It is a Bittersweet Symphony this life.

Well, this is probably the last time I will be writing about how fun my studying abroad experience was unless I will write about how it feel to be in USA (which I will not do). It has been a really great semester and right now I am in London which is my last stop before I head back to Holland Michigan.

When the semester started I was confused and nervous of how it will be to live in a country and a continent that was so strange to me. Things progressed as time passed and by the time I was very comfortable with the surrounding and the people around me it was time to leave. Knowing that it is time to leave is always a bittersweet feeling; on one hand I have learnt so much about Europe, the European Union (apparently more than any people who actually live here), met a lot of new people, and travelled so many new places, and on the other hand I am leaving a lot of good friends I have met in the past several months not knowing when we would meet again. In a way I knew that this was coming but the people who I shared the past few months with will always be special because let’s face it, I will not be travelling all over Europe with the same 52 people ever again (unless).

Image

Me telling you how good it was can go on forever so if you really think that I am right then you should try it for yourself. Just find a place you want to travel and learn the culture, get out of your comfort zone, and in the end you will discover places, people, and most importantly yourself too. I would recommend it to anyone who I will talk to as this has been the most amazing few months of my life. I will probably try and send my kids abroad too.

Image

One more thing that I realized was that there was a question on my first day of orientation in Freiburg which asked me one place I really wanted to go to. I had written Anfield which is the football stadium for my favorite football team since I was a kid. Since I have a Nepalese passport I knew that getting to UK and to Liverpool was going to be hard but yesterday I managed to get there and it was a very emotional time. Today I have just been contemplating how far I have come from the day I left Holland and ready to go back. It has been a great time writing about all that I have done and if you ever see me in the sidewalks of Hope college please come by and ask me how it actually was. I will make sure not to take a lot of your time because in the end it was all amazing.

Image

The End is not near, it is here.

So, it is almost the end. I have two days before I leave Freiburg and with that I will leave a totally new part of my life not knowing when I will get back to it. It sounds very sad but when I think of all that I have done in the past four months, I am super delighted to have been part of IES Europe program in Freiburg.

It is all byes and it was nice knowing you talks right now and thinking about the first time when I met all of the 52 other people in my program I did not think I would have been super close with all of them. Began from Freiburg and went around more than half of Europe; yes this is and will probably be one of my most memorable semester of all time. I have managed to take classes that have made me think critically and can certainly say that few of the classes I have taken here have been my favorite class in the past two years of college.

Travelling around Europe had always been something I really wanted to do and now that I have managed to do it I am very nostalgic. Like I said before, I realized that we meet people get separated and then meet again. Meeting again will always be special. I have had one of the best semesters of my life and I am actually glad that it still is going on. I will leave Freiburg in 2 days and will be in the United Kingdom for few weeks before coming back to Holland Michigan. I will keep you posted on how I will react when I am actually out of Freiburg. I am very overwhelmed to say the least but I guess being from Nepal coming to Holland, leaving Holland to come to Europe, and leaving Europe for more adventures in the future makes me feel hopeful that I will cross paths with people I have met along my life.

This is the picture people in my program. I cannot imagine being away from every one of them. 

Image

How far I have come.

What comes to anyone’s mind when they hear Germany? Beer, football, sausages, etc. As much as I would be one of the people who tries to see through stereotypes, this past weekend was probably the most German experience I have had so far. Obviously that is considering the stereotype experiences.

I and almost ten other students from my program went to Munich for Fruhlingsfest 2013 and it was probably one of the most exciting weekends of my study abroad program. People started going to the carnival around eleven in the morning and did not stop till eleven at night. It was more or less 12 hours of extreme happiness and fun. When my friends asked me how I liked it all I could say was “I felt very happy”. I know very cheesy and vague but I was certainly happy when I was celebrating spring the German way.

Image

Apart from the Fruhlingsfest, Munich also made me realize how close I am to the end of the semester and all that I have achieved in the past few months. My exams start in a week and when we visited the Dachau concentration camp all I could think of was how the semester actually began. From Berlin where we got introduced to the atrocities of Germany’s infamous history to a place that has been notorious for their presence in World War 2, I have managed to come a long way. I have read about history and its making in writing and have wrote about them in papers but there is no way I could have known so much more if I was not there at the spot. More than just seeing these places, it was more about experiencing and feeling which got me thinking how I might have changed in the past semester.

Image

It might still take time to see how I have developed in the past semester and I am sure to keep you updated on my hectic exam week and last few weeks in Europe. Anyone who managed to spare sometime from exams to read this, I wish you good luck on your finals.   

Grazzie and Gracias

I know it has been a while since I posted anything but I have a good reason for it. In the past ten days I was on a study trip to probably few of the biggest and finest cities in Europe; Rome, Madrid, and Barcelona.

Image

Even though it was a “study trip” we had a good amount of free time to explore the cities on our own. I am not going to narrate everything I did in the cities but all I can tell you is that it was an experience that I shall never forget. From the speakers we talked to, it was clear that Spain and Italy are probably the most comparable cities in the European Union. Being in Rome and seeing the lack of rule or lack of implementation of it reminded me of my hometown Kathmandu. Me saying lack of rule does not imply that it was almost anarchy in these places; there were some disorganization but it did not at all hinder the ongoing life of the city. Similar to that Spain was a bit unorganized to. However I was very surprised in both Madrid and Barcelona on how the economic crisis had affected the two cities. Yes they is no doubt that they are hit by the crisis but the motto for Spaniards in this case has been thought to be very composed. They view it as a part of their country developing and are assured that the crisis will pass. Their attitude towards the crisis was well seen in how they never stopped having a good time during the weekends and the football games.

This trip was probably one of the most exciting one for me for two reasons. I got to meet a high school friend after two years and meeting in Madrid of all places after last seeing each other in Kathmandu was a blast. Another reason that made my study trip memorable was going to the Barcelona vs PSG football game. Europeans take their game seriously and I got a firsthand experience of it. Fan riots and cheers were very impressive and when Lionel Messi entered the field 96,000 fans around me made it obvious that he was no doubt the best player in the world.

Image

It has been a good semester so far and I am looking forward to my last month in Europe. Right now I am with a Knickerbocker Fraternity alumnus in Dusseldorf. Little did I know that my connections from Holland Michigan would come into use when I am in Europe. Keep in touch for what is to come up next because I have a feeling that my semester still has a lot of adventures to offer.

Real Holland

It was that time of the year and my facebook newsfeed was overwhelmed with nothing but pictures from Spring Break. While rest of Hope College was on Spring Break, I had four papers and a mid-term to worry about soon after which I had my Spring Break. One of the best things about being in Europe during this type of break is that I got to travel to a totally different country.

It was ironic that I went to Holland for my Spring break. Not the one in Michigan but the one in Europe and exploring the country was a fun way to discover more about the “real Holland”. When you ask someone who has not been to Holland, they would usually perceive it as being very liberal in terms of a lot of things that are usually frowned upon. But there is more to Holland than that meets the eyes only in Amsterdam. Do not get me wrong, Amsterdam is a beautiful city but one you are around it enough you get the feeling that it is filled with way many tourists than you thought. My first encounter with the city was the somewhat similar to that; I thought it was lovely, bizarre, and memorable but at the same time I thought how I could not live there and how it was a tourist attraction.

I would have definitely seen Netherlands in the lights of Amsterdam if I had not explored other smaller cities. I managed to go to Leiden and Rotterdam which gave me a sense of both cultural and industrial sides of Holland. While Leiden was a small cozy city that I could see myself living in, Rotterdam was somewhat similar to any major city in the United States. From one of the oldest college in Europe to one of the largest harbor in the world, exploring Netherlands gave me a chance to get out of my comfort zone, speculate stereotypes, and make judgments after engagement. The country is so much different than how normal outsiders think of it.

I would love to post some pictures but I have not managed to download them yet. I just got back from one trip and I am already packing for another that starts tomorrow. It is a 9 day trip where my program is helping us see how EU influences its member states. I will make sure to keep everyone updated. 

Living in German Dorm

Everyone who lives in a US college dorm know that the best way to get to know people is leaving your dorm doors open. In Germany however, people like to close their doors. This does not mean that they are trying to avoid you though. Every time I have needed anything I just go and knock on any of my flat mates door; the funny thing is they tell you that Germans like to close the doors and make you feel comfortable about the sudden cultural change simply related to the opening and closing of doors.

I really don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing that they don’t have meal plans here. On one side I get to cook for myself and feel that I am ready to take on the world outside college but everyone has those lazy days when they just want to go and get a sandwich from the Kletz or Phelps and not have to worry about doing the dishes. Personally, I have enjoyed cooking here especially when all the dishes and cooking tools are already provided in your dorms. I admit it, sometimes I really feel lazy and want something fast and that is when Doner Kebabs come into play; probably one of the things that I will miss a lot when I get back to the States.

Today I had one of the best interactions with one of my flat mate. They were playing some songs while we were all cooking food and most of what I have heard was in German; almost made me think that they did not listen to English songs that are very prevalent in United States. Then there was a change in playlist and I was surprised to listen to what started playing; they had some Doors, some Pink Floyd, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and even few country songs which is hardly even heard outside few states back in US. It is indeed a globalized world.

The picture quality of where I live did not come out that great due to the lack of light in the hallway but students here conserve energy in any way possible. 

 

Image

And it starts with a snooze

11 Am- I wake up to the sound of alarm and react to it exactly like anyone else. I snooze it. That’s how my day starts. Everyone has their daily routines for their day and I have realized how they have differed from what I do back in Hope College.

11:30 Am- By the time I snooze and get ready to go to the bathroom I need to be make sure that I don’t interfere with any of my flat-mates’ daily schedule either. Germans are very punctual and I always feel bad if my slacking affects them.

11:59 Am- My tram always get by at 12:01 and if I want to make it to class after having lunch, I need to be at the stop by this time. This has drastically changed how I would sleep in for 10, 15, and 20 more minutes, put on cloths, get to class and have lunch “later on” in the Kletz. Being dependent on something else apart from my own body to get me to class in time makes has made me feel dependent on the public transportation. (Don’t take it the wrong way; I love the public transportation here.)

12:15 Pm- The Mensa. By this time I am at the student canteen ready to have some food. The Mensa reminds me a lot of Phelps. By that I mean, everyone complains about the food but in the end you know that it is healthy and efficient.

Till 1:30 PM I have some free time when I am able to do some leftover homework and just talk to the people in my program. Unlike Hope College where my classes and bedroom were less than 15 minutes apart, every time I got to class, I only intend on returning back home after my classes are done. Due to this, I haven’t had naps between classes in Germany yet.

6:00 Pm- The feeling of being done with classes for the day is the same in Germany and in the United States.

In America most people have dinner early due to which all the dining services are shut down super early. I have been used to eating late in Nepal and needing to cook has allowed me to have a flexible schedule not based on when I should eat. Even though the start of a weekday is very scheduled, it is up to me to make use of my time when I am not in classes. I have done a good job so far and always feel like I have a productive day. Today, it was a very lazy Sunday, and I felt that I accomplished something just because I did my laundry. 

Study but do not stress out

This has been a slow week compared to the previous ones. No matter where you are or what you are doing there is one thing that we all will have to focus on while studying abroad; that part is studying.

Studying abroad is not just about travelling and getting to know your host country but it is also about comparing the academic content as well as teaching styles from US and Europe. Since I have been here my course work sometimes overwhelms me. With a more than a month of field studies in my program, my whole semester course load is packed into around three months. It does seem like a daunting task but I got a very good advice from one of the alumni of the program: “Focus on school work but don’t let it stress you out”. For anyone who would think of studying abroad this is a good advice to keep in mind. I have noticed that most professors know that you are trying something new by simply being abroad. They have told us the work we need to do but in the meantime they subtly express that we also need to explore more and try to have fun with our courses. Exposing myself to their teaching style lets me see the difference from American college systems but also allows me to appreciate how courses are taught in the United States.

Like I said, no matter how much course load one has, there needs to be time for fun. The sun has finally started coming out in Freiburg and all of my class mates are pretty excited about it. We did not get the best weather when we were here. There was more snow here than Michigan had which means that we were bundled but in layers the whole time. Now that the weather is getting better I have realized that sunlight gives a totally different dimension to the places we have actually been to already. We climbed up an observation deck the first week of our semester and Freiburg looked foggy but now the whole city is visible to us. The change of weather has definitely given us more to do in Freiburg now.

Image

Exploring Freiburg.

Compared to the big cities I have travelled so far, Freiburg is not as populous or “touristy” but that doesn’t mean there is not much to do here. The past week has been pretty calm but I got to explore Freiburg and I was surprised by how much I could be occupied by the small city itself.

One of my favorite things to do right now during the weekends, if I don’t have much homework, is to go to the Black Forest nearby the town. The cake “Black Forest” was actually named after this part of Germany and I would not have guessed that when I munched on the desert few months ago. I have managed to sneak out of the town couple of times now to enjoy the hike trails the mountains and forests have to offer. So far all the parts I have been to have been snowed on which makes the hike always difficult. However, I got lost once in the area and a random stranger passing by told me that it should not be that difficult for someone who is from Nepal. Regardless of the mountain climbing stereotypes associated with Nepal, the hike was very challenging and being from Nepal did not prevent me from getting half my body stuck inside the snow.

Image

It has always been my favorite pass time even before I came to Germany but watching FOOTBALL (soccer) has been a completely different experience with a crowd who really care about the game. Every time there is an exciting football game going on, the bars are packed. I have hardly watched a game sitting down in a chair. The football fanatics make the atmosphere incredible and there is no doubt that watching football in Europe is a memorable moment. I managed to go watch the Freiburg team play in the German Bundesliga and the passion shown by the player along with the supporters is breathtaking. Football is one thing that all of my flat mates are passionate about and starting a conversation talking about a random game never goes wrong. 

Image

 

P.S.- Having stayed in America for a year and half, it has been hard to say football and not soccer while I have been in Germany. I wrote soccer frequently in my post above just to scratch it out after I realized what I had done. 

I never thought I would____ !!

I just sat down to write about what I have done in the past one week and realized how the past seven days have been filled with travels and “wow I never thought I would be here” moments. In the past week I have been to Luxembourg, Brussels, and Paris to see how the European Union actually works and honestly speaking, if I had not been to these places my course work would probably not make sense to me.

From talking to the US deputy ambassador in Luxembourg and going to the European Court of Justice to visiting the European Council as well as the Commission, the last week has increased my knowledge about the European Union academically and practically. Getting a firsthand account from people who actually work in these institutions gave me insights on the struggles, strengths, and weakness of the EU in a wider dimension.

Image

As much as I love talking about what European Union does, I have realized that I need to have some fun stuff written here as well as those are the reasons why I will remember my experience all over Europe.

Let me start with Brussels. I really don’t think I have had so much chocolate in my entire life. Not only is Belgium famous for their chocolate and waffles, they also had a chocolate museum where we actually got to see chocolate being made and got to sample as many as we wanted. YES, AS MANY AS WE WANTED. Being the place where Tintin (the comic book and the movie) was created I had emotional moments every time I saw monuments glorifying the comic book I have spent my whole life obsessing about. Never would I have thought when I was a kid, reading one of Tintin’s adventure, that I would actually go to the place where he was born.

Image

Like I said this week was filled with “I never thought”. Never did I think that I would see the Eifel Tower; no matter what anyone says the thing is beautiful especially during the night. Never did I think that I would see the Mona Lisa. Regardless of people considering it being overrated, there is no better feeling other than being in front of probably one of the most famous painting in the world. Not only that but being in the Louvre, surrounded by thousands of masterpiece from around the world, was simply overwhelming (maybe it was the size of the museum too).

Image

Right now I am back in Freiburg and when I look back at the last seven days, I am just thankful that I was able to go to the places I went. As much as I love travelling, I am pretty sure my wallet loves being back in Freiburg and am looking forward to not having a week long travel for another month; I guess it is time to explore the city in depth and get to know my flat mates. Study abroad is all about starting a new adventure when the previous one ends.