Travel and Day 1

It all started on May 4 by waking up at 9:30 am in Nordenberg Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus. After we got up and handed in our room key, we proceeded to a shuttle bus and headed to Pittsburgh airport.  We were there early and waited for two hrs. for our flight to take us to O’Hare in Chicago, Illinois. To pass the time we prayed (yes, prayed), and I read the “Seven Days of Creation”. We finally got on the plane and arrived in Chicago and waited another three hours before heading to Germany.

In the meantime, we tried out some of the local cuisine. Despite never leaving the US, the pizza tasted very different.  That just shows how much food and other things can change based on location and culture. This prepared me a little more for Germany. The flight from O’Hare to Munich was long but decent. Some nice older German woman gave me a blanket after the flight was over leading me to realize how nice and generous German people are compare to Americans. We arrived in Germany 9:10 am Germany which is 3:10 am Pittsburgh time.

Delicious airplane food!

After deplaning in Munich, some of us headed to the nearest restroom.  There I encountered something I’ve not seen before.  Rather than a paper towel dispenser or an air dryer, mounted on the wall was an automated cloth towel dispenser. By activating it with hand motion, a clean section of towel is dispensed for hand drying.  After being used, the cloth rolls into a separate section in the back of the dispenser.  This system is supposed to be more hygienic than the methods for drying hands in the US.  From an environmental standpoint, it certainly removes the waste of used paper towels.

We were all feeling a bit jet lagged. Never having traveled outside of the continent before, I never realized how much jet lag can affect your body. While on the bus ride to our hotel, we saw the various areas of Augsburg along the way. One difference between the USA and Germany is how speed is measured. The US uses miles/hr., while Germany uses kilometers/hr. A speed limit sign of 100-120 meant we were only going around 70-80 mph. I also noticed how solar panels are placed in vegetation while we place ours in deserts.  There is lot more vegetation in Germany as well compared to the US.

We finally got to the hotel and received complementary coffee while some of us waited for our rooms to be ready. As we got into our rooms, we immediately noticed a difference from US hotels. In Germany, the rooms are a lot smaller, and you feel confined into a small space . In America, everything is over-sized. Coming to a country where everything is made and built out of necessity can be very uncomfortable. The shower feels especially cramped since the toilet and sink are pretty much all crammed together. I personally feel I can get used to it and overcome the discomfort, but it will be nice to get back to “over-size” America again.

We then met downstairs to go out to get a quick snack because we were all hungry from the flight. As we walked down the street to a bread shop, it became very apparent we were “obnoxious Americans” who stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone in Germany is dressed nicely all the time which is normal for them. The Germans were casually wearing sweaters, jeans, and khakis, while we were wearing sweatshirts, shorts, joggers and baseball caps. I was wearing slides which is very laid back in Germany. It is interesting to see the difference in clothing from each country.  The German transportation system is also very different. In Augsburg, everyone relies on the tram system, while in Pittsburgh its common for commuters to rely on cars and bus systems.

After we got into clothes that were more suitable for the environment that we were in, we met our German professors that we would be working with. They were very nice and gave us all the required sheets of paper for WiFi and for the University of Augsburg. Then we received a tour from Dr. Fieck of Augsburg. We learned how the Germans, unlike Americans, are very punctual. We got a tour of the Fuggeria, one the world’s oldest social housing complexes, and one of its houses. The house was very small and measured about 700 sq ft. Depending on where you live in the US, an average sized home can be over 2500 sq. feet. American social housing is of course smaller, but things in the US do tend toward the luxurious.

We then ate dinner where we met some of the master students as well as the German student we will be working with this trip. In this session, I learned that the education system is very different from our own. For example, the master student said that the maximum debt they incur after four years of college is 10,000 euros which equals approximately $11,200.  That is so minuscule compared to the average college student debt in America.

Bell Tower and Town Hall
Gorgeous stained glass windows were in most cathedrals.

German children grow up learning multiple languages including English. They can join words together while we have to string long sentences together to say what we want in English. The German language has a hard time being specific, so the German students like to read essays and projects in English they can understand the point the author is trying to make a lot easier.

That night, most of us tried the finest milk chocolate in all the land at a carnival. We all had a good time and got back to the hotel safely. Thank you!!

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