The Final Countdown

I have 5 full days until I leave to go home and my study abroad experience comes to an end. While I have still have a few final papers to finish, it is hard not to constantly be thinking about how little time we have left. This has been one of the weirdest, most stressful, daydream-like periods of my life.

It’s hard to believe that we have been in Europe since August 1st. We saw summer turn into fall and fall into winter, and got to live in two different countries along the way!

People are always really surprised when I tell them that my program is only 4 people. That’s right: 4. We have interacted with others and made a few friends but at the end of the day, it was always the four of us. We have really become a family throughout this journey and it’s crazy to think that 5 months ago I had no idea who they were.

To Sam, Joel and Bryan, thank you for being 3 of the most down-to-earth and honest human beings I have ever met. You have made me feel comfortable being truly myself and confident in my abilities to handle problems and travel on my own. It has been an honor to watch you all grow and change alongside me!

To our resident directors in Vienna and Marburg, thank you for trying to help us when it felt like no one else would. Your kindness and willingness to take on this role was appreciated.

To my therapist, thank you for allowing me to facetime you throughout this entire journey and for working on your days off to talk with me! I’m really grateful for that.

To my grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives who supported me financially and emotionally during this trip, I will never forget it.

To my parents and my sister, I literally would not have survived this without you. Thank you for always answering my facetimes, sending me money in stressful situations, reading all of my blogs and never failing to give me advice when I needed it. I could not have been luckier with the support I received from you throughout this entire trip, and I can’t wait to see you!

To myself, wow you did that. Years of learning to manage my anxiety and mental health truly paid off. I was at the point in my life where I needed this experience to be able to give myself permission to change and grow and now I feel like my personal growth will never stop happening. I am so proud of myself for the confidence I have gained.

While Marburg is a one-of-a-kind city with beautiful sights at every turn, Vienna will always hold a special place in my heart. We were thrown into Vienna without much help; sent off on our bus and told which stop to get off at to find our apartment building. This was terrifying at the time, but in the end, being tossed into the city forced us to be independent from day one. The 4 of us worked together to find grocery stores, check out local street fairs, try new cafes and eventually discovered what we liked to do individually. We really got to establish a routine and a life there that you just don’t get to experience on a college campus. I have never felt as settled anywhere outside of my home than I did in Vienna. Hopefully I’ll get to come back and visit before too long!

These last few days are going to be hectic and emotional, so I am going to try and be present and reflective as often as I can. It’s a bittersweet ending, but I know I’ll carry these moments with me for the rest of my life.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog and kept up with me along the way! I am signing off for now, but stay alert for my posts about adjusting back to the US in a few weeks! Until then,

christine

marburg

Weihnachtsmärkte!

Christmas Markets happen all over Europe from the end of November through December 25th. These markets are full of “huts” or small, wooden, cabin-esque, temporary buildings. Each hut sells something different. At every market I have been to so far, they sell Glühwein (mulled wine), fries, sweets, gifts made out of wood and other souvenirs. There is often also homemade dishware, Christmas ornaments, lights and soaps.

While these markets are similar in a general sense, each has it’s own unique set up. The decorations on the streets are a little different or they have huts that sell something that another market didn’t.

One of my favorite thing about the Christmas markets is the Glühwein mugs. The mugs are personalized to each market, often saying the name of the city and the year. When you purchase the Glühwein you pay for the drink and the mug. If you return the mug later you can get that fee back, but if you don’t care about losing a couple Euros, you get a cheap and unique souvenir!

My advice if you are abroad in the fall/winter: go to at least two Christmas markets (hopefully more!!). I recommend going to at least two because each one is different. You don’t have to travel to a different country to see a different market. All the pictures I added in this post are from markets that were just a town or a few towns over! We were able to visit the markets and be back in our rooms at the end of the day.

They are also a great place to get authentic, local gifts for people back home. Of course there are touristy markets and gifts, but the ones outside of the big cities are really for the locals. It has been such a cool weekend Christmas market “hopping”!

I hope the winter season is treating you well! Bis bald!

gießen weihnachtsmarkt

Six Hours in the Black Forest

The Black Forest (der Schwarzwald auf Deutsch) is the largest nature park in Germany and has been promoting hiking since 1864! It is in the Bundesland of Baden-Wuerttemberg in southwestern Germany, sharing a border with France and Switzerland. The highest mountain in the Schwarzwald is called Feldberg and stands at almost 5,000 feet.

on the feldberg trail

This past weekend, I visited a friend from Susquehanna University who is studying in Freiburg, Germany. Freiburg is only about an hour away from the bottom of the Feldberg, so on Saturday we decided to hike the highest difficulty trail.

We started at around 11:15am and finished a little after 5:30pm. It. was. amazing.

amanda and the trees

The mountain was covered in snow and we saw so many trees, little waterfalls, lakes and cabin-esque buildings that are good for hikers who need to take a rest. After almost 4 hours of hiking, we stopped in the Zastler Huette and had hot chocolate and a delicious slice of cherry crumble cake.

We finished our hike literally moments before the sun fully set on the mountain, which was honestly pretty scary. We for sure thought we were gonna be in that forest in the dark, but fortunately not.

We were definitely not fully prepared for such a long hike or how much snow there was, but we both had a really amazing time. Aside from taking a few photos (of course) being off of our phones and just talking all day was really refreshing. Nature and exercise are always good ways to de-stress and recognize the beauty of your surroundings. When I suggested going to see the Black Forest, I assumed we would kind of walk up to some trees and look around for maybe an hour and then be on our way. What actually happened was so much better! I will never forget this crazy, cold day. Needless to say, we slept GOOD that night.

Til next time!

Coffee Lesson!

Coffee is an integral part of cultures around the world, and it is something especially appreciated in Europe. But when you go to a coffee shop, what do you order? You kind of know what a latte is, maybe what a cappuccino is, but shouldn’t you try something new? Where do you start??? Good thing I love coffee and am willing to dedicate an entire blog post to it. Next time you’re in Europe and not sure what to order, read this post and hopefully I can help you find your new favorite drink!

Major differences:

  • Like cold coffee drinks? Good luck. 99% of options at coffee shops that I have been to in Europe are hot coffee. Iced coffee, iced lattes, etc. are something seen only in tourist areas. In Vienna, the only iced coffee drink I really saw was called “Wiener Eis-Kaffee” which is espresso with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a glass. You’ll have to learn to appreciate hot espresso and steamed milk while abroad.
  • There is almost always an option to a add a shot of rum or other coffee-compatible alcohols to your beverage. This goes for both tea and coffee and is normally 60 cents to a Euro extra charge.
  • Coffee drinks are often served with a little cookie or biscuit on the side!
  • The type of drink you order determines the kind of glass it will be served in. They do the same thing with different types of alcohols.
  • Coffee isn’t something you order a lot of. If you order a cappuccino, it is the norm to drink that cappuccino leisurely, probably accompanied by a pastry. Locals can sit in a cafe for 3 hours, but they will only order one cup of coffee. It is something that is savored and appreciated rather than sucked down through a straw. (Don’t get me wrong, I definitely miss making my daily iced caramel macchiato during my shifts at Scholarly Grounds.)

What to order: A Quick Guide

  • For the super tough people who laugh in the face of fear: straight espresso. While I do love the tiny mugs espresso is served in, I am not cool enough yet to just drink espresso by itself.
  • Americano- espresso w/ hot water
  • Ristretto- made like espresso but with half the amount of water used when grinding the beans, it’s a little sweeter and stronger tasting than espresso
  • Cappuccino- espresso w/ steamed milk and lots of foam! In Europe it is served with cocoa powder on top
  • Latte- espresso w/ steamed milk and a little foam, milk is poured in on top of espresso (there is also something in German called a Milch Kaffee (milk coffee) that I think is the same as a latte, but sometimes they are both on the menu so I’m not sure. Milch Kaffee is just espresso and steamed milk)
  • Chok Mokk/Choc Moc- like a mocha, but instead of a latte with chocolate it is often half a latte and half hot chocolate, so it has more milk than an American Mocha
  • Latte Macchiato- same as a latte except the milk is poured in the cup before the espresso
  • Cafe Crema- served like a large cup of coffee but is made using the same method and machine used to make espresso; basically espresso but a little weaker, sometimes mixed with liquid cream
  • Filter Kaffee- regular filter/drip coffee that you sweeten yourself
  • Cafe au Lait- steamed milk on top of filter coffee instead of espresso

This is not even close to the amount of coffee options out there in the world, but they are the staples on pretty much every European menu. Below are just a few of the many coffees I have had during my stay in Europe, including the time I tried to brave an espresso shot and failed miserably. I hope you liked this post and learned a little bit about coffee! Until next week!

My Favorite Places

We have been in Marburg for a little over a month now, so I thought I would share some of my favorite places that I have found here.

Q-

Q is a café/club about a 10-minute walk from my dorm building. Three days a week (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) they have free concerts starting at 9pm! So far, I have seen three bands from the US and one singer from Italy. It’s a small area and I haven’t seen more than 40 or 50 people in the space during a show. It’s a really intimate way to experience music and because a lot of the bands are from the US, I have been able to talk with them after the show! It’s comforting to meet other people from home and to see them get excited about meeting people who speak the same language. The building is built into the mountain and has parts that look very old, which is not unique for Marburg, but it does make for a unique performance venue. I am excited to keep going and hopefully see some German groups too!

band: go by ocean

Con:Text-

Con:Text is a café/store that I discovered when my Dad came to visit last week. Not only do they have coffee and pastries, but half of the store is a small shop filled with journals, mugs and other cute goodies. My Dad and I happened to go there on the store’s 5th anniversary in Marburg and we got free pretzels and mimosas! There was also a live keyboard player and balloons everywhere. It was honestly magical. They have tables to sit and do homework and couches to just sip a hot drink and chill. They also have a basement downstairs that is a part of the building from the 14th century. In the space are a few meditations mats and candles. Their goal with the entire store was to create a peaceful space, and I for one think they truly succeeded.

Oberstadt-

The Marburg Oberstadt is something that is on every tourist recommendation when you search what to do in Marburg. Oberstadt directly translates to “upper city” and is the part of Marburg that requires an elevator to get to. I am lucky enough to live above the Oberstadt and walk through it every single day to get to class. If you wake up early enough in the mornings, the Oberstadt is completely empty, covered lightly in fog and so quiet you almost wonder if other people really do live there. On Saturday afternoons however, the town really comes alive. Everyone comes out to the farmer’s market in the main square and walks in and out of the shops that line both sides of the street. Everyone always looks like they’re enjoying themselves and you see old couples and families with small children and it’s very cozy.

These are just three of the places in Marburg that are earning a place in my heart. There are others and I’m sure I will discover even more in the next month and a half! It’s so crazy to think about going home so soon. I am determined to make the most out of the last leg of my study abroad experience. Until next week, Aufwiedersehen!

Cultural Differences

Hi everyone, today I will talking about cultural differences I have noticed between Austria, Germany and the US. It’s getting harder for me to distinguish as I have grown used to the European culture, but here goes nothing!

  1. Restaurants: You will not be rushed in a European restaurant. If you want to order one cup of coffee and sit there for 6 hours straight, especially in Vienna, no one will stop you. Waiters and waitresses check up on you periodically while you are eating, but not nearly as often as in the US. They won’t bring you the check until you ask for it. This is something I really like about European culture.

2. The environment: Austria is more strict about recycling than the US. Germany even more so. In Austria, trash is separated into about 7 or 8 categories. The main bins that you can find on just about any street are Weissglas (white/clear glass), Buntglas (colored glass), Restmuell (normal trash), Altpapier (paper) and Verpackung (packaging, plastic). There are also often bins for Biomuell which means organic waste- mainly food waste. In both countries there are serious fines for not disposing of your trash in the correct way. Something I have seen more commonly in Germany is glasses with a “Pfand”. This basically means you pay an extra tax on a drink because you are using a glass bottle, but if you return the glass to where you bought it, you will get the money back! The dining halls and cafes on University of Marburg’s campus all do this. It is a great way to motivate students to recycle and to use their own reusable bottles to avoid paying an extra tax.

Germany is different too - Diario de un alemol
*not my image*

3. Grocery shopping: One difference in Europe that is making it’s way through the US is charging for paper/plastic bags in grocery stores. Some tote bags in Germany cost a full Euro, so it’s always best to bring your own. Additionally, in contrast to restaurant culture, checking out at a grocery store is one of the most stressful things to do. You need to have your money ready as quickly as possible and be packing things into your bags almost as quickly as the cashier is scanning them. I’m not sure why this is, and I don’t think there are any official rules about it, I just know from observation that checking out is a quick process.

Sortiment: Tegut bringt vegane Produkte in die Bedientheke
*also not my image*

These are three main things I’ve noticed that are a bit different over here than in the United States! Until next week!

fachwerk house (the x design is called fachwerk)

FOMO

FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out is something people of all ages experience. When you have to cancel plans because you’re sick or choosing to stay in instead of going out, there’s always that little question in the back of your mind: what if I miss something important?

This question is something I pushed to the very back of my mind before going abroad. I knew it would not do me any good to worry about things happening at home and take away from being in the present moment. Being present is something that takes a lot of effort and practice, especially in our age of social media.

About a week ago, I found out that while I was stressing about classes, my guinea pig who I had for 6 years had passed away. Everyone in my family really loved her and I wished more than anything to be able to go home and be with them. It made me feel really alone just because my family wasn’t physically here with me.

Thanks to Facetime I was able to video in to the burial of my guinea pig in our backyard and gain comfort through talking face to face with my family. Although nothing is better than being physically face to face, knowing they are always there when I need them is something I am beyond grateful for.

While that was a bit of an abnormal example, everyone that goes abroad will have to deal with FOMO to some extent. Spoiler alert: people at home continue living their lives without you! It’s something that’s been hard for me to realize, but I can’t expect everyone to sit around and wait until I get back. It has been hard seeing my friends from school and home hang out without me and not being able to be there to celebrate holidays and birthdays. But I have to remember to be in this present moment, because my GO trip will be over before I know it.

Before coming abroad, I read a public travel blog from a study abroad student that said something along these lines: Don’t worry about taking the perfect picture, look at things in real time instead of behind a screen.

This is a thought that has stuck with me through my travels. Yes, I have hundreds of pictures to look back on in the future, but I always make sure to take a few breaths to really look at and appreciate what I’m standing in front of. I live in Europe??!! Two minutes from a CASTLE??! It’s easy to get stuck in my own head and forget how amazing this opportunity is. Moments like this cannot be recreated and it’s important to experience them as fully as possible.

I’m not saying don’t stay in touch with your home life or to never let yourself be upset about things at home. Having contact with family and friends is important to your social health and can provide you with support that you may not be comfortable getting from your fellow abroad students. Keeping up to date with those back home will make you feel like you missed a little less once you return. What I’m saying is- yes, you will miss out on things, but don’t miss out on studying abroad by keeping your mind someplace else.

Below you will find the best picture of my guinea pig to ever exist. Try staying present this week! Until next time.

Die Geschichte von Marburg

“The History of Marburg”

Marburg (aka Marburg an der Lahn) is a city north of Frankfurt in the Hessen region of Germany. It is known as a University City, with 25,000 out of 72,000 of the population being students. It is the home of the world’s oldest Protestant university (where I’m studying!!) called University of Marburg.

The university was founded in 1527 by Philip the Magnanimous. Philip supported the Protestant Reformation and held the Marburg Colloquy in 1529. This meeting was attended by both Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, two prominent theologians at the time. I walk up the “Zwingli Steps” to get back to my dorm every day.

philip’s castle

Philip was a descendant of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, who in 1228, chose Marburg as the land she would gain from her late husband. St. Elisabeth is beloved in Marburg for all the work she did caring for the sick and donating money to the poor. Elisabethskirche (Elisabeth’s church) is one of the highlights for tourists visiting the city.

inside elisabethskirche

Additionally, have you heard of the Brothers Grimm? You probably know some of their stories: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc. etc. etc.

Did you know that they also went to the University of Marburg? Many of their story settings gained inspiration from locations in Marburg! On the steps to my dorm there is a quote from Jacob Grimm that reads: “I believe there are more steps on the street than in the houses. One even enters one house through the roof.” Below is a picture of where the Grimm Brothers lived while studying in Marburg.

There is something here that locals and tourists alike can participate in called the “Fairy tale Path”. There are different spots around town that showcase specific Grimm Brothers stories. Each location has a QR code that you can scan on your phone that allows you to read the fairy tale related to that location! It’s a really cool way to learn about the stories and get a walking tour of Marburg.

an example of a stop on the fairy tale path

That’s all I’ve got about the history of Marburg. Our first week of classes was hectic but exciting. I feel ready to tackle the next week, especially because I was visited by one of my best friends from home who is currently studying in Belgium! Familiarity is always something that mentally grounds me in the midst of constant new experiences.

my friend from home!

I will check back in next week, thanks for reading!

Orientation and Course Selection: Uni Marburg Edition

We arrived in Marburg on Tuesday, October 1st. Our classes for the semester start on Monday, October 14th. But what have we been doing up until now if we didn’t have class???? Read below to find out.

Our first few days here, as discussed briefly in my last post, were focused around University of Marburg’s International Student Orientation. It was mostly paperwork and logistics, but on Wednesday night the student International Club held an “ice breaker” event called “Human Bingo”. Each person was greeted at the door with a string with a heart-shaped piece of paper hanging on it. The heart had a word written on it. My word was “unordentlich” which means “unorganized” (which for the record, I am not). Throughout the night we had to talk to different people while wearing our heart necklaces and find our match. This meant I had to find the person whose heart said “ordentlich” (organized). But that wasn’t all. We also had sheets of paper with empty boxes for people to sign. We all know this ice breaker: one box says e.g. “sign here if you have more than two siblings” and you have to walk around and chat with people to see if they can sign any of your boxes.

It was a fun night! The room was crowded but I met a lot of cool people from Kahzakhstan, Korea, France, Italy and America! After filling my boxes with new names, I found the organized to my unorganized. It happened to be a boy from France. We took a picture together and have not talked since. Nevertheless it was fun to hang out with other students who are away from their home countries and learning to live in Marburg!

A day or two later, the International Club organized an international dinner! Everyone got together in small groups and individuals made dishes of their choice from their home countries. I have been sick with a cold and did not cook as not to contaminate any of the food. However I did get to eat crepes from France, bean stew from Morocco and Polish salad. The event was very chaotic because there were so many students in such a small space, but the idea was nice and the food was tasty.

The days in between orientation and now have been a little hectic. On Tuesday morning we had to wake up early to be at the City Office at 8:30am and register with the city of Marburg. This basically means telling the city where you are going to be living and bringing an ID to prove that you really are who you say you are. We had help from our Resident Director here which made things a lot easier. She is also going to help us get our Visas in a few days! Fun fact- you cannot stay in the EU for more than 90 days without getting a Visa. Up until now we have not needed one, but since our third month in Europe is ending soon, we will need them.

Choosing courses here has honestly not been a smooth process. I have yet to solidify my schedule or get courses approved by my home university. The online course catalog makes sense now, but in the beginning it was very confusing to navigate and most of it is only available in German. My major department in Marburg is slightly different than my major department in the US, so I had to make sure I was still taking classes that I think will fulfill credits for both of my majors and my minor back home. Additionally, the German semester doesn’t end until February 2020. We are leaving Europe at the end of December. Therefore, we had to individually email each professor whose class we wanted to take and ask for permission to finish the course early. Some professors have not replied to me yet, and classes start in 3 days. Because of this, our Resident Director has advised us to just show up to classes we want to take and speak with the professor afterwards. Hopefully this will be successful some if not all of the time!!

This coming week, I have a rough draft schedule of classes I am going to attend. Three I am actually signed up for and the others I am just showing up and hoping for the best. They are all in German so I anticipate having a large headache at the end of each day, but it should be our most immersive experience yet! I can’t wait to have a regular routine again. I’m nervous about the uncertainty of what’s to come, but I know it will all settle down in a week or two.

Until then, thanks for reading 🙂 I will post pictures of Marburg below!!