Thursday, July 2, 2009


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Our time has come to an end.  I think the students’ blogs speak for themselves.  A true document of the ups and downs, the pleasures and pains, the monotonies and the thrills, and the life-changing nature of the study abroad experience.

So, Germany and readers of this blog…..Thank you and Peace out.

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Herr C

Auf Wiedersehen, Ciao, Tschuess……Good bye.

KYLE: Final Thoughts or…..Eternally grateful

So, it's officially my last full day (for this trip) in Magdeburg, Germany and Europe. It's been one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had in my life. I've seen and done so much here, and I've learned so much about so many things I wouldn't know where to begin explaining it (I'll try though).

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(Kyle at Buchenwald)

First, I've learned lots about the nature of human kind and people. We're capable of absorbing in the environment around us and adapting to it. A baby can learn any of the thousands of languages the world has to offer. As one ages, they become a product of their experiences and the environment surrounding them. The biggest conclusion I can draw from this trip is how very similar people around the world are. I know I may have only had a glimpse into the big picture, but I think that it is evident that humans really are all very alike. Here, I've met people not only from Germany but people from around the world, from Finland, Indonesia, Columbia, and many more. Despite our many cultural, religious and lifestyle differences, we really are all in the same boat. We have the same basic needs and desires but our exact path through life is shaped by our vastly different upbringings, surroundings, governments, etc. etc.

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(Kyle with our tour guide Rainer and our tutor Klaus in Dresden)

Another thing this trip has left me with is how lucky I have been to have lived the life I have so far. I've been awarded a fantastic family, friends, education, and so many other things. I've always appreciated those things but I now have a new perspective on them and for that I will be eternally grateful for having the opportunity to go on this trip.

I think if more people around the world were able to experience how much we have in common, perhaps we wouldn't have so much turmoil between us. I can only hope that some day our world leaders will be able to come to the same realizations.

Wishing for world peace,


KEL: Final Thoughts or…Welcome to the World

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(At the Marx/Engels statue in the former East Berlin)

We were asked that our last blog be our last thoughts on the trip.  What our overall opinion was on the country.  Things we liked, things we didn't like and so on.  Your basic recap blog.  I figured the best way to do this was to wait until the last minute to write the blog because then I've experienced as much of Germany as I can before writing what I think about it.

Right now, as I write this, it is 6:36PM in Magdeburg, Germany.  Our train for Berlin leaves somewhere around 5AM tomorrow morning, so we're in the final countdown till take off on the trip back.  I've been thinking a lot about this trip, and the things that I've accomplished and the things I didn't accomplish and the things that I wish I had more time for.

I realized, first and foremost, that I'm done with my undergraduate degree.  I took my last exam yesterday of my undergraduate life, so I'm now officially a graduate of the University of South Carolina Upstate, and honestly, I think that's what my mind has been dwelling on the most.  It's this sick, kind of unsettled feeling that most graduates experience when they realize that they're actually an adult now.

But really, I think this trip has helped me some with the "oh my god, I might pee myself" fear of the "real world."  Imagine that you get dropped in this random country where you supposedly know the language they speak, but when you hear it, it feels like your first day of class on the subject.  Imagine being able to think clearly, but the second you open your mouth to speak, the words get all jumbled up on your tongue, and then, when they don't, the person responds so quickly that you don't have time to process what was said before you have to invent an answer.

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(Kel undoubtedly writing a blog post)

It's a little scary.  I've taken class after class of German for 8 years.  I've learned about the differences in German culture and American culture.  I knew how to order food and answer a phone and count to ten.  I knew how to be polite and what not to say to a teacher.  I knew how to follow directions and conjugate verbs and what adjective endings to put on which words.  I knew all of those things, but living it, breathing it, eating it... Nothing on this planet could have prepared me for that experience.

But now we're in the final stretch to getting back on the plane, and I'm thinking, "Has it been a month?  Has it been that long already?"  And the answer is always the same, "Why, yes, Kel, it has."  And I made it.  I know the train system like the back of my hand.  I can tell you the humidity and wind speed with my finger or how long it'll take us to get from point A to point B down to the seconds. 

I've asked over a million questions, got a thousand dirty looks from various people, ate hundreds of different things, walked tens of miles every day (or at least it felt like it sometimes), and this is just the ONE experience that will stay with me forever:  I lived in Germany.  For a month.  And I survived.

I've experienced a wide range of emotions during this trip.  Everything from happiness to anger, hyper to sad, but surviving Germany?

THAT feeling is one that I wouldn't give up for the world.

AMBER: Final Thoughts…the good, the bad and the weird

Today is my last day in Germany.  I am sitting here going over in my head all of the experiences I have had. 

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(Amber at the interactive museum in the Millennium Tower in Magdeburg)

The good:

Of course I have had a blast here in Germany!  I can now have a small small conversation in German with another German, I definitely could not do that before I left the states.  I spend an entire summer month in Europe!  How could I not have had fun?  We traveled to a lot of cites in Germany.  I got to see so much history with the old buildings and churches.  I finally met my German friend after emailing her for 3 or 4 years now.  Last night the weather was perfect and Jay, Kyle and I walk along the Elbe river after enjoying some German beer.  It was awesome.  This trip was filled with experiences like that.  I did not have my cell phone to worry about or work or anything! 

The bad:

There were some but not much bad times.  When we were on one of the trains, there was a drunk crazy German guy who had a crazy explosion right there near us.  That scared me so much.  What was worse, was I had my back facing him!  I could him going off behind me.  I did not want to turn around to see and risk making eye contact with this nut ball but I did not know what he was going to do!  Luckily Jay, our German teacher at home, had the idea for us to silently get up and move farther down the train.  Another time I got lost because the busses decided to go crazy and not go by the schedule.  There is now a creepy American staying at the hostel and creeping my friends out.  Kyle sort of forced me to talk to creepy dirty German guys.  They were nice but I did not want anything to do with them.  I am sure there is a couple other bad times I am forgetting but it was nothing major to ruin my time at all.  They will just make great stories for later. 

The weird:

Kel and I tried to order a beaker of wine and apparently accidently ordered a bottle.  So the waiter showed up with two bottles for us, and thought we were the biggest lushes!  Kel and I ended up sharing the bottle!  Kyle told me on this trip that the biggest way to learn a German word is to embarrass yourself.  Well, he was right!  I went in one time to buy a decoration plate, and I forgot the German word for plate.  I felt like such an idiot!  Well, I will never forget that word again!   There were some other times I did that and messed up a simple word, and I will never forget it!  My roommate is from Indonesia and she is Muslim.  That was a very interesting experience!  Their culture is so different from the American culture and we had to share a room together. 

I will leave this country with a laundry list of cool things, stories, and memories!! 

DAWN: Final Thoughts

Even though I’m anxious to go home and be by myself for the first time in a month, I also think I’m going to miss hanging out with this whole group. While we’ve been here the whole group has formed kind of a small family. We have tons of inside jokes and we have a lot of fun with each other. Of course, like any family we’ve had our spats but in the end we were stuck with each other for a month and we had to get over it. I think everyone has done a good job of trying not to get on each others nerves and apologizing when they had. If just one person had a bad attitude it probably could’ve ruined the whole trip.

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(On top of the Millennium tower in Magdeburg)

Another thing I’m definitely going to miss is the food. I was kind of nervous about eating here because I’ve eaten at Gerhard’s in downtown Spartanburg and everything was served with some form of potato and a lot of meat. First off, I hate potatoes and while the meat was good some of it was too heavy. I thought I’d definitely lose weight while here because of the walking and then again because I might not be able to eat that much. Well, Kel says I have lost weight but I certainly can’t figure out how. The Italian food here is awesome. They have great big pizzas with salami and spaghetti baked with ham and cheese. I’ve eaten like a pig every single night. Not only the dinner but ice cream is another food group here. A meal isn’t complete without walking by one of the ten Italian restaurants and getting a cone of ice cream.

Even though right now I’m tired of them, like Jay, I’ll probably start going crazy without my Brötchen. I’ve had a Brötchen every single morning since we’ve been in Germany. For the people who live under a rock (or just don’t speak German) a Brötchen is like a little roll that goes well with pretty much anything. We’ve put cream cheese, Nutella, jam, salami, cheese, and butter on ours and most days we eat them for lunch too.

Even though the food is only a small part of what I liked about Germany, I’m probably going to go through food and ice cream withdrawals in South Carolina.

EMILY: Final Thoughts

As our time in Germany is waning and the hectic rush of trying to get our suitcases to close once more begins, a lot has been going through my mind.  In these three weeks I've learned many things, built upon the things I already knew, and has some experiences which will stay with me forever.

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(Shared experiences—dinner on the Elbe—Fridja from Indonesia, Jennifer, Andrew, Amber and Emily)

I'm not the type to be overly sentimental.  I don't cry at airports or at the end of a school year, but in these three short weeks I feel like the seven of us have bonded.  On my previous study abroad trip there were forty students and while we became semi close I talk to only two of them now and even that is sparse.  But, us seven USC Upstate students have shared rooms, bathrooms, food, and more together, melding into one unit.  We have had instances where the words to complete a sentence were easily offered by another and we've formulated an abundance of inside jokes that will be sure to follow us as we cross paths between HPAC and SMTH. 

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(Melding into one unit……..)

I've seen myself get better at German.  Oh, the butterflies are still there, the fear that I won't be understood or that I won't understand is still pretty prevalent, but with the constant exposure I've grown.  I can order at a restaurant, complete minor transactions when buying souvenirs, and exchange pleasantries with a passerby on the street.  I have even managed to hold a few small conversations with various people, such as the elderly man in the elevator.  I can read signs and know what they say, and I've learned a bevy of new words, more than I would looking at a dictionary.

And the culture here, the culture in Germany is so different from that at home.  Not quite culture shock different, but different nonetheless.  Bikes are a way of life and scarves are a must if you want to leave your home.  Ice cream (Eis) is available anytime, anywhere, and the concoctions which arrive when you order are amazingly ornate.  The cities come alive at night and there is this laid back sort of atmosphere everywhere.  Also, the fact that the trains are punctual is beyond me.

I don't feel like I've been here for over three weeks.  The days have seemed to fly together, meshing into one enormous adventure.  Night being so short here they are barely separated by sleep, and even the monotony of class is spiced up with daily excursions into a city that is still vastly unknown to us.

Germany 2009, whether in photos or shared jokes across the green, will be instilled in my mind for a long time to come.

ANDREW: My Final Thoughts

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(Andrew, Jennifer and Dawn at the VW Autostadt)

This trip was amazing.  I wouldn't have passed it up for anything.  The class was a little less than fun, having to sit through 4 hours of class a day at 8:30 is not exactly my favorite thing to do.  However, i did learn a bit.  Well, I wouldn't say i learned anything new, but i definitely improved on what i did know.  I can now make really long grotesque and annoying sentences in German. 

We learned a good bit about the culture just by being here.  Just like the fact that 80% of Germany gets dressed in the dark, and they get their haircuts at night by moonlight.  and when they get it dies the hair dresser goes colorblind.  It is a very interesting style with an anything goes policy.  You could wear shoes on your hands and no one would look at you twice. 

The drivers here are insane, but we have yet to see a car accident.  Just another mystery in the magical Land of Germany.  Although the police sirens run constantly we just cant figure out why.  Oh and ricer's exist over here too (kids that trick out unnecessary cars)  My favorite here is the Racing Trabi with the words NO AIRBAG really big on the back glass. 

I would have to say my favorite thing here is the streetcar system (S-Bahn).  You can never get lost, you will never be late, and you can get absolutely anywhere.  And if you miss the streetcar or take the wrong one you only have to wait a few minutes... unless it’s night time, then you are in trouble.  The streetcar at night in Berlin is scary.  There are plenty of drunks and beggars.  But as long as you get what you need early and just ignore the people everything is fine.  Magdeburg streetcars are much nicer than the Berlin ones.  Mostly because there are far fewer people on them. 

We didn't have the best of luck with the weather.  it was mostly cloudy and sometimes rained.  but overall it wasn't bad.  the past few days have been stupidly hot though.  Overall this trip was a blast.  I'm glad i took it and it was well worth the money.  Everyone on the trip got along good enough, and we didn't have any major trouble the whole time.