What a Week

While all my friends back home are wrapping up finals, I am just starting my midterm exams. So far, so good. I don’t think I’m about to fail any of my courses any time soon, but we’ll see how my econ exam goes tomorrow.

Do I look like a German Bierfrau?

More importantly, I’m going to Munich for Frühlingsfest! It’s basically the springtime version of Oktoberfest with fewer tourists. So my friend who is also named Emma and I went Dirndl shopping today. For those of you who do not know about traditional German fashion, a dirndl is a traditional German dress in three parts. There’s the dress, the blouse, and the apron. We went to a thrift store and had to search through bins to mix and match each part. I ended up getting everything for only 70 euros, which doesn’t sound cheap, but for dirndls, it’s a pretty good price. Plus, I’m going to wear it this weekend at Frühlingsfest and at every German club event for the rest of my college career.

Also, it is currently Spargelzeit in Deutschland, which means there is asparagus everywhere. Germany is especially known for its white asparagus, which I had never tried before today. Emma and I went to this great traditional German restaurant and I got to order of the Spargelzeit menu! It was a delicious meal of potatoes and asparagus, very German.

All in all, a busy week. I’ll be sure to write all about my trip to Munich this weekend!

Poland Adventures

Enjoying Poland! Our Airbnb host set us up with a driver today who took us to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka salt mines.

Auschwitz was the third concentration camp that I have been to, but it is hard to compare. Auschwitz is a death camp. 80% of the prisoners were executed upon arrival and so the environment was even more somber than Dachau, which never even used its gas chambers.

The salt mine, on the other hand, was a lot of fun. We went as deep as 135 meters underground (but we were somehow still above sea level). There were tons of cool sculptures and chapels. Most importantly, it was not outside, which is great because it is freezing here. Yesterday, it was snowing the largest snowflakes I have ever seen.

Hungary and More

Currently I’m in Poland, but I’m not going to talk about that yet. I’ve got to catch you up on the first half of my Easter break.

Four friends and I left Freiburg on Friday, and we were off to a terrible start when John got on a train to Frankfurt without the rest of us. I freaked out, but it was really fine since we all met up at the airport.

We flew into Budapest, which is an amazing city that I love. I’m already looking forward to going back. Apparently, free walking tours are very popular in Europe, so we did that and learned a ton about the city and its history and culture. Also, Hungarian money is hilarious. 1 Euro = 1 dollar = 312 Florints. We felt so fancy waving around thousand dollar bills.

On Easter Sunday, we went to mass at St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is a beautiful place. Mass was in Hungarian except for a brief summary of the homily in English, but I actually think most of the people in attendance were tourists. And there were a lot of annoying tourists in the back, who kept talking and taking photos.

Unfortunately, after that I got sick. I think it’s just the same bug that went around most of our group about a week ago, but it meant I missed out on going to the Turkish baths.

Also, and this is very important: Hungarian food is wonderful. It’s all meat and bread and fried everything. Lángos is one of my new favorite foods; it is fried dough with garlic sauce, sour cream, and cheese on top and pure deliciousness. Other than that, we really enjoyed a food truck festival and the Easter market, both of which had great selections of food.

I’ve actually been to 6 countries in the past few days: Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Poland. Belgium and Austria were pretty much just layovers, but we had about six hours in Bratislava. Nobody spoke English there. Luckily our waitress knew enough to explain what was vegetarian for my friend Emma, but other than that there was no English. I had to buy cough medicine from a Slovakian pharmacy while speaking German (and I forgot the word for cough, so it was an adventure).

Sorry for the long post, and I’ll update about my time in Poland soon!

Update

Here’s a picture of me, Olivia, and Claire chilling at Vaubar last night.

I’m just really happy here. My friends are wonderful, and I am meeting so many interesting people. I now have friends from all over the US, as well as from Finland, Turkey, Palestine, and of course Germany.

Some of you may know that I just had a really hard semester last fall. I was working too much and never had time to spend with my friends or have any fun. This time, I’m doing that opposite. My grades here don’t affect my GPA, so I am trying not to stress more than necessary and I am not taking on any extra responsibilities, like I usually do. Instead, I’m having fun, making friends, and trying new experiences. It’s a really nice change of pace for me.

I Miss Water

I’ve discovered that the two things from America that I seem to be missing most are ice water and water fountains. I miss ice keeping my water cold and the way it rattles in a glass. I miss being able to have a free sip of water wherever I go. It’s not really normal here to carry around a water bottle, so when I get thirsty in the middle of the day, I can’t find anything to drink. Also, I’m convinced that Germans do not drink enough water, because I never see it happen.

Classes are the Same in Every Country

So classes are going well. I just switched a couple today so I am officially taking the following

  1. German Language in Context
  2. Environmental Policies and Green Business in Freiburg
  3. Germany in the 21st Century: A Country Between Past, Present, and Future
  4. Germany as a Location for Business and Industry in the 21st Century
  5. Public Opinion, Propaganda, Political Process

I have not yet attended a class for the propaganda course, since I just picked it up today. Even though I was really excited about it, I had to drop history, because I could not handle four consecutive classes on Tuesdays. I can’t remember how I did it in high school.

Other than that, classes are going as well as can be expected. They are challenging because they are all in German, but interesting because they are all in German. My motivation to do homework is minimal, because there are so many better things I could be doing with my time. Plus, these classes don’t affect my GPA, so I just have to pass. Really, once I get more used to having homework again, I’ll be fine, but for now, it is torture.

English Immersion

This weekend (last night, today, and tomorrow), I am working at an English immersion camp in Switzerland. It is wonderful, and the kids are great. They’re supposed to speak English, and we are not supposed to even let them know that we can understand any German. So here are a few of the highlights so far:

  1. One kid said “Scheiße”, but then corrected herself by saying “oh no, I meant shit.”
  2. Another boy asked me “kennen Sie Steve Jobs?” (do you know Steve Jobs). First of all, it was cool that he referred to me with the formal version. And second, I pretended not to understand, so he explained that he had been trying to trick me into speaking German. Now he’s convinced I don’t understand it at all, so he keeps trying to get away with saying cuss words and insults to the other kids.
  3. There were burritos for dinner, which were great, but the salsa was incredibly bland.
  4. I have free time. As a camp counselor, it’s fine if I leave the kids unsupervised, and I don’t have to break up every fight. They just do their own thing. I’m just here to lead activities.