Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Skiing in Austria

As I posted earlier, I was in Austria for a week, over Christmas and I just got back on Saturday midday.
Friday night we drove to Hildesheim, a small city about 2 hours west of Osnabrück, where we loaded our car onto the "Eisenbahn". The Eisnbahn is a type of train that you can drive your car onto and sleep in the train, while the train transports your car in the back. We loaded our car around 8 o clock and then we slept in the train in compartments. If anyone here has seen the James Bond movie "From Russia with Love", those kinds of compartments are exactly like what we slept in on the ride to Austria. I really like the whole overnight train idea. You go to sleep in the dark, and then wake up in your destination. We arrived in Innsbruck around 8:00. Then we unloaded our car and drove another 2hrs to Serfaus, Tirol.

Serfaus is a little town in Austria whose population probably multiplies ten fold for skiing season, when it becomes overrun with tourists from Europe and the occasional Americans.
The Saturday morning we got there, we calmly unpacked in the whole town, and then made our way to the ski gear rental shop, where we borrowed skis, ski sticks, shoes and such. Then we went back to our hotel room, watched some TV and then went out and ate dinner at a restaurant.

The next 6 days, I took part in a ski course for beginners. It was quite an interesting and fun experience. I learned quickly and I also made some good new friends doing the ski class. We developed a good sense of companionship, skiing 10 till 4 every day, falling down together a bizzilion times, and eating lunch together. I have to add that I've never skied before, and I started out as a total beginner. I'm proud to say that NOW I CAN SKI! I'm no James Bond or anything like that, but I can ski down piste.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Today is my first day of christmas break here in Germany. In a few hours I will be taking a train to Innsbruck, Austria. I will be spending a week outside of Innsbruck with my host family. We're going skiing :O I've never gone skiing before and I'm excited to give it a try. I'm also really looking forward to seeing the Alps.

Friday, December 9, 2011

13 Weeks in Germany

It's been about 3 months in Germany and the longer I stay here, the more I'm liking it. Everyday I get to do the things I came here to do: meet people from other countries, backgrounds and who are different from me live in a new country, learn a different culture and speak a different language all the time. I couldn't even count the number of nationalities I've met and gotten to know in my time here. I've met people from Latvia, Russia, Finland, Danemark, Norway, Turkey, Poland, Estonia, Kosovo, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, China, Thailand, Korea, Brazil, Venzuela, Honduras, Mexico. I'm happy to say I have people from these countries as friends. I've been in a room of people where everyone speaks a dozen different languages. I've practiced my Spanish, my French and learned some new words in other languages. I've also met other Americans from all over the US. All that is in addition to the myriads of Germans I live with and attend school with. When I reflect on it, I am so happy to think about how many different people I can engage with. In the US, in my Catholic prep school its about 99.9% American. I interact mainly with people in the my grade. The fact that now I associate with people from all over the world, in varying age groups, from all over the world makes me grateful to be here.

It finally clicked in my head that I'm in a foreign country, a country with people who think a lot different from me. I can't expec them to change their behaviour or way of thinking because of me. I'm in their country.
My German has gotten a lot better in the last 3 months. I've started reading a lot in German. I can understand almost everything that people say. I've read a lot of full books in German. I've started reading, which is something I only do for school in the US. I've read Harry Potter 1, The Alchemist, and I'm almost finished the Golden Compass in German.

I like school in general, but I like it here since I get to do everything I do at Prep in Philly, in German. These last 2 Weeks we've been taking our end of term exams since winter break is coming. It's fun to take them in German. I do all of the questions just like my classmates. I do get to use a German-English dictionary for the tests though :)

Everything is looking up here and I can only see it getting better. I'm glad to spend the next 6 1/2 months here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

1/4 Wegs

As of today I've been away from home for about 11 weeks and I'm about anquarter through my year. It really has gone by quickly. After we got back from Paris things went back to usual, the boring routine of school. If started to finally settle in in school and just get down to work.

On a normal school day I have to wake up around 6:30. I usually sleep in a bit later then I'm forced to put my clothes on at lightening speed, grab the lunch my host mom packed me and run out the door to the bus stop. It's a nice wake up. After taking the bus to Osnabrück Altstadt, where my school is its about 7:40 and I'm just there for class that starts at 7:50.

School here is different from American school in so many ways. Instead o 40 minute classes, they have an hour and a half straight of class followed by a 20 minute break. They don't get a lot of homework like we do at Saint Joe's Prep.

Before I came here I never was a very patriotic, and I didn't have an overwhelming love for my country, but the longer I stay here, the more I begin to appreciate my country, and the way American people behave. Americans are kind and welcoming. We're warm and we are welcoming. We're pretty friendly. I miss that. Germans are very reserved and they aren't friendly until you know them, in a lot of ways. Americans are friendly to people even if we don't know them.

The German Stare

One of the things I've noticed about German people is the stare. When I'm in a bus, or the train or in public I notice people staring at me. Once you notice people staring at you and look back, they keep right on staring. They don't smile or look away, they just dead stare you back. In the US I was always taught that staring is rude. I can't just death stare someone and keep a straight face, but apparantly Germans can.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


We left Osnabrück and after an hour on the Autobahn arrived at Düsseldorf airport. After about a 45 minutes of flying from Düsseldorf we arrived in Paris.

Theres a lot of immediatley noticable differences between Germany and France. As soon as we landed in Charles de Gaulle airport it hit me that it wasnt as clean as Düsseldorf airport.
Germany is cleaner and more orderly. I sort of felt like I was leaving Germany and coming back to Philly, it was that dirty lol. Paris is pretty and crowded. Its sort of like San Francisco but dirtier and more full.

After a 2 hour taxi ride from Charles de Gaulle we arrived at our hotel, the hotel st merry in the Marais. It was actually an old monastery that was refurbished into a hotel. It was a bit small for 21st century people. I had to do a lot of ducking and bending over. Howver, I wasnt gonna let a small hotel room ruin our Urlab in PARIS! We hopped on the paris Metro and spent rest of the night at my host dad's nephews place who's married to a French girl and lives in Paris.

We woke up around 9 and ate a light lunch of croissant and cafe au lait and then took a cab to Versailles. Alojg the way Westward we passed along the boulevards of Paris and even went through the tunnel where Princess Diana died, as or cab driver pointed out. Once we got to Versailles we waited in a 2 hour line till we could also see the Palace that receives millions of visitors from around the world. It was an amazing place and to think it was built over 3oo years ago, older than the United States of America. We finished up around 5 and headed out to Versailles train station and took the train back to Paris.

We woke up around 9 and relaxedly made our way to the Louvre. The Louvre is one of the most famous musuems in the world and a main tourist destination in Paris. It was packed. The whole musuem used to be a palace and was constructed under Napoleon and as a result, it is, as my host sister described it 'the most illogical museum in the world'. We had spent about an hour trying to find the mona lisa. You have to go down a set of stairs, walk a long a few corridors, go up a flight of stairs, walk down another corridor etc...Once we found the Mona Lisa, it was flocked with tourists eagerly taking pictures to prove they were there. We looked at the different collections in the Louvre until 5 o'clock and then walked around the Tuileries gardens and the Seine waterfront and finished the day off with lunch at a French restaurant near our hotel.

we woke up early and got onto the Metro and took it to the Champ de Mars where the Eiffel Tower is. We had a 9:00 am appointment to ascend the tower. It really is huge. It's huge. We got to the base of the tower around 8:45 and already the line of tourist was already a decent size. We climbed the top and could see all of Paris. Its a huge city and extends as far as the eye can see in every direction. After an hour or so at the eiffel tower we descended and ate lunch near it. Then we took the metro the the Champs D'elysees which is like the 5th Avenue of Paris. My host mom wanted to look at the shops there. It was lots of luxury good stores. Like we walked by the original Louis Vuitton store. It had a line of people waiting to get in. Its a neat stretch of shops and when you look up the stretch of shops you can see the Arc de Triomphe menacing in the distance along the boulevard.

We had a 6pm flight out of Paris and we didn't have a full day in Paris. We walked around the Marais and made our way to Notre Dame and the Latin district, one of the oldest parts of Paris where the Seine passes through and you can look along the banks. After spending a good half hour in Notre Dame we picked up our luggage from our hotel and took the train back to airport and we were back home in Osnabrück around 8.

If I could go back a year from now I never wouldn't have believed all the places I've been in the last 5 months or so. I've been to Japan, (Tokyo and Okinawa) Frankfurt, Bremen and Osnabrück and Paris. Japan, Germany and France in less than 5 months. I never would have believed it and it's still pretty amazing to me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

German high school vs US high school

I've been in Germany for a little over 4 weeks. In all of these 4 weeks I've been going to school. German high school is very different from high school back in the US.

In both American and German high school, there are required classes. Germans are particularly skilled in foreign language. From 6th grade on they usually start taking English, and then in 8th grade they are required to take another foreign language, usually French or Spanish.
They then take both foreign languages till 12th grade. Leaving most Germans with at least basic knowledge in 3 languages.

Class is run a lot differently here also. While in America the teacher gives a lecture for the full class time, I've never had that happen in my 4 weeks here. German class contains a lot more interaction between the teacher and the students.

In my school in the US, we usually have a test every week or close to that. In Germany, we usually only get one test per month for each subject. There's never multiple choice or true false in German schools. All tests are always essay or short response.

German school is in general more relaxed than American school.

It would be extremely hard for me to say which system I like better. I am used to the American system and I still miss it. It's more regimented and strict and I sometimes miss that orderliness.