Prost, Deutschland!

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Today is May 30th, 10 days after I departed from Germany and ventured back to Pittsburgh. It took me a long time to actually sit down and write this reflection, partially because I traveled over the weekend to Charlotte for my cousin’s graduation and partially because I don’t want this program and experience to end. While I think that two weeks was a good duration for my first time leaving the US, part of me wishes it was longer, and I want to go back. However, as they say, all good things must come to an end. With that being said, here’s my reflection. (Throughout this post, I am including some of my favorite pictures from the trip.)

The Rathausplatz, or town hall plaza, in Augsburg

Before the trip, I set a few goals that I wanted to achieve. First, I wanted to improve on my professional and communication skills, and I would say that I succeeded for both types. Professionally, this growth occurred during our company visits and presentations. I had never visited a company like this or been in such massive, professional environments. Through these tours, I got a firsthand, in-depth look into how automotive companies operate and conduct their business. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and asked the company professionals insightful questions to gain a better understanding of their processes. Through this, I also studied how they conduced themselves when responding and working in general, which helped set an example for when I enter the workforce. Additionally, our presentations forced us to think from a business and economic standpoint, something that I have never done before outside of AP Econ. At first, I was nervous to do this, but I’m glad I did. I gained so much information in an area of study that I will not get in my engineering classes in the future. The world is run according to the rules of business, so I think this was an extremely helpful experience.

Me at the BMW Museum

As for my communication skills, that improvement came when talking with both the American and German students. Before this trip, I only knew one other student, Julianna, and that is because we were friends in high school. Other than her, I was thrown together with 17 people that I had barely said a few words to during our preliminary meetings. You might be wondering: how did that go? A good way to answer that is to say that, while writing this, I miss each and every one of them and cannot wait to see them in August. We quickly clicked as a group, and I overcame the usual barriers that I put up when talking to new people, which is an improvement to my communication skills. I really, really miss laughing and joking around with them every day. Furthermore, I was excited, but scared to meet the German students. To my relief, they were all so friendly and hospitable. I was able to talk with them so freely about the comparisons and differences between our cultures. They helped show us around and get us accustomed to Germany, and I will forever be thankful for that. I’m so happy that I made these new friends and improved on my cross-cultural communication skills. This reminds me, I cannot wait for the six German students to come to Pittsburgh for the fall semester (especially the two that I met, Nikolas and Heike). I’m extremely excited to return the favor, show them around, and see the looks on their faces when they go to Primanti’s for the first time.

The boys at the Oberammergau observatory
Shreya, Peter, Gaby, Julianna, and I at the Oberammergau observatory
(From left to right) Vipin, our German friend Nikolas, Liam, Jason, and me peeping in

My last goal was to try as many new things as possible. Looking back, I DEFINITELY succeeded in that. Food wise, I tried schnitzel, spätzle, döner, weißwurst, bratwursts, duck, Bavarian pretzels with butter in between the two halves, Swabian food, nuss-schnecken (a cinnamon roll type dessert with nuts), etc. There wasn’t a food that I didn’t like, and this only makes me want to travel the world and try different cuisines more. Also, I experienced many new places, including Augsburg, Munich, Ulm, Oberammergau, Füssen, the Neuschwanstein Castle, multiple company factories, and Salzburg in Austria. Every place was incredibly beautiful, and I especially loved the mountain towns of Oberammergau and Füssen that capture the beauty of Bavarian architecture with the gorgeous backdrop of the Alps. Together, the new foods and new locations helped paint a portrait of German culture that I fell in love with and appreciate greatly. Another location we visited was the concentration camp at Dachau, and while it was such a depressing and distressing experience, it’s an experience that I think everyone needs to have at some point in their life. Overall, this experience as a whole was trying something new, and I’m forever grateful that I decided to apply back in December.

Pork Schnitzel
The Alps from the observatory at Oberammergau
Me at the Neuschwanstein Castle
The Neuschwanstein Castle
The crooked hotel in Ulm

Returning to the US was an adjustment. For example, I tried to watch an episode of Game of Thrones at 9 PM the day I returned, and I passed out five minutes into it (and kept doing this for a few following days). Also, the first few times I interacted with other people here, I said “danke schön” instead of “thank you”. However, this will not be the last time that I have to make that adjustment. Whether it be through more studying abroad or just traveling, I plan on experiencing more of the world in the future. This experience has opened the doors to a ton of possibilities, and I cannot wait to fall in love with other countries as I did with Germany. I think I have a bias towards studying abroad again, because I loved meeting the German students and I want to make friends with people wherever I go. I highly recommend studying abroad to anyone considering it. You will not regret doing it.

One day, I will return to this magical place. The place where I experienced many things for the first time, including leaving the US and German foods. The place where I fell in love with the culture and saw some of the most magnificent sights in the world. The place where I laughed and smiled and made some friends, American and German, that I hope to keep in the years to come. Until then, auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland! Danke schön!

Me in Salzburg with my imaginary glass saying an imaginary “Prost!” (I was reaching to take off my sunglasses)

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