Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Now That I'm Home... It's TIME to Get Caught Up!

Well.. the last post I had was about May.. so I know there is a bit of work for me to do! Yikes! I am now realizing that it is really important for me to follow through and reflect on everything that happened because- to be honest- the return home hasn't been the easiest for me. I've been extremely emotional and have been feeling really out of place in my own skin, but more about that later!

Now for 3 of the items to Update...

First up: Blast From the Past
Being an exchange student in 2006 to 2007 forever changed my life. I knew it then, but it keeps having its effect still, 7 years later! One of the latest doors to open up for me was to be a Teamer with YFU during their Berlin Seminar for the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange students, the program I was with while in high school. I was able to help the students talk through their feelings, reflect on their experiences, and look forward to what's coming up in their futures. The "kids" were great- between the ages of 16 and 19, and they had learned so many different things during their stay in Germany. So many of them reminded me of many of the members from my own group, which only made me want to get back in touch with them! (Thanks to Facebook and other social media, I have been able to find some of the people, with whom I've lost touch!)

BUT- beyond the reminders of my own exchange year, I was able to network a bit and even attended a party with the students at the Embassy. This opened up the opportunity to see President Obama's speech in Berlin in June- an experience that is beyond words!

Being there with the students really helped me to stay grounded and focused. I realized how much work I've put into everything that I've accomplished this far and how important it is to never settle and to keep reaching for my dreams. It was a great opportunity to inspire the next "generation" of students to go out there and make the changes they want to see- no matter how big or small they seem to be!

2nd: Adventures in Hamburg with Dan
This Hamburg trip was full of mini adventures! I was able to see The Lion King- a show that has been playing Broadway style in Hamburg for over a decade, which I had seen in 2006. I went with a friend of mine from the program, Molly. The two of us could not have been more excited, we were literally sitting on the edge of our seats. It was such a great show: the costumes are amazing, the acting is top notch, the music is beautiful, and the overall mood is just incredible.

We spent our Saturday exploring bits of Hamburg, a place Molly had never been. I took two spills, the 2nd really cutting my foot open, which only led us on another adventure of finding a pharmacy to get bandages and cream to help my aching toe. (It could have been much worse!) Sunday was spent very relaxed, we took Molly back to the train station and met up with some friends of mine for a vegan breakfast that is put on by a group of people once a month. It's a very relaxed and open community- you pay through donation and are allowed to eat as little or much as you'd like. Everyone was very friendly and we ate some really yummy vegan food! Dan and I ended our day watching a movie and relaxing because on Monday was his 2nd to last play. It was a great show that he directed called The Shape of Things. I got to see the backstage and meet the actors, which was super fun too.

3rd: The President of the United States of America and The HOTTEST Day of the Year.
Check out this video at 24.07 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeA0BA_7Qlg
Need I say more!? It was an extremely hot day and such an amazing opportunity! I was able to see some of the students that I was able to meet a couple of weeks before that at their Berlin seminar. The weather was not in our favor, but the experience was beyond this world!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Playing a German Student...Kind of.

In early May, around 60 Canadian students found themselves in Kassel to improve their German by taking courses geared toward their respective levels covering the content that normally takes a semester within 6 weeks. Part if their experience includes a tandem program, partnering a Canadian student with a German one. This would give them a chance to use their language skills "in the real world."

Boy, was my partner in for a surprise!

We had a great time though! Although we didn't speak much German, I was able to teach her plenty about the German culture. We also learned a lot about each other's cultures. It was a crazy-fun mix of German-American-Canadian exchanges going on.

I must admit, it was fun being a host student to someone in the city that's hosting me!

The Deadly Gentlemen

All around campus I was seeing posters for a band called The Deadly Gentlemen and their modern folk music. I knew I just had to go!

Well, it just happened to work out that my Canadian tandem partner was also a folk music fan, so I didn't have to go alone. Perfect!

Turns out, the band is from Boston and they are fantastic! (Check them out on YouTube, you won't be disappointed.) In between sets we went to talk to them, and they were super nice as well. We bought a CD, which they of course all signed for us.

We enjoyed the show and had such a great time. It's always fun to meet people with all different stories and different perspectives. The band had a small tour throughout Germany and they got to see a lot of smaller towns and villages. Just goes to show that it's not only big bands that get to have overseas tours. It was also great to see how humble and nice the guys were. Was great conversation!

Just another random, yet great, experience under my belt!

When to Panic...

Ok..check your pockets. Check your bag. Empty your bag piece by piece. Have your friend check your bag, maybe you missed it.

It's gone.

Was it on the street? Did you drop it? Did it fall out? HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?!

Well, before you panic, don't. It's not going to help anything.

What am I talking about? My wallet was stolen on May 27th in a mall. I had just used it in a store, walked to the next and when I looked in my bag for it, the pocket it was in was opened and the wallet was gone. I did the standard search, had my friend re-search it all for me and then went into action. I went back to the 1st store, checked all around the path I had just walked, checked at the mall's information desk, at both stores once again. I went to the police station, where they told me I had to wait 3 days to report it, to give someone a chance to return it. I even went as far as to check all the garbage bins within a 2 block radius.

Still nothing.

So, again, not panicking, I went home and called my money card companies and froze my accounts. That was all that I could do for that day. I made a list of the things that were in there and went to the city's Lost and Found office to find out what I needed to do. They sent me to the Alien's Department (the literal translation to the Foreign/Immigration Office) to get a document stating I have a valid visa, as that was probably the most important thing in my wallet.

Which this is a good time to say: NEVER KEEP YOUR PASSPORT AND WALLET IN THE SAME PLACE. My saving grace was that my passport wasn't gone. Had that been the case, I would have had a huge and expensive problem on my hands.

If you are traveling around your city or not too far from home, especially in Europe, just take a copy of your passport with you. I have never been asked to identify myself with my passport unless I'm changing countries,  so again,  if you are close to home, just take a copy.

Speaking of copies, make copies of everything you carry in your wallet. I had copies of most things, which made it so much easier to replace everything because I didn't have to search for account numbers and information.

All in all, I took care of everything that I could and unfortunately,  the wallet never came back. The officials told me 80% of wallets taken in Kassel come back in the mail, the person will take the money and dump the wallet in a mailbox, which keeps it anonymous but they still get the money. I had hoped this would be the case for my situation,  but it doesn't seem to be so.

Over a month later, I'm still not panicked about it. I think it's because I was organized and was thorough with everthing after I realized it was gone. You just have to do what you can to keep yourself safe and protected AND if something does happen, it's important to stay cool, calm, and collected.

Friday, July 12, 2013

So Many Updates!

I know there are so many things I need to update on, but here's a little preview!

-German/American/Canadian relations
-A band from Boston finds itself in Kassel
-Seminar in Stuttgart
-When to panic and when not to...What happens when something is lost or stolen
-Playing grown-up in Berlin: A Blast from the Past
-Hamburg Adventures with Dan
-President Obama
-Würzburg Seminar: A Story of Friendship
-A Weekend at Home
-Things in 3
-Saying Goodbyes

As you can see...there are plenty of things that have been going on since May! I'm working in this on my tablet, so it's slow goings, but I'll get there!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Weekend in Stuttgart!!

Stuttgart, Germany

The weekend I got to spend in Stuttgart with the other scholarship students was such a great experience!

We all came in on Friday and we got to meet with a Vice Admiral of the US Navy, who is the Deputy Commander of the US European Command. He came to talk to us about the importance of leadership. It was a great opportunity to meet with someone and hear them speak about leadership, I think it's often something that we forget about when we're going through our college careers. It's an important thing to remember that it's not always a natural thing, that it's something that can be worked on.

Some of his tips:
-Accomplish the mission. Everything else of value is in support of mission accomplishment.
-Focus on executing the fundamentals of  of your job, everyday. Work two sets of priorities- yours and your boss'.
-Develop your network- professional and social. Work for the best people you can find. They will get to the top and pull you along-  then YOU pull someone good along too.
-Always be adding to your goodwill reservoir.
-Practice patience in dealing with others.

But the 2 that I think are great to remember:
*It's never as good as it seems, nor as bad- so don't go to emotional extremes.
*To be successful it takes two qualities: common sense and good judgement. Use both and you'll go far.

It was such a good talk to hear!

After we got a chance to get to the Frühlingsfest- a BIG fair/carnival going on in Stuttgart. There were a bunch of people walking around in the "traditional German" costumes and there was plenty to see! We got to ride some of the rides and take in the fun. 

On Saturday, I started the day with a jog (BELIEVE IT!) with a couple of the others then we did a tour of a museum and had some free time! Ah- free time at a seminar!! We took advantage of the time and walked around the city center a bit. Stuttgart is such a beautiful place! Of course, we found a Starbucks and enjoyed some treats in a sunny spot!
Saturday ended with an amazing dinner with the Stuttgart club. There we received our certificates of participation and enjoy a little recognition for our accomplishments! Amazing things! We got the chance to do a little of the networking building- always a good thing!

Sunday concluded the seminar and we made a great day of it! We had some breakfast then we went to the Mercedes Benz museum! We did a self-guided tour and got to see all the different things. So awesome! I'm not such a big car fan, but I really enjoyed the museum. The lighting in in the building is amazing and I was able to take a TON of pictures, imagine that! ;)

It was a great train ride home after a long weekend!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

One of the Most RANDOM Nights in Kassel So Far..

Well, Friday night proved to be one of the most random nights that I've had since living in Kassel. Random in a good way, mind you!

Friday started off normal enough- I went to a Tutoritum (rather than having a 2nd lecture during the week, the professors offer a section with a TA, where they go over the material from that week) and then had lunch with some new friends. After that I came back to my apartment and went into town to meet another friend for some Bubble Tea (oh how I will miss it when I go home!) and then did some shopping and ran some errands..

Then I met up with a (yet another) friend to go to a concert in a bank. Not the typical venue, I must admit, but I figured it should be interesting, right? The only thing I knew about one of the bands is that they're described as "Desert Blues Meets the Middle East."

Really interesting, actually! It was such a great atmosphere- I think it's not something that is normally popular among the majority, especially here in Germany, but I really liked the vibe! There was also a band from... Belgium? Maybe? We weren't sure where they were from, but it sounded like an odd mix of French and Dutch that they were speaking- hence our conclusion of Belgium. They had a more traditional sound, something that reminded of Paris...but decades ago. As in the 20s or 30s or something. It was great though! (I just checked the program, and it says France... but I still stand with my theory!)

Well.. thinking the concert would be a maximum of 2 hours, we were surprised to be leaving there at about 11.30pm! It was late, yet I noticed the shops were open! What?! Germans out shopping past 8pm?! It was something really strange, until we remembered and realized that it was the Midnight Shopping night, literally 1 night every couple of months that the shops are open til midnight in hopes of raking in some extra cash. Well- there were plenty of people out and about! Even some street entertainers and some ice cream stands! Amazing!

Just when we thought the fun was over for the night, there were FIREWORKS. In the middle of the city. At midnight. And- we were able to stand fairly close (maybe too close)!  They caught us completely off guard, but it was a great little show! One of my favorite things about Germans and fireworks is that they usually do them to music, and this time was no disappointment! I love how they coordinate the music and the fireworks! Such an awesome experience!

Who knew that May 3rd would end up being such a fun and random day?! Lots of memories, that's for sure!