After the school year ended and the last month wound down I got a chance to reflect upon some experiences that I had while I was abroad on my program. I also got a chance to take a few more trips in this free time that I was granted.

I got a chance to take a trip to Berlin for a few days, followed by Krakow in Poland. This last from the 10th to the 18th of May.

In Berlin I got to see the Berlin Wall, followed by the Brandenburg Tor and much of the Tiergarten on the first night. I then made it out to checkpoint Charlie and their Cold War museum there the next morning, followed by the Berlin Dom and museum island, where I got to see three of the five museums. The next day was the Holocaust memorial and Jewish museum, both moving experiences.

DSCN1593  DSCN1621 DSCN1648

I was mostly interested in going to Poland in order to see the unique culture that the people there have, as well as some of the important places in Pope John Paul II’s life. I arrived on May 13th, staying until the 17th. I saw a bunch of unique places, ate pierogies, and met a few great friends.


The theater has been the main center for Polish culture for more than a century, as this is how Poles have been able to show their past when it was not allowed in their schools and universities by law.


The Jagiellonian university has been another important piece of Krakow since the 14th century. It survived the many different regimes that ruled Poland for numerous centuries.


The salt mine at Wieliczka is definitely worth the trip! There are many miles of mines that run underneath the area, and you can see some of best parts of them, including this chapel that some of the workers made.

I then made a trip with my parents to a number of other places in Europe during our last few weeks here. We got to see Paris, the Alsace region where some of our family is from, Baden-baden, Fusen and the Neuschwanstein castles, Salsburg in Austria, Nurnburg, the Marksburg castle, Cologne and its cathedral, as well as many other places.

As my time here closes I think its definitely good to reflect on how thankful I am to Texas A&M, my parents, and the many others who were able to help make this trip possible. All of the people who contributed have given me the best prolonged experience of my life. I know that tons of people never get the chance to have this kind of an experience but I strongly recommend that anyone who has the chance does so as soon as they can. You’ll love every moment of it.

Auf wiedersehen!

Stephen Harden

Categories: 2016, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

After talking about the struggles of my first day in Germany, I want to share some pictures of some of the fun things I experienced the next few weeks.


Our first weekend, a few of us visited the Ludwigsburg Palace. So beautiful!!


One day I made a trip to the Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Garden. Honestly, I did not think I was interested in gardens until I experienced this place. I think I spent hours just looking at how green and beautiful everything was.

One day I made a trip to the Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Garden. Honestly, I did not think I was interested in gardens until I experienced this place. I think I spent 5 hours walking around and taking in the beauty of it all. You can’t get enough of it!

One weekend we traveled to Lake Constance. The water was so blue which was new to me. Lakes in Texas are always brown. This was probably my favorite memory.

One weekend we traveled to Lake Constance. The water was so blue which was new to me because lakes in Texas are always brown. We got to visit Meersburg, an old city on the lake, and I loved seeing the history in the buildings. This was probably my favorite memory from my trip and when we all became so much closer as a group.


Our very memorable bus ride!

Everyone in front of Hohenheim!

The whole group on our last day at Hohenheim!


Our ceremony/wine tasting to celebrate the completion of our course and our last night together.

Every part of this trip ended up being part of one of the best experiences I will have in my life. I met so many wonderful people not only from America, but from France, China, Vietnam, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, and South Africa. Who knew that people from completely different places could actually have so much in common. I will never forget the experiences I had with this group and I encourage everyone to study abroad at some point in their life. Going without knowing anyone was a little scary for me, but I wouldn’t do it any differently. If I had gone with friends, I really don’t think I would have given myself the chance to get to know each and every one of these cool people the way that I did. Branch out and do something crazy!

-Abby Smith

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange



Beautiful, isn’t it? The university of Hohenheim resides within a grand old palace built during the time of dukes and duchesses in southern Germany. One walks through the halls wondering of all the history that has passed, and then they turn into a classroom with an overhead projector and WiFi. That’s the strange beauty of Europe. The people here live not apart from their history but thoroughly within it. They live and breath the stories of generations before them and hope to take some semblance of wisdom from those tales.

When the great volcano of Mount Tambora erupted, sending fiery rock and dark ash into Earth’s atmosphere, none could have predicted the effect it would have on the poor farmers of southern Germany. This was 1815, and the volcano was across the world in Indonesia, so when the skies darkened and unnatural cold enveloped the land for years no one knew quite why. This rare climate event caused great famine here, and the people’s beloved leader, King William I, wanted to protect his kingdom from future disaster. He decided to establish an institution of study in one of the old, then abandoned, palaces of the region. In 1818, the University of Hohenheim was established, originally purposed with the task of researching new, improved methods of agriculture so that no famine could strike the people once more.



The city of Stuttgart has flourished ever since, providing its people with an economy the envy of the rest of Germany. I came here three weeks ago, and have come to love this bustling center of friendly people and ancient treasures. Every corner there is something to do, someone to greet you, or a song to be enjoyed. Never have I been to a place more fond of festivals, concerts, and the outdoors. Of course, one can hardly discuss the pleasures of Germany without mentioning the marvelous beer and fresh baked bread, the two of which I have enjoyed more than I care to admit here.


My time here is spent studying Entrepreneurship and Innovation, two topics that perfectly top off five years of business study at Texas A&M. We bounce between classroom lectures from some of the finest minds at Hohenheim and Stuttgart, and on-site visits of companies that are happy to welcome us into their offices. We have seen small start-ups, massive multi-national corporations, and intriguing R&D departments. Stuttgart is home to Mercedes and Porsche, so we have had the opportunity to speak with some of these companies and visit the local museums dedicated to their achievements.


Finally, we have gone on a few road trips. Jumping on a train here is so easy a free weekend can turn into a castle-exploring excursion in no time. I’ve stared out over the Neckar River from the battlements of ancient castles, swam in the icy waters of the beautiful Lake Constance, and canoed down calm canals in the village Johannes Kepler studied astronomy. I could write pages upon pages about these experiences, but it suffices to say that my time here will be a permanent fixture in my memory and a source of great pleasure to recall. I’ll discuss other, more interesting things about this journey during my closing post after my return to the states, but for now I will say bye.  As I’m writing this, a light rain has broken out and the view from the window is too peaceful to miss




Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange


I arrived in Stuttgart, Germany on June 30 to study at the University of Hohenheim for three weeks. I must say the first day was an eventful one. Our group met with Katy Lane before we left and she gave us advice that I should have taken more seriously. I think I just assumed I would be able to figure it all out immediately, which was very dumb on my part… First off, definitely bring a towel with you, just in case your accommodation does not provide them (I used a t-shirt as a towel the first couple of nights because I could not figure out where to get towels). Another piece of advice that I failed to follow- look up the area that you are staying in and make sure to save maps on your phone before you go in case you do not have access to wifi or data. MOST IMPORTANTLY, bring meds and lots of vitamin C because you never know how your body will react in a different environment. The good thing is, there are pharmacies all over the place so if you forget something you can always stop at one close by.

Unfortunately, I was sick when I got off the plane so I did not get off to the best start. I landed in Frankfurt and took a train to the main train station in Stuttgart. The transition went well and Katarina, one of the Hohenheim students, picked me up at the train station and walked me to the hotel. From there I was on my own until classes started the next day. I settled into my room and tried to figure out what I should do with myself for the rest of the day. I decided that I was going to try to find my way around the city (this is where maps would have been very helpful). Feel free to laugh at me because I can’t help but laugh at myself looking back on it. I did not have access to internet the first day, so I just thought I would wing it.

First, I decide I am hungry. So I go to the first restaurant I come across because I am desperate and of course they speak English because everyone speaks English (no). I walk in and sit down and realize that my waiter does not know any English so I just point to something and hope it will be good.  I then ask for wine, but he brings me water (confused but okay). Luckily my food was tasty and I guess this is when the jet lack kicks in because I actually fall asleep at the table..I wasn’t out for more than a couple of minutes, but being the only person in the restaurant at the time, it was pretty embarrassing. So I immediately pay and get out as fast as possible to explore some more.

Next I decide to try to figure out the public transportation. Most of the time I took the Ubahn to get around. I decide to just get on a train and get off at a stop that other people seem to be getting off at. All I managed to do was lead myself to the middle of nowhere behind some random apartments. I would suggest having some sort of destination when doing this.. Finally some friendly guy guided me to the main station which led to all the stores and main shopping area. The rest of the day I spent walking around and trying to familiarize myself with the area. I mostly just kept going in circles and did not get very much accomplished. I ended up just going back to my room discouraged and hoping that the next day would be better because we would be meeting everyone here for the summer school. I also think the exhaustion from jet lag and being sick probably made me a little delirious.

I should probably mention that this was my first time in Europe and traveling alone. If you have any experience with this, most likely you will not run into these difficulties. If this is also your first time traveling, please do not let this freak you out because after the first day everything turned around for me. Also, I am not the best with directions in unfamiliar areas and did not take proper measures to prepare for this trip. I just wanted to share my struggles to hopefully prevent anyone else from running into these issues.

At the end of the first day, I really was wondering if I made the right choice by deciding to study abroad. Katy had warned us that it could be frustrating at first, but I was not expecting to feel this discouraged. However, to my surprise, my mindset completely turned around the second day. I got to meet the other students from all over the world and we had someone familiar with the areal showing us around. It was much more comforting to have other people to figure things out with. Over the next few days I became so comfortable in the city and decided that I would be okay here for the next three weeks.

I can’t even explain in words how wonderful my experience turned out to be, but I will give it a try in my next entry. This is my first time blogging so I hope you at least got some entertainment from my initial experiences.

-Abby Smith

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

I can’t believe it’s already May! This semester has flown by and I have enjoyed every moment. In the first week I was definitely homesick and a bit apprehensive about spending nearly five months in Germany, but just one month into this journey and I was already thinking that one semester may not be enough! I really like the semester exchange opportunity because it is long enough for me to become fully immersed in the culture of this country and people. It is long enough for me to have formed friendships that I am confident will last beyond my stay here. And it is long enough to make me appreciate my home in America, and family and friends.

I have realized that this is the perfect time in my life to have traveled and explored and learned as I have been doing for the past four months. As a student, I don’t have much money but I do have time, whereas as a working professional, I may have money but less a flexible schedule.

Don’t let lack of money scare you away from studying abroad! There are numerous scholarship opportunities available to students wanting international experience. I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships and I saved up additional funds while working a summer job. Also, while you are abroad, there are tons of ways to travel economically, and this is the perfect time to take advantage of cheap options (while we’re young and versatile!)

This has also proved to be a crucial time in my own growth. Four and half months in another country has given me true independence. There were absolutely no loved ones to rely on in moments of indecision or uncertainty. Sure, I could phone a friend (my mother, most times) but that didn’t change the fact that I was dealing with very unique circumstances that had to be handled by myself. I think I truly realized this independence when I was showing my parents around in Germany. I brought them to Vallendar and they saw where I have been living and shopping and studying. Also, I noticed that I have developed my confidence and ease in new situations. For example, I really took the reins when we went to Ireland. Despite never having been there before, I was very confident in navigating a new country with different rules and customs and acting as a tour guide for my parents!

With Mom at the Rock of Cashel, Ireland.

With Mom at the Rock of Cashel, Ireland.

Irish countryside

Irish countryside

One last thing: before I came to Europe I was also nervous about missing opportunities for a summer internship. I was afraid that it would be really difficult to get hired when I was out of the country! This is completely untrue. Don’t think that because you’re abroad you sacrifice the opportunity to find a job/internship. Many employers are utilizing skype to conduct interviews so it doesn’t matter where you are! Plus, it’s really cool to begin the conversation with “Oh, well I’m in Frankfurt right now, so it’s actually 11pm.” That always sparks an interesting conversation.  The benefits from this experience will more than make up for any temporary inconveniences you may go through.

Brandenburger Tor, Berlin!

Brandenburger Tor, Berlin!

Already, I’ve met people and I am introduced as having studied abroad and get to describe my adventures and experiences. I am able to understand more international topics and demonstrate that awareness to potential employers, and when networking.

So come on over! You won’t regret it.

Frankfurt! :)

Frankfurt! (business area) 🙂

Hiking in Paklenica National Park, Croatia

Hiking in Paklenica National Park, Croatia

"The Most Beautiful Sunset in the World," in Zadar, Croatia

“The Most Beautiful Sunset in the World,” in Zadar, Croatia

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

For this entry I’ll share some things I’ve learned regarding German culture. First, I think it’s important to refute the misconception that Germans are unfriendly and abrasive. Most that I’ve met just don’t open up right away. But they are just as friendly and enthusiastic (if not more so) than any American once you get to know them! And they get just as crazy about sports, especially their beloved fußball team 😉

Deutschland v. Australia in Kaiserslautern, March 25

Deutschland v. Australia in Kaiserslautern, March 25


Oh, the Germans and their beer

Oh, the Germans and their beer

One of the first things I noticed that was a bit different than what I’m used to, is that Germans love to go out drinking together. Beer is so ingrained into the German culture that it is a given at any event. Also, since the legal drinking age is 16 years old, it seems even more ubiquitous as I explored Germany. One example of all-out, don’t-stop, marathon-partying that I experienced was Carnival.

Karneval- Day 1, Düsseldorf!

Karneval- Day 1, Düsseldorf!

Technically beginning on the 11th of November, the Carnival season is a merry, costumed celebration (temporarily suspended during Advent and Christmas) that really picks up momentum before Lent in the spring, after Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday). The main events are the parades and partying on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), two days before Ash Wednesday. So, the German students gathered us Tauschies (exchange students) at the train station at 8am on Monday to make our way to Cologne. We all boarded the train in our costumes (you absolutely MUST wear a costume) for the hour long ride to the Carnival capital of Germany. I might add that the train was already littered with party paraphernalia and bottles…clearly some people were celebrating even earlier…or never went home to sleep!

Karneval- Day 2

Karneval- Day 2

Karneval- Day 3, Cologne!

Karneval- Day 3, Cologne!

It was an exciting day of immense crowds (the entire city was bustling with thousands upon thousands of people), amazing costumes (characters and creatures in every color and variety imaginable—we spotted at least 15 Waldo’s) never ending beer, and a parade that lasted more than four hours!! Those Germans have amazing stamina when it comes to celebrating 😀





The same goes for smaller festivals! I was fortunate enough to become good friends with a German from a small town in the Sauerland (a rural, hilly region of Germany). He shared his many experiences celebrating during Schützenfest, a summer festival reminiscent of medieval Germany when men would form shooting clubs to protect their towns from groups of bandits. I also got to experience Easter in his hometown and participated in their bonfire tradition and subsequent games and feasting!

Much of this small-town fun reminded me of Texas, which has such a rich German history. I really enjoyed this opportunity to see where some of my own family traditions came from!

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

So I’ll be the first to admit that blogging regularly isn’t really my thing, but I still try to give the people what they want. The last place I posted about was London, and since then I’ve had quite the adventures.

First I took my talents to see what the Swiss Alps were all about. I was able to ski for two days in the mountains and I was able to see some absolutely breathtaking views. Now the snow itself isn’t all that special, and it’s not like the skiing is just super extraordinary in Europe. Rather, the scenery is what makes it worth it. By far this was the most expensive trip I will do, but I truly got to have an experience I may never get the opportunity to have again. Anyway, apart from the skiing, Switzerland is just such a beautiful place and totally worth the visit in itself. This was a nice change up from the classic site seeing and museums and just had a few days to hit the slopes and do something new. I was able to meet with a familiar face who invited me on the trip (shoutout to Brett) so that made the trip even more fun. Skiing the Alps will probably be a top 5 thing that I’ll ever get to do.


Next, I took advantage of the end of the 1st quarter and took a 5 day trip to the land of the Spaniards. I was able to see both Barcelona and Madrid and both were worth my time. Barcelona is definitely more full of tourists and since it is on the coast, the beach brings in a lot of people from all over. Madrid has more of a local feel, and is a much larger city to scope out. Either way, I was able to meet up with friends in both cities so that always makes traveling a bit more fun. I’ll be honest, Barcelona was one of the first places in Europe where I had to be extra careful with my belongings. There is just more open space and the long wide walkways are full of entertainers who can pretty distracting.

Spain had a lot warmer weather and the food would be pretty cheap if you can find the right places. They have these things called tapas at most restaurants and they are basically a big appetizer, so a few of those and I’d call it a meal for like $6-7. It was a nice break to hear a whole new language and to practice my spanish a little. That’s a good joke because my spanish is pretty terrible, but luckily I was pretty much with friends (Winslow and Evi) who could speak it pretty well. I was able to see a few really neat places. The Sagrada Familia Cathedral, that has been under construction for well over a century, was gigantic and I cannot wait until it is finished in like 2030. Park Guell is a very nice park that has great views of the city. And probably my favorite was climbing up Montjuic hill that allowed me to have some amazing views at the top of Barcelona.


Anyway, I was able to find some really cheap tickets to Barcelona through Ryanair again, but the time for coming home was pretty terrible (6:40 am). Even for the early birds, this was a pretty tough challenge. Essentially, I had to wake up around 3 am to catch the bus at 4 that took me to the airport. Sounds pretty simple, but walking around Barcelona in the middle of the night isn’t a cakewalk. Definitely had to be a little more cautious, but I made it home safe, so no harm done. I’m all about those bargain deals!

My next trip was a pretty quick turnaround of 2 days before I packed up again and hopped on a plane to Dublin. Even though it was the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, it was still an incredible time in the land of the irish. The city was a lot more low key than most of the other places that I’ve been, so it was nice to break away from the large groups of tourists roaming the cities with their selfie sticks. Dublin has a ton of history, including one of the oldest universities in the world which was founded in 1592 (Trinity College). Also, Guinness is very popular among the irish and has a pretty cool brewery/museum to entertain its guests. But by far the best experience that I had in Ireland was being able to trek across the country to see the Cliffs of Moher. Aside from almost getting carried of the cliffs by the most powerful wind I will ever face (not kidding, it was literally like 70 mph) , I loved this day trip. Seeing out into the ocean and the magnificent scenery around me was without a doubt one of the memories I’ll keep from this trip. And getting here was in the same price range as my Spain tickets, I just can’t get over how cheap it is to travel over here! The times were actually very manageable, and I really had a great time in Dublin.


After having a weekend to rest up and finish some assignments, I wanted to take my first swing at eastern Europe. The two destinations were Prague and Budapest. It was very stressful getting to Prague on the first day of the trip. The first train was delayed and was going to force us to miss our next connection (apparently it was the last one going to Prague). So in a span of about 5 minutes, we went from the low of having to hold off for another day, to somehow getting a new route that would allow us to catch the train in time. It was pretty lucky, and in the end we made it after about 9 hours. Prague was a very beautiful city, and the food was very good and very cheap. Prague Castle was one of the best things to see as well as walking down the Charles Bridge (even though it was full of fellow tourists). The hostel we were able to nab was super cheap considering we booked a private room (so like $12 a night). It was definitely a good time and we all enjoyed our time.


After 2 days in Prague, we hopped on a bus going to Budapest. It was north of a 7 hour ride, but they had tv screens for every seat, so I was able to watch a movies to help pass the time. One thing that I didn’t mention yet is that even though these two countries (Czech Republic and Hungary) are in Europe, they don’t have the Euro as the official currency. So basically 1 buck is worth 30 czechs and 300 forints. So walking around with a 1,000 bill in Budapest money was like less than $4. But it still made me feel like a high roller walking around with those large bills. Anyway, Budapest was my favorite of the two cities. It was much larger and honestly was more scenic to walk through. The castle district in Buda was one of my favorite places to go. The weekend was a lot of fun and all around was a really fun trip.


Aside from all my travels, I have really adjusted to my new home away from home. I don’t feel like such a newcomer anymore, and have learned to order my favorite things in german at the local bakery. I am kinda sad that I’m entering my last month in Europe, but I can also see the light at the end of the tunnel when I head back home to the states. But I can easily say that these last 3 months have truly been more than I ever could have expected. I am so glad that I was able to make this happen, and I would do it the same way in a heartbeat. It’s not that I don’t have class (you might be thinking this because of all these travels), they are just packed between Tuesday-Thursday each week. I work hard on the weekdays, then get to go see the world on the weekends. But, I still have one more month to do new things, and I intend to make the most of it! Already have a lot of the month planned out, so we’ll see what happens!

As a matter of fact, I’m leaving tomorrow for Paris to spend the Easter weekend there. And even though I’m in Germany, I know my fellow classmates had a great time whooping for the first time. A A A whoop

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Still loving Germany!! Though not quite up to par with the friendliness of Texans, I have been pleasantly surprised by the random kindness of strangers. Maybe it’s because we are here in this very small town on the Rhine, but smiling and greeting strangers in the street isn’t uncommon. And I cannot count the times that someone has helped me.  Though, in most larger cities throughout Europe, I would compare the atmosphere more similar to New York City in that everyone is busily on their way and there are tourists everywhere you look.

I would really recommend interacting with locals as much as possible. They can give you priceless advice on things to see and places to visit, and also provide you with a glimpse into their culture. One way that I have been trying to learn more about the places I visit is to use sites like Airbnb, which is basically apartment sharing. We used this on our trip to Amsterdam last week. It was really cool arrive at the apartment that already felt like a home (rather than a boring, simple hostel!) and our host had left a nice packet for us! She had compiled information about Amsterdam concerning the best places to eat and the best walking tours and museums to see etc. It was a unique opportunity to learn more than the tourist guides would tell us.

One preparation that I wish I would have made before coming here would be to research more about this university. While it is good to learn a lot about the country (and the language, if possible), I think I overlooked the college itself. WHU has so many resources for such a small university! There are seminars and finance conferences and even a conference where they bring in awesome speakers and do workshops to explore social entrepreneurship ideas (SensAbility- the largest social entrepreneurship conference in Germany). In addition to all of these special events that happen throughout the semester, the career office is always sending out newsletters and hosting events for students. And the cool thing about this is that it is also for exchange students.

I also wanted to mention classes again because I have been learning so much! During lectures we discuss cases about businesses all over the world and it is interesting to hear the opinions of my German classmates. They provide unique insights into both German and American companies that I would not have considered. I just worked in a group for my class, Organizational Change, and we were give a company to analyze. The company, BASF, has been instituting a change to redefine their image as a chemical company. What I found most fascinating about this project was the depth of research that we did and the comprehensive nature of our presentation. Also, the fact that the company was founded 150 years ago in Ludwigshafen—only about 80 miles south of where I am here in Vallendar—really added an authenticity to the work and I felt very proud of our final presentation.

I am especially loving random history lessons about Germany, through my classes and through travel. I recently went to Trier, the oldest town in Germany! There is so much to see there, including Roman buildings and ruins, an Amphitheater from 100AD, and the massive Constantine Basilica.

Inside Constantine Basilica!

Inside Constantine Basilica!

Porta Nigra-- ancient Roman fortification

Porta Nigra– ancient Roman fortification

Inside the Amphitheater

Inside the Amphitheater

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

WHU is a private business school in the Rheinland. With a student body of about 1,300 (smaller than my high school back home!) it seems to be an incubator for young entrepreneurs.  A year is broken up into four quarters, so I was there for two quarters in the spring. A course is usually about 6 lectures and one final exam, and the classes are spread out on random days of the professor’s choosing. The professors are often also professionals that teach on the side so the schedules are not as regular as at A&M. This also means that these sporadic classes are extremely long and loaded with information, so I am very grateful for the 15 minute break in the middle! On the bright side, my schedule allows for many 3 and 4 day weekends, so travelling shouldn’t be too difficult.

In my Strategic Management class with Professor Oetinger!

In my Strategic Management class with Professor Oetinger!

German students are amazingly well balanced in terms of school work and partying. The students at this small school sure like to go out and have a good time with friends, but they are also very dedicated to their work. It’s exciting to be in such a renowned business school, learning alongside students from around the world. I love this chance to see a common topic of study from so many varied perspectives.

View of Burgplatz, on campus

View of Burgplatz, on campus

With that said, there are definitely some differences when it comes to working in groups. When we meet in a study room to work on a project there is very little “small-talk.” It can be a good thing and a bad thing. True, we go straight to work and get things done, but I wouldn’t mind a little insight into their lives and perspectives. Also, I think it would be helpful for them to understand the educational background that I have and my personal study habits and skills.

Similar to the US, exam time is taken seriously. In fact, three to four weeks before finals, the bar and club begin to clear out and you even see less people on the street because everyone is holed up studying! And, of course, there’s never an empty table at the library.

And that’s all I can think of for classes and studies right now! Until next blog, auf Widersehen!!

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

March 3, 2015

So I’ve been here in Germany for a little over two months now, whoop!  It didn’t take very long for me to begin calling this tiny town in Deutschland my home.

Getting here, however, was quite a struggle because I brought WAY too much stuff. Note to future exchange students: while there will be differences in the products and they may not have exactly what you prefer, you can buy most necessities once you get here! This includes clothes and toiletries etc. so don’t try to stuff your life into two large suitcases like I did…

I arrived at Frankfurt airport burdened with stuff but thankfully met up with another Aggie so we could travel together the rest of the way. After about two hours of lugging everything across the region by train and bus, we were finally standing by a grocery store in Vallendar.  Here is a view of our little town of Vallendar from a bridge on the Rhein, on one of the few clear-sky moments:


My first impressions of the Rheinland were very positive.  Everything is so lovely and rich with history. Castles dot the hills along the river and the villages and towns are bright with colorful homes. Beautiful cobblestone streets and decorative architecture make it easier to forget this cold, wet, wintery weather.

IMG_5462  IMG_5487

And we were off to a quick start! I arrived January 2 and we began classes the next week. First, we had our exchange welcome event where we spent the day doing not-so-fun administrative stuff like registering for classes, applying for a residence permit and learning the rules/common courtesies for our housing arrangements. And then classes and various events that allowed us to integrate better into our little community. [more details about classes in the next blog]


A few observations:

–   Business hours are so limited as compared to the U.S. Not only the fact that nothing is open on Sundays (even grocery stores) but that shops and supermarkets close so early on every other day of the week. If I get the munchies at 10pm and forgot to go shopping that day, I’m out of luck. So it took some time to get used to planning out my food options ahead of time.

–   Everyone speaks English so well (or at least all the students do). It can be difficult for me because I wanted to practice speaking German but many students prefer to use English when speaking with us Tauschies (nickname for exchange students J ).

–   Transportation: I really like that everything is relatively close. Despite living in this tiny little town on the Rhein, I can just hop the bus to Koblenz (which is still pretty small!) for shopping and nightlife etc.  Of course, the transportation costs begin to add up so getting a Banh card is worth it. As a native Texan, I am accustomed to traveling 6+ hours to visit family or go to the beach. Seeing as Germany is actually about half the size of Texas, everything is within reach. Even traveling to another country seems easy and convenient! So far I’ve been to Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain and various cities within the country such as Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Cologne, and other smaller towns along the Rhein.


Homesickness and Making Friends:

That first week was a roller coaster of emotions! I went from being completely amazed and excited about being in Europe, to being depressed about the differences in culture and missing my friends and family. I think the key to adjusting quickly is finding a group of people with which to hang out and talk about it with!

Honestly, it took me a good two weeks to really figure out how to integrate myself here. Because I live farther away from campus than many other Tauschies, and I do not have a roommate, it was harder to make friends. Going to the exchange events that first week really allowed me to meet people and discover common points of interest. We went on a pub crawl, did a sort of activity-scavenger hunt in Koblenz, and went on a tour of the Rheinland region. These events were so much fun and also allowed me to make friends with native Germans!


Best highlight so far:

I have the chance to interact with other exchange students! I have already learned so much about different countries, languages and cultures from around the world and formed some wonderful friendships. The different worldviews that I have discovered are truly amazing and I cannot wait to continue growing and learning from my universal peers.

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange