Germany Thus Far: Eight Months

May marks my eighth month here in Germany. In Virginia, I would be enjoying lovely weather and good times in downtown Staunton. Back in Missouri, I would be enjoying the relaxing roll of thunder every few days. Alas, Germany doesn’t seem to have many thunderstorms, or maybe they just come later. Aside from wishing for storms, it turned out to be a pretty good month.

Studies

Lectures in May were interrupted by a plethora of public holidays. In fact, there have been four holidays this past month! Since I know little about Catholicism, I cannot tell you the meanings of all these days. Still, I was happy to enjoy some longer weekends.

Bodensee May Sailboats
The lake, as enjoyed on one of several May holidays.

This month I also only had one presentation for my block seminar. I’ve decided that block seminars are not so useful. I don’t feel like I learn very much compared to a good lecture. On the other hand, a block seminar is still better than a lecture with a professor who doesn’t really teach you anything. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

To top the month at the uni off, I had an Econometrics midterm. In the interest of not jinxing the results, I have decided to refrain from speculating on how it went. I will have to wait for the results to really know I guess. I just don’t understand how these professors make decisions about how to grade your answers…

German

I feel like my German class this semester is not moving at the same pace as last semester. I think I’m getting better, but speaking fluidly is still really difficult. Vocabulary is my biggest challenge right now. If I hear a word I’ve learned, I am much more likely to know it than if I have to think of it myself to use in a sentence.

Travel

It was a YUUUGE month in travel for me. Sorry, I couldn’t resist using a Bernie “YUUUGE.” Anyway, it was huge because I finally got to go to Prague, Czech Republic. This city was actually the first city in Europe that I ever developed an interest in. When I was younger, I shared an opinion common with some of the locals in Missouri. I thought travel was just something you did for vacation, international travel was only for the rich people, and these faraway places were too different for me to be able to get along.

To make it even worse, I just did not want to go abroad, especially after hearing about how Europe is full of snooty French people, Nazis, and Brits that sit around drinking tea all day and plotting colonialism. That being said, Europe was the place I had the best perception of… You don’t want to know what ideas I was taught in school about Asia, Africa, or Latin America. Sorry Australia, but everyone seems to forget you. Thankfully, the European stereotypes have been (mostly) false.

Anyway, I became interested in Prague when I was 16. Now, at the age of 23, I finally made it there. Before you say, “That’s not such a long time to wait,” consider that 7 years is 30% of my life. Posts (because a single post is not enough space to talk about this amazing city) to follow.

Prague Clocktower

Also while in Prague, I got to meet up with some MBC students who were there for May Term. Then, the following weekend I watched them graduate via live stream, as the final graduating class of Mary Baldwin College. Next year, it will be Mary Baldwin University. It’s weird to think about the name change, but I guess it will be quite a while before I make it back to Staunton and have to confront the new name firsthand.

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: Seven Months

It’s lucky number seven. Let me tell you, I did not feel so lucky with all the work I’ve done in this past month. At least the sun is shining, and summer is on its way! So, April…

Studies

Studies have been my seventh month basically. Classes started on April 11. Classes this semester include Econometrics (because my undergrad courses did not cover as much as what undergrad Germans learn), Political Economy (economics department), International Organizations and Political Economy (politics department), and a seminar on Behavioral Economics. On top of my classes for my degree, I’m also taking two language courses: German and Spanish.

I’m so happy to be in a Spanish class again. Spanish is, after all, what led me down the initial path of travel and study abroad. I do not need this class, which seems like overkill in an already busy semester. However, language classes are the part of my studies that keep me sane. I will  continue to stick with ’em.

What is the outlook this semester? Busy already. I already gave three presentations and have a midterm coming up at the end of May. I have four papers to write over the course of the semester and two remaining presentations to give in my block seminar. I just hope that this semester goes better than the last.

DSCN2310

German

My German is getting better. I find myself understanding more when I watch movies or TV shows in German. I might not get all the jokes, but at least I generally know what is going on. I’ve also had a few conversations in German (outside of my class) that went surprisingly well.

Travel

This is the thing I did very little of this month. I have not even taken the time to explore nearby. However, since one of my friends from Mary Baldwin College is in Prague doing a May Term abroad, I will go to visit her next weekend! Prague has been at the top of my list since I was 16 years old. I think it’s about time I visit.

So that’s been my month. Posts on Prague to come.

Cheers!

What I Learned from Mexico

I’ve shared a bit about my time in Mexico, and this is the final post. If you want to read the other posts about my Oaxaca trip, then here they are:

If you read all of those, then you’ve basically got my experience in Mexico in a nutshell. To wrap it all up, I want to share the top three things I learned while I studied in Mexico.

No. 1: Language

Really, I did learn a lot about Spanish and speaking a foreign language. It wasn’t just the verbs and all that, but it was also how to try. I had always gone through language classes thinking that conjugation and spelling were the most important parts.

In reality, the most important thing is listening (which is harder than you might think!) and trying your best to respond. I didn’t always use proper grammar and sometimes I didn’t know the vocabulary, but I was always able to communicate the general idea of what I was trying to say.

No. 2: Travel sometimes sucks, so laugh

I cannot even begin to explain how many times we were caught out in thunderstorms, nor can I explain how uncomfortable it was to be sick and try to have a good attitude about it.

Even though I was not happy at all to be sick or soaking wet in a storm, it happens. Travel is not always glamorous. Sometimes it just sucks. Laughing at the fact that you had five shots in your rear end makes it suck less.

No. 3: Experience over material stuff

In the past, I have been notorious for packing everything under the sun in order to cover every single, “What if?” Now, I have learned that the more stuff you have, the more you have to carry around and deal with. To be honest, I could have taken a lot less clothes and such. I didn’t really need two whole suitcases for just three weeks.

I should have been more creative with less so that I could enjoy myself more. But it’s not just packing, it’s also purchases. Did I really need to buy something everywhere I went? No, and I didn’t. It was enough for me to enjoy the day, take a few pictures, and buy a few gifts for family here and there.

Ultimately, I learned a lot about living in another country, no matter how brief my stay was. In reality, three weeks is not enough to get to know a place completely foreign to you. I feel like I just scratched the surface.

I was so thankful for this time abroad, especially for the generous scholarship I received. I hope many more people (especially students!) enjoy this lovely country and the city of Oaxaca in the future.

Cheers!

My Last Week in Mexico

This post is a part of looking back at my time in Oaxaca.

My last week in Mexico was pretty crazy. Monday started out all right. We had a great night exploring the city. I was a bit tired, but that was it. However, by Tuesday I was not doing well at all. I ended up going to a doctor and being sent home to bed. Which I didn’t really want to do. After that, it all blurred together.

I managed to get some kind of bacterial infection. Maybe from something I ate, drank or even from our Sunday swim. I will never know for sure, but what I do know is that I could not eat for a week. I ended up spending days laying in bed, sleeping and watching Netflix movies when I couldn’t sleep.

I went to the doctor, the emergency room in Oaxaca twice, and the emergency room in Mexico City. Not because I was dying, but because of my treatment. They gave me pills at first, but they were no use because I couldn’t keep anything down. So then they took me to the hospital and gave me two shots in my rear end: one to keep food and water in my body, and another to fight whatever the illness was.

When the first shot that was meant to make it possible for me to retain my water and meager food intake did not work, they send me back to the emergency room for more shots. Then they told me to get another the next day (when we would be laid over in Mexico City) just to make sure I got better. Then they had me on a pill regimen of other stuff to make sure I was better, and a powder to mix with water and drink that helped boost my immune system.

So let me tell you about that pharmacy. When the doctor wrote prescriptions, I went and got them filled. But these prescriptions were not just pills, they also included the shots. The way they do it there, I had to purchase my own injection fluid and my own syringes, which for a small fee I could pay the hospital to administer with the accompaniment of my written directions from the ER doctor.

To sum up this story, I survived the health care system in Mexico. It wasn’t super expensive, and they got me better by the end of the week. Not that I wasn’t exhausted, because I totally was. At least I was well enough to get out and stroll around for our Mexico City bonus phase!

La Cuidad de México was our one-day stop before we came back to the States. Although I didn’t get to say goodbye to Oaxaca in the way that I wanted, I was able to go to a market one last time (though that walk home was pure hell on my tired body), and eat my first full meal since becoming sick, which was also my last non-breakfast meal in Oaxaca. I believe my host mom was really happy about this, as she made me a really nice and mild soup.

The flight to Mexico City was uneventful, so I’ll skip over the boring matters of settling into a hotel room and what not.

One of the first places we visited was the Monumento a Los Niños Héroes, or Heroic Cadets or Boy Soldiers Monument. The monument is dedicated to six teenage military cadets who died for Mexico’s honor in the Mexican-American war. If you’re interested in history, it’s worth looking the six boys up.

Monumento

After spending some time at the monument, we went up to Chapultepec Castle. There’s more history here, but I’ll keep it short and say this castle has passed through many hands. It was first an important site for the Aztec people (a cave here was believed to be one of two entrances to the underworld; the other is at Mitla).

In the 1800’s Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota lived here with their children. Now, as the National History Museum, you can see what parts of the castle looked like during their lifetime, along with other fascinating exhibits.

Chapultepec Castle

We also went to the Museo Nacional de Antropología, or National Anthropology Museum. I hung out with my professor and we took a slow stroll through some exhibits. It was also super exciting, because I finally got to see a Mayan calendar. Life-long dream fulfilled.

Mayan calendar
Mayan calendar

To conclude our short stay in Mexico City, we spent the evening at El Palacio de Bellas Artes, or the Palace of Fine Arts. We saw  a range of dances, from modern to contemporary, from indigenous dances to dances of modern states. I had a lovely evening here and was glad that it was the way that I spent my last in Mexico.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

I have to say, overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of the city, especially since I found it hard to get away from the smell of pollution and the loud, busy streets (my hometown is less than 300 people after all!). However, I think that when it comes to Mexico, Oaxaca stole my heart.

Cheers!

Hierve el Agua

This post is a part of looking back at my trip to Oaxaca.

My last excursion in Mexico was at the end of two very full weeks. We put on our swim suits and packed into a van that took us to Hierve el Agua. I read about the natural destination before we got there. It is basically a spring on the side of the mountain. The minerals in the water coming out of the spring have taken years to create petrified waterfalls on the mountains. This information is interesting to know, but doesn’t prepare you for the view.

I remember listening to “Bleed American” by Jimmy Eat World as we headed out. I was quite sleepy by time we arrived, but still awake thanks to both my musical distraction and actively trying not to give in to motion sickness.

We hopped out of the van, our guide gave us some information about the site, and we were off. The view from the side of the mountain was stunning. There are actually two petrified waterfalls on the side of the mountain: the one on which we stood and another nearby that can be seen in my photos.

Hierve el Agua

The water bubbled up and over the smooth stone, creating small pools, and bigger ones, that seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie. The two biggest pools were even large enough to swim in, which I did after taking quite a few photos.

Standing at HeA

People who know me might know that (even though I live on the lake) I’m not a huge fan of water and swimming. I like to look, but getting in is something else all together. But this time, I did get in the water. It was freezing, but perfect for the Mexican heat.

I can honestly say that being in the water and looking to the end of the pool and seeing only mountains and sky beyond the natural edge of the water is one of the most amazing views in the world.

HeA View

Hierve el Agua is an impressive natural wonder, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a nice relaxing swim in the mountains of Mexico.

Cheers!