Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ende

So what can I say? Has this been an awesome experience that I'm finding very hard to explain to someone else the entirety of it? Absofriggenloutely!!! I can't even think of where to begin when someone asks me "How was it?" or "What did you do there?". I'm especially finding it hard to answer "What was your favorite part?". Can I say that this was a trip of a lifetime. Yes!! Hands down I can not even hesitate to answer that question. I have made a lot of new friends from other countries who I plan on visiting and seeing again. This has been such a worthwhile time that I can't even believe I did it all in one month. That is probably the most impressive part! The amount of time I did all of those things and the amount of knowledge I recieved about different cultures all within the timeframe of 30 days.

Well, now I'm back safe and sound. If there is one thing I can say that I did not enjoy it was the trip home and that was for one reason. Hurricane Irene. I was originally set to come home on Saturday, August 27th but apparently JFK had to close down and cause Swiss air to cancell my original flight. This caused the whole group I was with from Stony Brook to split up and go our seperate ways without any sense of one last good bye. I was very disapointed I could not get one group photo with them all in it. But nevertheless what happened happened and I can't do anything about it. At least we all had a great time together and that's what counts the most.


If there is any advice I can give to the future groups that will participate in this program it is this: Don't be afraid to try out your German. Don't hesitate to make foreign friends. Enjoy every moment of every day there because it goes by quicker than you think. And take some time to yourself while you are there and live the European life for one whole day all by yourself (It is worth every second).


Can I say I would do this whole trip again next summer? Eh.... probably not. Only because I don't think it will be the same to me. The only way I would do it again is if I have all fo the same people doing it and we had a little more time to get things done that we couldn't do. Not that I wouldn't go there again. But the time I had there in Konstanz is so special that it will be very hard to repeat such a thing all over again with different people. It would feel weird to me to be honest. Instead I will sevour the moment and live it in my memories. But I will tell you all this: I do plan on going back there sometime in my life to stay there for a year or two but not to study or work but to relax and live free (As in when I retire) lol.


So that's it I guess. Back to the old grind at Stony Brook dealing with classes and assignments. I will miss this whole thing very much. I enjoyed every second of it. One thing that I can guarantee you is that this program got me very interested in learning and improving my German. It is a very beautiful language and I hope to take some more classes in it.


Other than that I wish everyone of you future candidates of the program the best of luck and that you have the best time like I did. Perhaps even better! Enjoy!! It is a trip of a lifetime!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Third Week







Well this was definitely a week filled with a lot of good things. Sunday was a calm day since it was the day after I got back from Seenachfest in Zurich. I also jumped off the bridge in Konstanz while I went swimming in the Rhein. Other than that it was more relaxing than anything else.

However, that day was much needed since the whole IBH group went to Liechtenstein for the entire day. It was really incredible! I got to take some photos of the Royal family of Liechtenstein and I got some photos taken with me and two of the princes of Liechtenstein. After that me and a couple of my buddies went up to the mountainous area of Vaduz. It was totally spectacualr. I honestly felt like I could live there for the rest of my life and feel so at peace with myself. It was worth every moment! Near the end of the day there we all we treated to a very nice showing of fireworks.

Tuesday was a calm day and I needed it to catch up on some much needed sleep. Wednesday I went to the Rhein again and swam with some friends. I jumped off the bridge again. This time from the middle of it which is the highest point.

Thursday I didn't really go out much. But I did meet up with some friends in our dormitory building for a little get together.

Friday through Sunday though was the biggest thing yet! Me and my friends went to Munich. I skipped class to do it but I don't care. It was probably the best time I've had here in Germany. It was such a beautiful city and even though we were there for three days there were so many things I didn't fully get to see. But nevertheless I saw enough to say that it defintely made an impression on me. We went to the BMW museum, the Hofräuhas, Dachau concentration camp, and the English Garden. It was also in Munich that I tried probably the best beer I've ever had in Germany so far. It tasted so good and I doubt I will ever find anything close to it here in Konstanz or anywhere in the U.S. Not that I am going to drink in the U.S. anyway after this trip. haha.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Week 2




A second week goes by and this one was packed with stuff. Monday through Wednesday were pretty casual days if at best. We all went to class and then came back and did our homework then we hung out for the rest of the day. We went to some cool parties and that was pretty much it. Thrusday however was so amazing. Almost all of the IBH group went to Vorallberg, Austria. We left early in the morning and were there almost all day. We went hiking up in the mountains and it was such a breathtaking site. The trails were just gorgeous and the view of the towns below and afar were extraordinary. I couldn't even describe this day perfectly to you it was so wonderful. After the hike we went to a nature museum which also had some science stuff in there as well and it was interesting. however we ran into a Rolls Roice museum on the way down from the trails and we couldn't go to it because of the nature museum. That kind of bummed a few of us out. But nevertheless we are still alive.






On Friday me and a couple of my buddies went swimming in the Rhein. It was so cool. The water was so refreshing and clean it was really unlike anything we ever swam in. But there was a little negative thing, the water was very cold. Now I don't have a problem with temperatures a lot of the time but for me to say it was cold then that water was pretty darn cold. But nevertheless it was a really cool experience. Saturday was truly an incredible day. Me and my friends went to Zurich to attend the 20th anniversary of the Straßeparade, which is a big annual techno-music parade in Zurich. Also, being that it was the 20th anniversary, there were so many people there it was practically insane. The music was blasting, the people were dressed in whatever they wanted, and the whole time we were there we were having a blast. We would have stayed there until the late hours but we wanted to get back home. Luckily we managed to get back in time for the Seenachtfest in Konstanz which was another crowded festival with a really splendid show of fireworks. All I can say is that our feet were killing us by the end of the day. If there is anything I will remember about this trip it is this day!!




video

Sunday, August 7, 2011





Well our first week went by already and it is Sunday. I have to say that I and almost everyone here are really having an amazing time. We definitely have discovered that even if we find some things here there are a lot of other things waiting to be found later. This place really has a lot of things in it for a small town!!










So Tuesday we all hung out, had lunch together and then went pub crawling at night. I didn't really drink at all even though I was 21 and was able to by American standards but it was very much worth it because we met a lot of new people who were also apart of the program with us at the university. It was a lot of fun! Wednesday we took it a little easier since we had to meet at the university for a German placement exam. I have to say that, when I found out that I was placed in the highest begginer class, I was shocked because I didn't think I had that good enough German. But apparently I did so that's cool! I also met some people who spoke Spanish. So that really made my day because I wanted to make sure I had some means of practicing my Spanish while here in Germany. I brought my Spanish dicitionary and a book to write some things in as well.










Thursday we started classes. It was very interesting. The way they teach us a language in Germany/ Europe is way different than how they teach me at home. Here they really get you involved in trying to speak along with constant repetition and practicing the vowels. They also really try and get you to think about what to say. They understand English but don't allow you to speak it because they want you to be exposed more to German. So they speak only German in the class but in such a way that you can understand them. It is wild!!! I am definitely taking some pointers on how they teach here for when I start teaching Spanish in the States. We also had a guided historical tour through Konstanz and explored some of the different alley ways I hadn't really known existed. Again I also met some more new people who I think are going to be lasting friends. It was a fun experience as well. This town has a rich history.










Friday we went to Meersburg. The busses unfortunately were on strike that day so we had to walk to class and to the docks to take the ferry to the other side of the lake. We definitely got a lot of walking in. It was an exciting tour. We explored the Castle of Meersburg and afterwards we were allowed to go out and get something to eat and this is where I had my first Bratwurst. It was very very delicious!!! I'm not a big meat eater. Well to be specific I don't like eating Pig meat or cow but this was so good I couldn't stop eating it. I even got another one later on the next day. Haha.










Saturday was very very fun. We didn't have class that day so we had a lot of free time. So me and 3 other friends went to the bike shop in town and rented bikes for the day. We took a bike trail pretty deep into Swizzerland. Ugh!!! Such a view!! It was very breathtaking and the scenery was very relaxing. We were a little tired from the biking because there were a good amount of hills on the trail. But we managed. Later at night we went out to a club and that was a sight to see. There was a really awesome German hip hop group that was playing upstairs and I really liked how they sang. Another interesting thing I noticed was that there wasn't really an age difference at the club. There were people in their 40'to late 50's there dancing with the youth as well. Another thing I noticed was that Germans don't really dance the way we do in clubs in the U.S. They dance a little spaced out instead of the very touchy grinding dance we do in clubs. Nevertheless it was kind of cool seeing it. Even though it reminded me of how people danced in the 70's haha. We definitely got home late that night. The taxis were very cheap too. Just something for all of you to keep in mind. Even though they are Mercedes-Benz taxis they are very cheap and really get you to places quikly.










So far this has proven to be quite an experience. I can't wait to see what the next week will bring on this very exciting trip.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Day











Well this was an interesting experience. The flight in was just a tad bit uncomfortable but we all managed. We hopped on the train to Konstanz by ourselves which kind of wasn't planned. Ooops. But even then we still managed. Once we arrived it was a breathtaking scene. Such a beautiful town! It has the feel of relaxation but also something magical about it. Like you feel like this is all there is and yet that there is still more to see down every new alley way and corner.














My German is a lot better than I thought it would be. I remember hearing that if some Germans find out that you are American they will immediately speak English to you so they can practice. But I haven't even experienced such a thing at all. In fact I was able to ask for things and order things in German with a German reply! Go figure. I guess I didn't know I sounded good enough to them to make them think I was German. Nevertheless it made me feel good knowing that I can ask something in a different language and have them understand me.














Another great thing I am noticing about this experience is that I am really starting to form freindships very quickly with some of the people who I came here with and some who I just met today who are in the program with me, and I'm not talking about friendly friendships like you have in those regular university classes. No way! This is more like firendships that can last a lifetime. Either way it is my first day and already I am very comfortable here. I also took a lot of photos on my first day and they will increase as time moves on. Overall this looks like a very good start to something great.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Preface

So what can I say? This is going to be the first time I will be studying abroad, going to another country on my own, and staying there for more than two weeks. Would I say I'm excited? Um abso-friggen-loutely!!! But that huge amount of excitement comes with it some worries. Am I going to be able to adjust to this little change in my life? Am I going to like it? Will it be more awesome of an experience than I expected? Will it be something worse? Will I have a hard time fitting in to this culture? A lot of thoughts go through my mind now that I have almost a week and a half to go until I step on that plane. But one thing is for sure. I am going to do everything I can to make sure I have the best time possible, yet also create a zero consequence/ zero regret moment in my life. I'm not saying I'm going to go all out and have fun every day and night 24/7.

So that's it. I have my list prepped for all of the stuff I need to bring with me and in a couple of days I'm going to start filling that luggage. For me this is not just some moment in my life that I'm committing my time and energy in for sheer amusement. I'm going to Study abroad in Konstanz, Germany for a good amount of reasons. One reason is that I've always wanted to learn Die Deutsche Sprache (The German Language). I've taken some courses earlier to prepare me and I've looked up on some customs so I don't stick out easily and I don't offend anyone while I'm there starting out. Another reason is that this study abroad session is going to be a way for me to see if I can handle studying abroad for longer periods. I'm originally a Spanish Education major at Stony Brook University. I'm going to be a senior soon and I do plan on studying abroad in Spain but I don't want to go and waste my money on something when I don't even know if I would like it. Call it weird or confusing. But this is my logic for making a safe decision for my future. Another reason is that I want to travel. I have already have been to Spain and Italy so Germany is going to be my next stop.

One thing that has me worried the most is the thought of having time to myself. I know I will be studying abroad and I won't have such seriously strict rules on me like I would if I went with a High school group. But will I be able to relax and absorb the culture for myself or will it be handed to me on a pre-conditioned plate? I don't want to be stuck in my dorm or going to places with a leash tied on me. I want to know I will have time to myself to enjoy the place and be able to absorb as much as possible that I want to absorb. Hopefully it will all workout. Either way this is something a lot of people probably think about before they go somewhere to study abroad right? Only time will tell. Until then,

Auf wiedersehen

Monday, August 30, 2010

Home


So, after 4 weeks I am home! But before I begin, just as I promised, Österreich photo's!






So, after 4 weeks I am home! But before I begin, just as I promised, Österreich photo's! There really isn't much I can say about them other than that the scenery was beautiful. The photo's don't even give Austria justice.

My last week in Konstanz was a busy one! Between last minute souvenir (and luggage!) shopping, along with trying to go and see everything we didn't do the past three weeks, I had not a moment to spare!

Wednesday we went to Insel Mainau which is about a 25 minute bus ride from my dorm. It was a botanical/flower garden that was absolutely beautiful! The flowers were so perfect and there were some that were just so different and outrageous you'd never think they were flowers.



These were just two of the coolest looking flowers, there really is no way for me to describe them you'd HAVE to go and see them for yourself. We went on a super nice day to Insel Mainau, it wasn't too hot and it wasn't rainy. Sunny and perfect weather! Could not have been luckier!

Dhalia in bloom





These are just some of the things to see at Insel Mainau. There really isn't much to say about it because its just expansive gardens with amazing views onto the Bodensee. I kept saying in my head "I feel like I'm in a Monet, this is so unreal." If you like flowers and scenery this is an amazing place to go to.

Thursday, I went to a Chocolate Factory in Switzerland with some friends. It was only about a 15 minute train ride and the train ticket was super cheap (1,68EUR). Once you got off the train you could SMELL the chocolate! And it smelt d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! The only downside was that there was no tour or viewing of the chocolate making process. You walked into the factory lobby, and went up some stairs into a gift shop where you could buy chocolate that was made in the factory. So if you're looking to actually tour the factory you won't be able to, you can just buy chocolate! They have all of their prices in Swiss Francs, but they do accept Euro's as well! Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from the chocolate factory because there wasn't anything to photograph!

Friday I was running around like a madman trying to get everything I needed before I came home in order. This included: cleaning my dorm, finishing packing, buying last minute souvenirs, making sure my luggage wasn't too heavy, eating my left over food, saying some final good-byes and going out to eat with everyone for a final good-bye typische Deutsch dinner. Friday was extremely busy and hectic and it made me wish I didn't save souvenir shopping for some people until the last moment. I took Thursday off from class so I could catch up on sleep and pack my things as much as I could, but I still felt like I needed another few days to make sure everything was REALLY in order.

Saturday was departure day and our flight left at 13:00 (1:00 PM) We took a 8:03 train from Konstanz directly into Zürich Airport and it took about an hour. The people I was traveling back to NY with and I were smart and bought our train ticket Friday afternoon after class this way we wouldn't have to worry about it Saturday morning which was a HUGE help. We got home just fine, and Zürich Airport is so easy to maneuver through; unlike JFK where everything is a maze!

But anyway, I am so happy I went to Germany! Before I left I was really having some angst about being gone for a month and not knowing anyone, but it was by far the best decision I have ever made. I had so much fun and met so many amazing people on my trip that I hope I will keep in contact with and just maybe, go and visit this winter in Europe! 4 weeks felt nothing like 4 weeks and it flew by in the blink of an eye. Coming home it felt like I never left NY, and being in Konstanz it felt like I never lived anywhere else.

Before I end my blog, there are some things I'd like to share with you; and these are things I wish I had known going into this study abroad program.

What I wish I knew
1. The dorms for Konstanz (and as I was told most other European universities) are off campus, so you need to take the city bus to get there (it's super easy to do and nothing to be scared of at all)

2. Deutsche Bank & Bank of America are sister banks, which means if you have a Bank of America account and you withdraw money from a Deutsche Bank ATM (Geldautomat in Germany) it's completely free. If you can't get a Bank of America account, this University has an International ATM and it has very low fees for using it.

3. Don't bring a lot of USD with you, it's much cheaper to take money out of the ATM than it is to exchange USD to EUR. For me it was 1,50EUR to take money out of the ATM and 5,50EUR to change my USD to EUR.

4. When you're eating out at restaurants you walk in and seat yourself. You also have to ASK for the bill, they won't see that you're done eating and bring it. Water in Germany also is not free, if you just ask for a glass of water they will bring you mineral/carbonated water and you do get charged for it. If you want tap water (which is free) you need to ask for that specifically...Leitung Wasser is what you ask for

5. Some restaurants have an English menu! Perfect if your German food vocabulary isn't 100%

6. When the last day of dorm-check out was...had I know I could stay until August 31st instead of the 28th I probably would have just so I could leave my stuff there and take the time to go to München or another city

7. In Liechtenstein I could have gotten my passport stamped!

8. Summer weather in Germany is not JUST LIKE summer weather in NY which is what I was told. Konstanz had about 3 weeks of hot, NY-like weather, which ended as soon as we got there. The rest of the time it was cool, between 60-75 most days, with the occasional 80-85 degree day. There was also a decent amount of rain which you should definitely pack for and you should definitely bring some sweatshirts and warm shoes. But at the same time, you need to bring a bathing suit and some shorts for when it is warm and when you want to go swimming in the Rhein as well as some clothes for going out in when you want to go to some of the clubs in Konstanz (whatever you do, don't go to Cantina! I went there twice and both times the music was so bad, go to Blechnerei instead! Much better music).

Basically, it rains alot, so bring a rain coat and umbrella; it's cooler than what you'd expect, so don't just pack sandals and shorts; there are some gorgeous days perfect for swimming so bring your bathing suit (and who doesn't want to say they went swimming in the Rhein?)

9. Surge protectors don't work with power converters, neither do blow dryers. But straighteners do!

10. Go on every single University sponsored trip! Even if climbing a mountain in Austria isn't your "thing" GO! You're paying for it in your program fee, you might as well take advantage of it and see something new! Also, save enough money before the trip so you can go to München for the weekend and see the cities around you! It'd be a waste not to!