By: Cassandra Bass, Foster Undergraduate
Wow, it’s impossible to believe that it’s already December. In about 2 weeks I’ll be back in America and the only thing I can think is that I never want to leave Germany. A fair warning to anyone traveling to Germany during the winter; bring extremely warm clothes! Luckily, Mannheim is one of the warmest cities in Germany but even so, it’s been below freezing for some time now. Right now is finals time in Mannheim, so the students are pretty much on study lockdown. Even so, they still manage to get out every week to do something fun. Germans are incredible at multi-tasking
On the studying note, I had to do a couple presentations this semester for some of my classes. I did some in German and some in English and I have to say that my German presentation partners were amazing. They are extremely on top of their work. I was especially impressed with the Germans in my English literature class. I swear that some of them can speak better English than me. The teachers here are also really flexible when it comes to exchange students. One of my teachers changed all the deadlines for my final paper for me, so I could turn it in early and she is correcting it quickly so I can take it home.
Right now is Christmas season in Germany, which is a big deal. There are Christmas Markets in every town, where you can buy crafts and German food and most especially, Glühwein. It’s basically like stepping into a children’s Christmas picture book right now in Mannheim. If you are in Mannheim definitely make it over to Heidelberg, a town 20 minutes away by train. It’s an old, picturesque town with more tourists than Mannheim, but also with some really cool concerts in random places all the time. Germans love having concerts and parties in abandoned factories…so expect to end up partying in a random warehouse at some point in time if you ever study abroad here.
On that note, I have to say that everyone who goes to Europe should really check out Berlin. I went there for a long weekend and fell in love with the city. Everywhere you look there is something crazy going on: a protest here, an abandoned apartment building full of squatting artists there, and the history of the town is amazing. Berlin really never sleeps. People generally stay out until around 7am at least and there are some clubs that don’t even open until 8am so that you can go there to keep dancing after the other clubs close.
I’ve done a fair bit of traveling since being in Germany and I found that I really enjoyed all my travels into Eastern Europe. I went to Prague with a group of people and was amazed by how beautiful the city was. Most cities usually have a pretty old town and then a more modern, less attractive industrial part of town, but Prague was gorgeous everywhere. I couldn’t put my camera down. I also went into the countryside in the Czech Republic to a smaller town where they have natural mineral water springs. I would really encourage people to go into the smaller, less touristy towns when traveling around. You really get a better grasp of the people.
I also went to Krakow, Poland in November. Again, I was so impressed with how historic and pretty the city was. My hostel was right on the main market square where you could hear the street performers singing opera or watch fire dancers on the streets through your window. I went to see Auschwitz, which was extremely intense, but also an important thing to see I think. It was insane to realize how recent Poland’s history is. One polish lady was telling me all about the communist era and how it really wasn’t all that long ago and everyone was still feeling the effects. Here I went to a small town in the mountains near the border of Slovakia and saw the most beautiful wooden houses. The architecture of the mountain people in Poland was amazing.
So, I would definitely recommend traveling to some countries that might not be the first thing you think of when in Europe. Paris was nice, but I would go back to Eastern Europe in a heartbeat.