Discover the Heart of Europe 2014, part 1

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Day One and Two In Oztenhausen and Trier, Germany

I probably tire myself of how much I say this, but time really goes by quick! We're already in the 20th day of January and I'm slowly working on my resolutions. I wanted to take a minute (or a couple hours. . . days) and do a post about my study abroad trip to Europe last December! I was looking back at my blog and I have these half-assed posts about my trips to Argentina and Nicaragua and I really wish I had gone into more detail. I don't want to look back two years from now and not remember what went on on my first study abroad. 

My trip took place from December 12th to the 23rd. It really was such an amazing experience. I made new friends and learned so much. My learning experiences included cultures, politics, traveling, and about myself! The class I took was about European Integration, the official description is "an introduction to historical, political, and economic issues of European Integration since WW2 and best practice of community engagement in Europe." We visited 3 countries, Germany, Belgium, and France. Our dorms and the academy that hosted us was located in Otzenhausen, Germany. You'd think you're in the middle of no where but you really are situated in the "Heart of Europe." During our trip we did some Christmas Market shopping, food and drink tasting, visited European Institutions, attended (many) seminars, European policy simulations, and community service. Our schedule was packed and took a lot of energy, but well worth it! Now, a month later, it almost feels like it didn't happen!

Friday December 12th
We met up at the airport around 2pm and out flight was at 6pm if I am not mistaken. It was a long, but comfortable, 9 hour flight. One of my besties actually went too and made sure we sat together on the plane. We watched "Moulin Rouge!" together (my first time) and it was pretty good. I read a bit of my book, Loteria, and the rest of the flight. . . . flew by. ;)

Saturday December 13th
This was probably the longest day of my life! Of course I had gotten up early on Friday, I slept a bit on the plane, and we arrived in Frankfurt around 8am, we had a couple hours drive to Otzenhausen (where we'd be staying) and had a full day ahead.

Something that I wasn't prepared for was the language difference. I know I know, this is like the most basic concept of traveling, LANGUAGE DIFFERENCES! But like I mentioned before I have been abroad before, but to Spanish speaking countries. It didn't really hit me until we're driving down the high way and I'm just like. . .  I don't understand any of this! I'm not going to lie it did make me feel some type of way. Another funny story is that every "kilometer" or two I would see a sign that would say "Ausfart". And apart from the word being a little laugh worthy, I thought it was a place. So I keep asking myself for kilometers and kilometers, how is there an exit for Ausfart in every and any part of Germany? Well it turns out "Ausfart" mean Exit in German. Another funny thing I just looked it up on Urban Dictionary and it says "Biggest City in Germny" as a joke. Glad to know I'm not alone. Another awesome first impression I had about Germany was all the renewable energy sources they had. Every now then you'd see these massive windmills and solar panels on solar panels. I was also honetly surprised it was SO green. I'm not sure why but I imagined it colorless and dry, but It was beautiful!

 Back to our day, we did some workshops and had a short seminar to welcome us to the academy. One of our exercises was to pick two pictures that caught our eye and tell why. Of course I picked a picture of Barbie as Pres. and a collage of POC. I was so nervous but managed to sneak in a couple of feminist points and the call for diversity in different sectors. So I'm kinda proud of that. Later on we were planned to hike a 2nd century BC old Celtic Circular Wall, but unfortunately (or fortunately. . . no unfortunately!) the weather didn't allow it. We also took a short tour of the village in which the Europäische Akademie Otzenhausen is located.

Just to do some bragging on the academy, the accommodations we're beyond my expectations. Everything was very clean, the staff so polite, and the meals were amazing. The institution is actually more than a decade older than my university. We had Elisabeth (German) as our seminar leader and Maiwenne (French) as the seminar assistant and I don't think anyone could have done a better job showing us around.
 10/10 would recommend. :P

Sunday December 14th

Otzenhausen in the morning
We began the day with a couple seminars by our seminar leader and our KSU professor. Later, in early afternoon we began our day excursion to the German city of Trier. It is Germany's oldest city (circa 16 BC), and is also famous for it's almost 2,000 year old Roman Wall known as Porta Nigra. It's also the place of Karl Marx's birth. (Fun fact: not sure if the home he was born in OR raised in, but it is located right by Porta Nigra. It is a two or three level home but the ground floor of the building is actually a Euroshop, which is kinda ironic no?) We had a tour guide that showed us around then we had some free time to enjoy the city on our own. I had a chance to visit their Christmas market. I tried German sausage and their mulled wine. A bit later we met, got back on the bus and went to the near by city of Longuich for an intimate wine tasting. I am not a big wine fan, but every single wine was delicious. The owner who led the tasting was so passionate and really made the experience one of a kind! I brought back home two bottles for my family. 

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