A few weeks ago my university shut down for Excursion Week. Most students take this week as a chance to travel to different cities across Europe. There are also professors who organize educational excursions to different cities to visit different companies. I chose to use this time to do some studying and take a short trip to Amsterdam. Continue reading
I recently took a weekend trip to Berlin to meet my aunt, who came to visit for a few days. Last time I travelled to Berlin, I made the mistake of taking the train. Everyone here in Braunschweig laughed when I told them this, and informed me that the bus is much cheaper. This time I took a Flixbus, which is essentially a much nicer version of the Greyhound. It took about three hours to get to the Berlin central bus station. From there, I walked to the nearest subway station and took a train to the nearest stop to the hotel I was meeting my aunt (Shout out to me for not getting totally lost because we all know how directionally challenged I am). I even found a San Franciscan (?) burrito place nearby, where I got three soft tacos. I’ve been craving tacos for the longest, and there are none to be found in my little town here in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). I’ve actually had people here tell me they’ve never had tacos before!
I did a lot of exploring in Berlin, mostly on foot. My poor feet have experienced so many painful moments during my time here in Germany. From our hotel we walked to (and through) the Tiergarten, and ended up at the Brandenburg Gate.
From there we kept walking until we ran into an outdoor art market and the Berliner Dom. Then we walked to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is a very interesting and moving place. Our next stop was the East Side Gallery, which is the a 1316 m long portion of the Berlin Wall.
Berlin was amazing, and I am so grateful for my wonderful Aunty Natasha, who fed me and hosted me in her hotel during my visit! Also shout out to Simone, who was my travel partner during this trip!
Tot de volgende keer,
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Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, and is located in the northern part of the country closer to the coast. A friend of mine recently invited me to go with her and one of her friends for a day trip and tour of the city. It’s is about 3 hours away from Braunschweig, and with our student ID’s we can get there for free. The catch is that we can only take regional transportation within our state, so we had to take about 4 different trains to get there. Nonetheless, I’m always down for a free trip and I’d heard how beautiful Hamburg was, so I was excited.
My friends had registered us for a free tour of the city, and we had about 20 minutes to get from the train station to the meeting point after we arrived in Hamburg. Unfortunately, we spent about 10 minutes looking for the bathroom, which had the longest line ever. We ended up having to speed walk/sprint to the meeting spot, which was 15 minutes from the station. Luckily, they were still there when we arrived.
Hamburg seemed like it would be a beautiful place on a warm and sunny day, but unfortunately that was not the day we visited. It was cold, wet, and slightly miserable. The pictures I took were during the few times the sun did peak out for about five minutes. We did have a very good tour guide, and it was free, so I’m not complaining.
Thank you for reading my blog. If you enjoy reading about my experiences here in Germany and in Europe, please consider donating to my PayPal or GoFundMe. Feel free to also send me your mailing address if you’d like a post card from me!
Many of the other international students and German students here have told me that they learned all about American culture by watching different movies and TV shows, such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Star Trek, to name a few.
Just glancing at these cast images, the first thing I notice is the lack of Black people, with the exception of Geordi La Forge in Star Trek TNG. The actor who played Worf (Michael Dorn) is black, but Worf is a Klingon, which is an alien species characterized as being uncivilized, violent warriors. The other shows are mainly set in New York or California and feature all white casts. As a black girl raised in the South and born to Caribbean parents, these shows represent an American culture that I’ve never experienced.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what American culture even is, and I feel like the U.S. is way too massive for such a label. The culture in the South is different than the North, the West is different from the East, and there are even further differences within each region.
Shows that I would recommend for people interested in learning about different cultures in the U.S. typically overlooked by Hollywood include Black-ish, Queen Sugar, Insecure, Atlanta, Living Single, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, Girlfriends, Martin, etc. I think what’s interesting about these shows is how they’re all set in very different parts of the U.S., and therefore the experiences shown are very diverse. For example, Queen Sugar, which is set in Louisiana, deals with completely different issues than shows like Atlanta, set in Atlanta, Georgia (obviously), or Insecure, which is set in Los Angeles, California. There are many other shows as well, these are just a few of my favorites.
Thursday after class I met with a new friend from Turkey to do some shopping in Braunschweig, then I returned to my room to stuff enough clothes for the weekend in my backpack and caught a train twenty minutes later. I took a train from Braunschweig to Berlin, then spent the night in the airport (~Adventure~) to catch a flight to London 7:00AM. My university was closed Friday to Monday for Easter, and I don’t have classes on Tuesday, so I figured it would be a great time for a trip.
I’ve been to London before and done the usual tourist stuff, so I skipped that this time and just enjoyed a peaceful weekend with my family. I did visit a few places, including Nandos, a bookstore called Waterstones, and few stores on Oxford Street.
I left London early Tuesday morning and landed in Düsseldorf, Germany, where I had a layover. I almost missed connecting flight to Berlin because the gate changed, but the flight leaving from the gate I was waiting at was still going to Berlin. As the flight was boarding, I realized that it was not the right airline, and my flight was boarding from a gate in a completely different terminal. As I sprinted (a sprint for me is a fast-paced walk) to my gate, I just knew that the flight had already closed and I’d have to figure out a plan B, but God is good and there were a few others who had also been at the wrong gate. I was yelled at in German by the lady at the desk to run faster because the flight was scheduled to leave two minutes ago.
When I arrived in Berlin, my plan was to save some money and take all the regional trains (as opposed to the high speed trains) back to Braunschweig. Using screenshots from Google Maps for guidance (I don’t have a data plan here in Germany, so my phone is always on airplane mode), I started with a bus from the airport to a stop about two minutes from a small train station. After stumbling around in random directions for about ten minutes, I finally found the station and took a train to another station, where I got another train to a different station and so on and so on. I took at least five different trains and waited anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes in the cold at several different stations. At one point it even started snowing or hailing. I landed in Berlin around 3:00pm and got back into Braunschweig around 10:00pm. Did I save money? Yes, probably about 10 €…However, I did manage to do all of this with very little help from the internet, which is impressive for me.
Overall, I had a great Easter weekend and I am very grateful that I got to spend this time with my family. I’d also like to just take this time to say that my family is pretty amazing. I called Wednesday night to ask if I could spend Thursday to Tuesday with them, and not only did they say yes, but they also bought my ticket and were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived super early in the morning. I complained about not being able the seasoning I usually use in the supermarkets in Braunschweig, so my aunt bought me an all-purpose seasoning and curry powder, as well as chocolate. Thank you Aunty Christine! I’d also like to thank my wonderful big (but debatably shorter) cousin Freya for taking me shopping, letting me bother you, and waking up at the crack of dawn to take me to the airport!
My first week of classes was pretty hectic. I had some trouble finding some (all) of my classes. They use abbreviations for the class locations here, so it will say PK 22.7, which means Pockelstrasse 22 (the address of the building) and the 7 is the room number inside the building.
The classes are a little different here too. The professors lecture for about 1.5 hours from a PowerPoint, which every student has a paper copy of. Apparently, you can go to this place called the “Klappe,” which is in a building just for Mechanical Engineering students, and tell them which courses you need notes for, and pay 50 cents for each one. Then they give you the notes that the professor has written for the entire semester for each course. They gave me more than enough paper to fill three textbooks, and I paid 1.50 euros total. They also have the old exams from the past ten years too, and for free. It took me a week to figure out this note system, so the first week of classes were a challenge. I’m taking three M.E. courses and two German classes.
One of my German classes is specifically for Engineering and Science students, and it focuses on teaching us technical vocabulary. The other class is a communication class that focuses on communication in the university and in everyday life. I actually spent the first week in a different German class, but after the first day I asked to be removed from the course and put into the technical one. The professor from the first course required that we buy some workbook and do a bunch fill-in-the-blank and matching exercises, and I didn’t really like that. I feel like at this level, I should be doing slightly more challenging work. The class sizes for both of my German courses are very small, with no more than about 12 students, so that’s nice.
My engineering classes are huge lectures with almost 700 students and the professor lecturing at the bottom of the auditorium. I’ve never been in a class this big in my life, as A&T has very small classes. After the lecture, there’s a separate practice session where you can work out exercises related to the lecture with someone who I think is like a TA. The practice sessions aren’t always right after lecture, sometimes they’re a few days later.
The weekend after my first week, I went to the city of Bremen with a group of international students. We did some sightseeing and I had the best fries of my life from some random tent in the middle of the street, so that was cool. Another student and I decided to leave a little earlier than the rest of the group, and ended up missing one of our train connections back to Braunschweig due to many delays on our first train. Adventure.
This week was jam-packed with a ton of welcome week activities. On Monday I went to orientation, where I got my temporary student ID and welcome packet. I met some other exchange students at orientation, and we went to a campus tour together, where we met even more international students. They came from everywhere, including France, Spain, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Tunisia, Egypt, Hungary, South Korea, Iran, etc. Almost everyone spoke both English and German, but most seemed to prefer speaking in English. Later on after the tour there was another event called “Speedfriending” at a pub near the school, where we played team-building activities (the usual tower building stuff) and talked. I was the only American exchange student at these events (I’ve actually only met one other American so far), so I’ve been getting quite a few questions about the U.S. Two different groups approached me to ask if American men kiss their friends to greet them. They were shocked when I said American women (usually) don’t either. I’ve also gotten a lot of questions about U.S. politics and my hair, which is currently in box braids.
On Tuesday there was an intercultural workshop where they discussed adjusting to life in Germany and how to make friends with Germans. We were warned that Germans typically do not rush into friendships and it could take years to actually become someone’s friend. Then there was an international dance, where we learned some basic salsa dancing moves. I did not enjoy this part, and spent most of the time accidentally kicking my partners in the feet.
I bought tickets to Pink Floyd tribute concert by the Australian Pink Floyd band on Wednesday. I went by myself, because I bought my ticket before I had met anyone here. I was a few minutes late, and when I walked into the concert hall at 6 minutes past 8, everyone was already quietly seated and the show had started. The audience was practically silent during the show, and only clapped at the end of each song, occasionally whistling after a guitar solo. The crowd was also much older, but I still really enjoyed the show.
Thursday was a historical tour of the campus. I learned that the building I got my health insurance from used to be a concentration camp for intellectuals and communists. I also met with some other German and international students to eat at a traditional German restaurant, where I had my first Currywurst. Then we went to another international party, where I spent almost twenty minutes speaking with a student from Uzbekistan and answering his questions about current events in the U.S. There never seems to be any dancing at these parties, just conversation over music and beers.
There were many other events, but I won’t list them all. Just know I am exhausted and class starts tomorrow. To see my orientation week vlog, click here.