A Trip To Remember – Personal Reflection Blog

For my final blog, I will be reflecting on this amazing trip.

I initially felt two weeks was the perfect amount of time to be away from home in beautiful Germany, but now that I’ve been home for a couple weeks, I am ready to go back. As this program was my first ever experience abroad, it was more than I could have ever imagined. I had the time of my life, and I am forever grateful.

To start, I want to first touch on the culture shock I experienced. One of the first things that struck me was how well dressed everyone is in Europe. Not a single individual wears sweatpants or sweatshirts, and they all wear jeans. If I ever go back to Europe, I now know to buy a pair of jeans, because I don’t own a single pair. I felt so out of place and totally looked like an American tourist. I was also shocked with how healthy everyone was. When I first entered the city of Augsburg for the first time, everyone was slim. I soon later learned about the health regulations Europe places on all their food and fast food restaurants, like McDonald’s and Burger King. That’s why I had to go to these restaurant to see just how different the food is compared to America. Lastly, it was interesting to see just how more peaceful and friendly Europeans are than Americans. The Europeans loved us and gave us no trouble. There was no crime and no one was in a hurry. No one is rude and everyone just goes about their day. The peacefulness made the trip way easier to enjoy.

The transportation system in Germany is also very different compared to Pittsburgh. At Pitt, there is a ton of traffic with cars and public buses. There is a lot of chaos and everyone is in a hurry. In Germany, though, transportation is very different. First off, only German-manufactured cars are driven. On the roads there are only cars made by Audi, Mercedes, Volkswagen, etc. In addition, there are no trucks or SUVs. Only small cars are driven and luxury car brands are very popular. The drivers in Europe are also a lot better than America, too. No one is in a hurry and swerving in between lanes. Even in the no speed limit zones on the highway, no one is going extremely fast. I didn’t see a single car accident the whole time there. In the city, not many people drive cars and rely on the train system. Trains are constantly running and every road has train tracks on them. I found it very interesting, though, that my train ticket wasn’t checked once that whole trip.

Next, I want to touch up on the food. If you like meat, come to Germany. Basically every restaurant serves Schnitzel (fried meat), Bratwurst (sausage), and Currywurst (sausage). The food is very good and, like I mentioned before, healthier for the human body. I didn’t have a single meal there where I was dreading to finish it. This blog wouldn’t be complete, though, if I didn’t talk about the ice cream. The gelato in Germany is so good and to die for. A single scoop is only 1.50 Euros, so it was very easy for me to throw my 2 Euro coins at the ice cream shops. I will always remember Tutti Frutti.

To build off the last paragraph with all the money I spent on ice cream, I found it very easy to spend Euros. If you know me, I don’t like spending my money. But, since I was so used to American dollars, Euros felt like Monopoly money to me, and I spent it really quick. It never hurt me to spend Euros, especially all the 2 and 1 dollar Euro coins. There are no 1 and 2 Euro bills, so spending the coins felt way easier. Luckily, everything was relatively very cheap. Only clothes were expensive, because of all the luxury brands. What also helped my spending spree was the fact that the tax is included in every price, so you never have to think about the added tax.

One of my favorite parts of Germany was the architecture. Being my first time outside of the country and not being a big fan of history, I never truly realized how old Europe is compared to the US. Once we took our first tour of the city of Augsburg on our first day, though, I then realized just how young and modern US is. In Germany, a bunch of architecture either survived the wars or was rebuilt, and they’ve kept it all since. So, it was an eye-opening experience seeing all the different structures that you won’t find in the US. I especially loved the gothic architecture I saw, mainly in churches and in Munich. In Pittsburgh and my hometown Buffalo, I am so used to seeing all these city buildings, so being in Germany and admiring all the beautiful and colorful buildings was completely different for me.

I also want to touch on the German school system we witnessed. The German students we worked with were all in their 20s, and it was fun collaborating with them and seeing how different their approach to school is. It was really unique seeing how they carry themselves in school, compared to us, since they were much older and mature. Even though college for them is much longer, it is also free. Their grading scale is reversed, so a 4.0 for us is equivalent to a 1.0 for them. Their classes are more project based, and that is why we worked on a project with them the two weeks we were there. They are also very, very smart, all being fluent in English as well. Overall, the German students had way more knowledge than us and were very serious about their work.

The best part about Germany, though, was all the knowledge I obtained on the automobile industry. Before Germany, I knew nothing about cars. I could never see how someone could be so fascinated with cars and I’ve never had any intent to drive a fancy car. My dream car before Germany was just a nice Tesla I can drive around for a good amount of time. After Germany, though, my thoughts have completely changed. I now admire the car industry and am curious to learn more. I don’t like doing dirty work or getting dirty, but going on the factory tours was so cool. As each company we visited was in a different section of the automobile industry supply chain, we physically saw the process of putting a full-functional car together. Now that I understand how a car truly works and all that goes into making one, I can actually appreciate them. I specifically enjoyed seeing the assembly line in Audi’s factory, seeing all the finish parts come together. Now, I think I want to drive an Audi in the future!

The one and only downside of Germany, and I think everyone else on the trip can agree, was the water situation. As water is not free in Germany, we found it tough keeping ourselves hydrated. Even though the sink water is really, really good and healthy, there is only so much water you can bring around with you in your hands for a whole day. Water also comes in glass bottles, and there were plenty of glass bottles we broke, too. Overall though, I think we were able to deal with this one negative since there were many positives to this amazing trip.

In conclusion, I loved every second of this trip. I will never forget everything I learned and will never forget the amazing group of people I met, American and German. We all enjoyed each other’s presence and had an amazing time. Thank you to the University of Pittsburgh for this amazing program and I can’t wait to see what other abroad programs I may be interested in…

Nicholas Monetti

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