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December 26, 2008
The last trip of the semester.
I cant believe it has already come and gone, but Interlaken was the last "hoo-rah" for us. We took a 7-hour train from Munich to the Swiss Alps. It was well worth it because the scenery was absolutely beautiful. By the time we got there, it was mid-afternoon, and we didn't have any plans. So, we began talking to the inn-keeper about our predicament, and she suggested paragliding. I said, why not?! Brad, being terrified of heights, was extremely reluctant to join me, but he found courage from somewhere... maybe at the bottom of his glass while we waited at the bar.
45-minutes later we were on top of a mountain. We strapped on our gear, and my instructor gave me simple instructions. She said, "Run off the mountain as fast as you can. Even if your feet aren't touching the ground, it is important that you just keep running." I could follow those rules... run off this mountain and possible fall to my death. Luckily, there were no deaths that day. I ran as fast as I could and the wind lifted the parachute. I glided around Interlaken for approximately 15 minutes.
When we landed, Brad was extremely excited to learn that there was a Hooter's in Interlaken. We hadn't had any sort of fried food in months. Even more, after our paragliding experience, we landed right in front of the Hooters... I think Brad thought it was a sign from God. So, we ate there that night.
Afterwards, we passed this bowling alley on the way to our hotel, and we decided that bowling might be fun. So, we played two games. Obviously, I won the first won; I got the impression Brad wasn't very good at this game. For the second one, Brad wanted to make the game "more interesting." He said the loser had to take off his shirt and make a snow angel on the mountain tomorrow. I said sure, why not. I was already on fire and Brad seemed to suck. Very mysteriously, Brad suddenly got really good at bowling. I lost by 30 points and, subsequently, had to make angel.
The next day, we went to the Top of Europe. Its called Jungfraujoch... the highest peak in Europe. I was reluctant to go... I just wanted to sled. But Brad really wanted to do it. It was like a 2 hour trip to the top. Once we were up there, we got some pretty nice pictures. Afterwards, we sledding all the down a mountain. It was fun... although I crashed into the snow multiple times.
That trip was the best way I could think to end our semester.
December 18, 2008
Christmas in Munich
Kris Kringle is German, and its been rumored that he has owns some property in the northern part of the country. So, why not go to Munich during the holidays? You may catch a glimpse of the Fat Man.
That was the logic Brad and I employed as we bought train tickets for our last trip of the semester. We decided to go to Munich and Interlaken. Even though we came to Munich way back in October, he wanted to visit one last time. He studied German his freshmen year, and he really wanted to see the city. And what a beautiful city it is!
There are Christmas markets everywhere. These markets, especially in Munich, are huge. You can buy all sorts of knick-knacks, spices, fruit, sausages, hot wine, hot chocolate, and clothing. The whole market is decorated with Christmas lights, and it is a wonder to see by night.
Besides Christmas shopping, Brad and I did other random fun stuff. We went to an arcade and played a few games of basketball. You'll be happy to know that we broke the high record. Later, Brad thought it would be a good idea if we went ice skating. Terrible idea! It was so hard... and embarrassing, as 5-year-olds were lapping me on the ice. We also made a trip to the concentration camp, Dachau. It sits a little outside the city. We toured it, and it was unbelievably depressing. Some of the survivors told their stories on the audio tour. Its one thing to read about a place like this in a class, but it is something else when you are actually standing in the showers. Its just a really sad place.
In Munich, we stayed with Sue, the former German intern. As she invited us into her home, she was warm and welcoming. When she gave us a tour, I was surprised by a few of her pets. She has a rabbit... who apparently is just like a dog. The rabbit lies in bed with her and cuddles every night. Tanya, the rabbit, has a cage she has to remain in when Sue is not home, but mostly Tanya can just roam about the house as she pleases.
Also, Mark Schultz was at Sue's as well. So, it was like a mini-Wabash reunion. We talked all night and swapped stories about our semesters. It kind of made me miss campus.
But, I will return soon enough! See more pictures
December 11, 2008
On Being Abroad...
Only 5 days left. Many of the Americans here keep saying how fast time flew by. They'll tell you in a minute that it feels like we arrived in Italy yesterday, but I have to disagree. It doesn't feel like that at all. It feels like its been 3 and 1/2 months!
For me, every day was an adventure. Whether I was trying to order food in Italian or trying to find the right bus to catch, I learned something new every day. I may have learned a new Italian word, the name of a cheese, the history of a church, the significance of a painting....the point is, I was constantly learning. And with everything I've learned, it could not have possibly occurred in a day.
As I reflect about the past 3 months, there is one thing that I am sure: while studying in a foreign country, the most important lessons you learn will be outside the classroom.
Let’s be honest. You only get one college semester to be twenty-something while abroad. The administration of your program and home institution will emphasize the importance of making the most of your abroad studies. They’ll tell you that your semester abroad grades will be visible to graduate schools. They’ll tell you studying with professors in a foreign country will open your eyes to the learning process in other cultures. Basically, they’ll tell you that you shouldn’t b.s. this semester away.
However, listen to me. I didn't come here to learn in a classroom; if that was the case, I would have stayed on campus. I came here to learn a new language. And yes, I may have begun learning the basics of that language in a classroom, but it was not until I began having conversations with locals that I actually started to master it. I came here to enjoy a culture's food; who knew the wonders of a salad with simply olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little salt and pepper! I left America to see the world. And that means struggling with train schedules, trying to find cheap RyanAir flights, and booking hostels.
You see, traveling abroad stretched me as a person. I cant really describe to you what its like being lost in a city where it seems like no one speaks English; from those experiences, I can only say I've grown. I learned how to be flexible and spontaneous... basically, I've learned to be prepared for anything.
These life lessons simply can’t be taught in an hour’s lecture. You can’t just teach independence, endurance, and resilience, but you need all these things to survive in any foreign city. And who knows how my time abroad will aid me once I'm back in the States. All I know is that I'm stronger... I dont think I could have asked for anything more.
December 01, 2008
The Presidential Election
One of the most eye-opening experiences I've had this semester has everything to do with the American presidential election. Because of the election, this semester was an interesting time to be out of the country. Before I left America, I never knew the extent of American global influence. However, since I've been here, I've seen just how powerful America is.
You probably had no idea how invested Europeans were in our Presidential election. I've been all over Europe, and because my clothes and accent scream American, I was always asked if voted in this election. Especially in Munich, so many people asked if I was voting. Even in Italy, I was constantly bombarded with "Who I was voting for?" or "Have you sent in your ballot?" I even heard of a petition floating around the European Union demanding that they should have the right to vote in the American election. Election time was crazy over. The Europeans just wanted to vote.
At first, I couldn't understand why Europeans cared so much about our Presidential election. They are all the way across the Atlantic; they have their own concerns to worry about. I didn't understand... until the American dollar crashed. Being a poor college student, I check the exchange rate everyday. When I first got to Italy, 1 American dollar was worth 1.55 euros. When the value of the dollar crashed, the value of all the currencies in the world crashed too. Since then, 1 american dollar is now worth 1.25 euros. For the Americans, that's kinda a good thing because our money is worth more over here. But then, I began to realize why Europeans were so invested in our election. The value of their euro dropped because the value of the American dollar dropped!
After this revelation, I understood the importance of voting. Americans don't just vote for themselves, but they are really voting for people across the world. Europeans want to vote because they are affected too by our policies and economy. People all over the world are affected by our economy. Living in Crawfordsville everyday, one may not realize the global influence of America. But I'm glad I was able to leave Crawfordsville so I could gain a new perspective on what it means to be American.
Now, I'm just ready to get back.