Writing this final blog post in the comfort of my own bed in Pittsburgh gives me a lot to think about from the last two weeks. I am first of all grateful for this trip. Everyone, from my classmates to Dr. Lawrence Feick and Claire Dawkins to all of the German students that we met during the trip have been fantastic. I have made so many lifetime memories and friends thanks to all of them and I could not be more thankful for being on the trip with them. I am also grateful for how the entire trip went. Every company visit that we made and cultural sight that we explored were eye-opening experiences and I gained a great amount of knowledge and respect for Germany and its culture and history. I also learned a great deal about the automotive industry and the relationship between business and engineering. I now understand how both need each other and depend on each other in businesses to create success. I also can’t help but think about how good the food in Germany was. I can not wait to try to make my own schnitzel, bratwurst, and käsespätzle here in the states.
This trip also made me realize how different Germany was from the United States. First of all, I immediately noticed how much more developed and important their public transportation systems are. Trams and trains are always whizzing through the nation and anyone could go anywhere there if they had a ticket. I’ve ridden on more trains in this two week span than I have ever in my entire life before the trip. Another thing that I noticed was how walkable Germany was. There was a lot less asphalt and pavement for cars to use and a lot more elaborate stone pattern walking paths for cars, bikers, and normal citizens to use. Speaking of bikers, they had their own lane on a majority of the roads in Germany, and we had to respect the lanes as well. An innumerable amount of bicycles were used in all of the places we visited and I always reflected on how this would never happen in America. These thoughts also made me realize how much healthier Germany seemed when compared to America. Significantly more people biked and walked, and even the fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King had seemingly-healthier menu items (I did not taste the same oil and grease texture that American items had). The ice cream in Germany was also phenomenal. It tasted so much richer and creamier than anything I had in America, and also for a much cheaper price. Me and some of my friends on the trip began religiously going to an ice cream shop called Tutti Frutti every day because it was so good. I was also surprised by how easy it was to live in Germany even though I did not know how to say anything in German. Most of the people that I had encounters with knew how to speak some or a lot of English, and I only needed a translator maybe twice during the whole trip. Another thing that I saw was how much the Germans cared about soccer. I think they love soccer more than Americans love football (crazy right). When we toured Munich during our trip, we happened to do so the same day that their soccer team had a home game. Thus we saw everyone and their mother in Bayern Munich gear that day, and the atmosphere that they brought was magical.
However, there were also some things that I disliked about Germany. First and foremost, there was no such thing as a water fountain or free public restrooms. Anytime you needed to go to the bathroom you had to pay 50 cents, which is nothing too crazy but the fact that there would always be a cashier right outside the bathrooms unnerved me a little. The Germans also love to put gas in their water for some reason. I did not know about this fact until I bought my first mineral water in Augsburg. I opened the bottle and took a sip and almost spit it out from the surprise of tasting carbonated water for the first time. I must say that I am not the biggest fan of it. I would sometimes forget that this gas water existed and accidentally order it at restaurants without realizing it. This would also come back to haunt me when we received the bill, since water is not free in Germany. If I did not fill my water bottle with water from the hotel then I would inevitably pay for more later on that day, which was fine because it never costed too much.
I really loved this trip. If I could redo it I would in a heartbeat. I highly recommend anyone to thinking about doing this program to apply ASAP, because this really is a once in a lifetime experience. I was on the fence about doing a semester-long study abroad in Europe before this trip, but now I can confidently say that I want to do that. Thank you so much Plus3, I will never forget these last two weeks.