I can precisely recall the lunch I had in Newark’s airport about a month ago: sandwich, blueberry muffin, and orange seltzer. On a similar note, I can also remember what I ate for breakfast in Berlin’s Tegel Airport just a few days ago: hӓnchenschnitzel, brezel, and milchkaffee. What I find so interesting is that, in approximately an entire month of my life between these two events, I can simultaneously recall everything and seemingly nothing from my time abroad.
It’s an understatement to say how amazing Temple’s Intensive German Language Program in Leipzig is, but what’s even more of an understatement is that I am at a loss of words for how to exactly describe our experience. Though those two meals are ingrained in my memory like the covers of a book, it is the pages in-between that elude me. How is one to fully and authentically reflect upon studying abroad? I ask with hope of an answer from the reader (you have my email), but in the likely situation that neither of us conjures a good answer, I’ll leave below what I find to be my best attempt.
Ohne bedenken has a special place in my heart. Not only is it home to Leipzig’s famous Gose beer and a frequent spot of group meals, but the phrase itself speaks volumes about our approach to our study abroad. Though it literally means “without thinking,” (no translation in the title this time!) I like to think about the phrase more along the lines of “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King. We did a good amount of “thinking” during this program, but I find the phrase particularly impactful in that we explored Berlin, Leipzig, our classes, and the whole task of immersion into German society without reservation or inhibition. We went about our lives and journeys with the goal of pure exploration and without worry. Our approach to exploring Ireland in 2017 was quite similar to this German ohne bedenken, but there was something about the language immersion in this trip that raised our approach to a whole different level.
When looking to define modern Germany, one encounters a variety of different subcultures and attributes that actively work to shape the country’s future. On one hand, one will undoubtedly encounter much of Germany’s past in travelling anywhere around the country. Many cities and towns have newly renovated areas but still retain their older architecture, layout, and charm of renaissance- and medieval-style architecture. These historical aspects are then juxtaposed by the modern changes sweeping the country. One will also likely observe Germany’s push for green energy, particularly windmills, when travelling by train or bus between different areas. The combination of these modern changes to a place that still reflects its past is then also affected by the sheer natural beauty of the landscape. So, how is one to define modern Germany? The picture above combines these three features in Erfurt, and as such, does the job quite well.
While one of the many features of studying abroad is the exploration of a new area in the world, another equally important goal is meeting new people. I was blessed to study abroad with the group pictured above along with Dr. Melzer, our amazing program facilitator and photographer for the two pictures seen above and below. There’s something to be said for a group of students and a professor, most whom did not know each other before the program, to come together so well among themselves and also with our various peers from around the world. Truly a great group (click for video by Brianna Dirnbeck) and I look forward to carrying the friendships gained in Leipzig with me back to Temple and into the future.
Thanks to all for following along this blog series over the past several weeks. It was a ton of fun chronicling our adventures, and I can only hope that this sheds some light for the prospective student on the realities of studying abroad. I recently read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and was particularly moved by the following idea: one of the many ways to find purpose in life is to take on its challenges and opportunities to make a better future for oneself. For those following along, all I can hope is that when given the chance of studying abroad, one takes on this task with a bit of ohne bedenken.