeling of just wanting to stay home (Münster) and enjoy my time there, but every trip was totally worth it. I really got to see how different places in Germany live and celebrate their culture.
I do not want it to feel as if we did not have free time, because we had a lot of free time. The majority of our weekends were open and we only had around 3 hours of class a day, Monday through Thursday, so one can see that we had a lot of free time. During those weekends we would just hang around Münster and go out with friends or do homework. Although we had a great deal of homework, we did well not to let to take too much of our life in Germany away. It was more important to me to experience Germany and see what it had to offer rather than hide away and do my homework. Especially during our Ostern Ferien I did not worry about homework at all. These 20 or so days were the days that we were given to go exploring through Europe. Other semester programs that I know at other college dont even give their students a Spring Break. It was awesome just going with me and another friend of mine. We traveled to Paris, Barcelona, Pisa and surrounding cities and our last stop was Norway. This was the time where we had complete freedom to do and go wherever we chose. It was so fantastic because we not only got to have loads of fun, but going to difference countries, we were able to experience different cultures and peoples. It made Europe seem so much more colorful and beautiful. Plus, it was, honestly, kind of nice just to get out of Germany for a bit!
Now I dont want to seem that I didnt have great times in Münster/Germany, because I sure did. Münster is a great place! There is always so much going on and there is not only a hustling and bustling downtown, but also nice suburbs to enjoy a bike ride or a nice walk in a forest! My time spent in Münster has been unforgettable and I would never have changed anything. The people are so friendly and helpful and it is also a university town, so there are a lot of fellow students around, they are just native Germans. This is a good situation to be in because then you have more of a chance to make friends and get to know people. And although we did not study on campus, we still were able to explore lecture halls and see what it was like for a real student at the Münster Uni.
Obviously this trip was not cheap. And when I first got here there were so many things that I saw that I just had to have. They made for great souvenirs! And I always had to remember that money is not everything, but also that I had to spend wisely. This was a hard and easy thing. It got easier and easier at the end of the semester while I realized how much I had already spent during the last few months and that kind of halting my big spending altogether. Overall I believe that I spent a few thousand dollars. That does sound like a lot and it is, but it was so easy to spend money because first and most importantly Europe is much more expensive than the states; that you have to be careful of. The exchange rate is not only not good, but the charge of pulling money out of the ATM on top of the exchange rate is not fun to see. Nevertheless, I did not let that take away from my experience. If I wanted a certain souvenir, than I got it. Much of my money was spent on buying food and treats for souvenirs; things such as milk rice, chocolate and schokomüsli, all the best staples of Germany!
One of the biggest things that I notices, outside of my decreasing bank account, was the excellent advancement made in my German speaking, reading and writing abilities. It was unbelievable how much just a couple weeks made. Living with a host family and just speaking German really made me pick up the language fast. Even though I had had much German during high school and college in the states, I still had a lot to improve on before I came to Germany. Now that I have lived four months in Germany, I can speak fluently, like a native. I may not have all the slang words that my age group uses, but I can confidently talk for as long as I want in German and not even worry about my speaking. German has become so easy for me that now I have problems remembering the English words for certain things and only know them in German. Our group has also learned a new language between ourselves that we can Danglish. We speak to one another in a mix of English and German words. Now I think about coming back to Luther and enrolling in a German course and not even having nerves to stand up in front of the class and speak German for 10 or so minutes because I spoke German almost 24/7 for four whole months.
All in all, this study abroad experience that I have had in Münster was unforgettable and amazingly beautiful! I feel so blessed that I was able to be a part of something like this! Luther gives us such great opportunities. Münster, Germany is a very beautiful city not just from the landscape, but also from the people and the events around it. Living with a host family was unbelievable and so much fun. It also really helped the initial homesickness go away quite quickly. When our group also took trips to places in Germany, we were able to experience different cultures of Germany, which are also unforgettable. The free time of the weekends and adventures of Spring Break were a great time for us to become more independent and learn more about Europe, outside of Germany. Yes, money is a large factor, but it is not everything, I experienced all that I wanted and I am glad for the money I spent for an unforgettable time in Europe. This experience is something that I will remember for the rest of my life and never get tired of telling people about it. It is such a great opportunity that I hope everyone gets to experience something like it someday.
Location: Münster, Germany
gahhhh!!!!!! So it has been sooo long since I have posted anything. And now I am nearing the end of my semester abroad in Münster, Germany! It\'s completely ridiculous. But we have about 20 days left and our classes end next Thursday... finals next week. But between the last post and now, our group has traveled so much.... Dresden, Leipzig, München, Neuschwanstein.... Um... maybe Amsterdam... I also spent a weekend with a friend from high school in Marburg and Rothenburg in Bayern. The Germans in bayern are NUTS!!! Their language is not even Deutsch (German). And everyday I was in München... I saw maybe at least 20 men wearing Lederhosen as just regular daily wear. Great times! Now that we are coming to an end we (my group) are geekin out getting all sad and excited and having loads of mixed emotions. And we have a paper due tomorrow about the Jews in Germany... the more and more I work on this paper, the more I realize that learning about such a subject in the epitome of Jewish destruction during the Third Reich has hindered my experience in Germany. It\'s weird and I know that I would have a completely difference experience if we didn\'t focus on this subject. I feel as if we don\'t get to experience the German culture of here and now. And when I went to visit Lance, my high school friend, I was able to experience the true German student experience. I saw the real german culture of today. I was away from Münster and away from my classes, and it was so different and I loved it.
Also, the weather here is totally awful! It\'s the middle of Mai and it\'s cold, rainy and windy. Boo! But I honestly dont\' care that much because I am in GERMANY!!!
Ok, if you have any questions about any of my experiences, message me because now I have to go write a paper about today\'s Jewish prosperity in Germany. Woo.... Gah,
Location: Münster, Germany
Whewww has it been a crazy last month! Obviously you can tell because I haven't posted ANYTHING for a while, now! But it is 2 days before my Easter Break happens. Hailey and I are trying to get all things in order and it does seem to be going orderly! Yay! Thank goodness! :) So our Spring Break is as follows:
Paris, Barcelona, Pisa and Oslo and Lillehammer, then back to Münster!!! :) :)
We are so excited to be going! Just thought that I would poke a message in before break! :) Sorry it's short, these last few days are crazy hectic!!!!
Location: Münster, Germany
Phew, this weekend has flown by so fast! It's now Sunday and our Luther Münster group spent all of Saturday in transit to and in Köln (Cologne), Germany. It is only 2 hours south of Münster. It was a very pretty and worthwhile trip. The Cathedral there right next to the Bahnhof is extraordinary! It is complete gothic style, so all kinds of flying buttresses and it just looks to ornate on the outside! Super gorgeous! I think that it it finally turning spring here, but unlike America, the rain that comes to bring the flowers comes... NOW and lasts until April, it's not just April. But while it rains here it can be super sunny and bright but be pouring.
So, yesterday (aka Sunday) Germany was hit by the edge of a hurricane that went raging through Europe, killing several people in France and Spain and even a few in Germany. I was wondering why there were branches strewn through the streets this morning. So even though we just went to köln on Saturday, we are heading to Berlin on Friday. We will be away from Münster for 10 days, spending those days not only in Berlin, but also in Wittenberg and Eisenach, the famous places for none other than Martin Luther, himself.
The late nights of homework and fun seem to be catching up with me a little bit, while I am just a bit tired at the beginning of this week. I had a German test today as well. It was actually written by my professor back in the states, which I think is kind of weird but not at all strange for this certain professor to do. The poor student professor, Philipp, here, has to be the puppet for all of my professor's plans. :( But the test was not that hard at all. But it is a very unclear class in what we have to do and what is on the test and that sort of thing. But I'm getting by.
And on Wednesday I have to present a chapter of our reading in my reformation class. I find that class very interesting and fun, but I'm only just a bit looking forward to this presentation. And in German class we get to talk about a self-chosen topic for 5 minutes as one of our presentations. I already know what I am going to talk about, my January Trip to Norway and Russia! Oh and speaking of Norway, Hailey and I have finally nailed out or spring break/Ostern Ferien plans!
We head to Paris first and then to Barcelona and then to Pisa and then all the way north to Oslo!!! :) And then back to Germany, woo! What a whirlwind of a break! It will be soooo much fun! Ich kann kaum warten (I can hardly wait!)
Alright, well, that will be it for now. I've got to correct an German essay of mine and then hit the hay! Hopefully the weather will constantly just keep getting better and spring will finally fully come in the next week or so! :)