IUSP Study Abroad Evaluation for Marburg, Germany: What I Wish I Knew Pre-Program

The program in question:


There were a few things I underestimated when I began my study abroad experience and many more things I had no prior knowledge about. Here are a few things that may help someone considering this program:


  1. Deciding to go to Marburg through IUSP or ISEP

-ISEP asks for $9,050 for their program, housing not included. With housing, which is very limited in Marburg and hard to come by, the price becomes $10,400. This is a far cry from IUSP’s €5,500 (approximately $6,160) registration fee.

What can IUSP give you for two-thirds the cost? Quite a bit. Their website breaks the numbers down:

€ 2,150 for tuition, including:

  • Language course (120 hours) <-Great course, I highly recommend
  • German History and Culture course (56 hours) <- When I was there it was fairly worthless because our teacher didn’t want to be there, so I expect it will be better for future participants if they get a new teacher or she seriously improves. The field trips, however, were excellent. Amongst them were trips to Marburg’s dunkle café- a café where guests are served in complete blackness by blind servers, Blista- a school for the blind and visually impaired, a tour of Marburg’s Mosque, a tour of Marburg’s new Synagogue, a tour of wind turbines outside the city proper, a trip to Berlin (a tour of Stazi prison- a place for East Germany’s prisoners of war and undesirables, the Reichstag- Germany’s parliament, the Brandenburg Gate- a war monument built by Fredrich the Great, and a walking tour), a trip to Weimar (city tour and tour of Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp uphill and fully visible to the town below. They didn’t give us much free time on this trip so if you’d like to see the museums I suggest skipping the Weimar city tour), and a trip to Koeln.
  • 2 seminars (48 hours each) of your choice <- Great selection in the link here, although the courses change from Semester to Semester ( https://www.uni-marburg.de/en/studying/studying-at-umr/exchange/iusp/academic-program/semester-classes )
  • Conversation class (36 hours) <- meeting once a week during the regular semester and talking and playing games. We went to places I wouldn’t have otherwise seen (example A: a local bar) and had a great Christmas party for our last meeting.

€ 3,350 for room, board, etc., including:

  • Course material for the intensive German class
  • Cultural program (Weekend trips: Hostel, breakfast and guided city tours are included in the program fee.)
  • Meal subsidy (comes in the shape of a cafeteria debit card, charged with € 50 per month) Please note that they do not have a meal plan!
  • Semester administration fee including ticket for free public transport anywhere in the state of Hesse
  • Local bus pass for the time before the validity of the semester ticket
  • Accommodation (single room in one of our student dormitories, plus cleaning fee. If you do not need accommodation through IUSP, they deduct € 800 from the program fee.)

What does ISEP offer for an extra $ 3,000? It goes through IUSP so it gives you IUSP’s program benefits plus it handles paperwork you would otherwise have to do yourself, such as arranging plane tickets and renewing passports. In my opinion ISEP is not worth it.


  1. Length of your stay: an American quarter, a European quarter, or a full year of study?

-I was there for the shortest possible length, the American quarter, and it was fine. I learned a lot and my speaking skills improved dramatically even though I was only there for 4 ½ months. However long you think you want to and have the means to stay is what you should pick.


  1. Will the credits transfer?

-Yes, they should, and they should translate to around a regular course load credits-wise for Western. If you want credits to count to your major, talk with you major and minor councilors in their departments to review the Marburg course list and see which classes fit Western’s requirements. Remember that for some degrees, you’ll need a certain number of elective credits within the degree, so even if a class doesn’t sound exactly like a class offered at Western, you may still be able to count it towards your degree. But if a course calls to you and it’s not within your degree, please consider it too.


  1. Does the Mensa serve vegetarian and vegan options? Also, the IUSP tuition fee included a meal subsidy in the shape of a cafeteria debit card. If I don’t use all the money on it, can I get refunded?

-Yes and Yes. IUSP staff will e-mail you instructions about how to get the extra money off your card at the end of your stay. The cafeteria has vegetarian and vegan food available, although I suspect some of their vegetable soup has chicken stock. Marburg proper has lots of vegan food too (especially Turkish food. The city even has its own specialty grocery store), so someone with these diets won’t go hungry. For those who are gluten intolerant or have other dietary restrictions, please contact the IUSP staff for further information:



  1. What are the dorms like?

– Most Germans believe that rooming with a stranger (aka, a roommate) is crazy. Consequently the dorms seem to have high standards. I was in Fuchspass, and my room was not only bigger than Western’s dorms, but it came with shelving, free bedding and a service that would wash the bedding and give you clean bedding every week, a walk-in closet, two big windows, a trashcan, a cozy chair, a desk, and a sink. It comes with its own heating system and on each floor there are bathrooms, showers, and a kitchen with lockers for your cooking gear.


  1. Would I bring/ buy dishes and cooking supplies or is it included?

-You will need to buy your own cooking gear if you intend to cook. The student dorms each have a kitchen per floor with an oven and electric burners. No microwave, but it does have a compost and trash bin. The kitchens are cleaned by staff throughout the week. IUSP will have an item swap at the beginning of the program, which is made up of items left by previous IUSPers. Cooking gear may be available (for free).


  1. Do they have washing machines? Are they labeled in English?

-There are washing machines and a dryer for each building. They are in German but there are translations on posters on the walls. Washing your clothes at 30*C should clean them without shrinking them. The dryers, however, are expensive to run, will not completely dry your clothes unless you turn the heat all the way up and have very small loads. If possible, you should buy some hangers in Marburg and hang clothes dry outside of your closet. The rooms will get humid so you’ll need to balance between turning your thermostat up and opening the windows. It may be difficult in the beginning, but it gets much easier over time.


8.Where can I see a doctor if I get sick?

-(Firstly, my experience applies to people who have health insurance coverage overseas. This is something that you may be able to add onto your normal health insurance plan for the length of your stay.) If you feel ill and need to see a doctor to get a prescription for medicine, you should visit the hospital conveniently accessible via bus. The main entryway of the hospital has three different sets of doctors you could visit: the ER (downstairs, accessible through the left-hand elevators down the main entryway); a set of nose, ear, and throat doctors (available on the right side of the main entryway past the Apoteka); and a set of doctors which rotate (on the right side of the corridor, past the nose, ear, and throat doctors). If you ask the hospital staff for help at one of their many info desks, they should be able to point you in the right direction. The ER is the only one of the three that is open at all times, but only takes emergencies; hours are posted in front of each practice. The quality of the rotating doctors is a dependent on who is working that day: the first doctor I saw was great and gave me a prescription for the antibiotics I needed. The second doctor I saw to make sure I was 100% better from the previous illness thought my acne was herpes. The doctors and medical staff know some English, but it’s much easier to communicate with them if you know German or have a friend who can translate for you. Any prescriptions can be filled at an Apoteka, or apothecary. Apothecaries and bakeries are on almost every other street, so don’t worry about not being able to find one. Any apothecary will do.


9.How much German would I need to know to get the most out of the program?

-While you don’t need to have any experience with German before you go, I am of the opinion that having a general understanding of the language before going will help have a better chance of reaching near fluency while you’re in Marburg. It all comes down to why you’re considering studying in a German-speaking country. For me, I had taken German in high school and at university, and my problem with German is that I hadn’t heard it enough, so studying abroad was my last resort for improving my language skills enough so I could potentially use it in a professional setting. I simply didn’t know enough before the trip, and the lessons that I did learn became jumbled in my head and I’d make many mistakes. Being in Germany however, helped me understand when to use which of the grammatical pieces I’d learned before, because German was all around me. The language classes IUSP has were also very good and helped polish my rough edges. If you’d like to go so you can become fluent, I’d suggest going as a junior; however, it also depends on your personal situation and language acquisition skills, so please don’t be discouraged from going whenever you think is right.


  1. How safe is Marburg?

-Despite copious quantities of graffiti, Marburg is very safe. Since my last class ended after the bus lines stopped running every 10-15 min, I opted to walk home instead. I would walk from the Elizabeth Kirche to the student dorms, a distance of about 1.5 miles. I never encountered any trouble walking back home even though it was late at night (around 10:00pm) and not all of the pathways I took were well lit. This being said, please use common sense and travel with a friend.

-On a different note, one of my friends in the program was profiled on multiple occasions inside and outside of Marburg. The son of native Mexicans, my friend has black hair and a lighter complexion than the rest of his family—appearances that many took to mean he was Middle Eastern. These assumptions were not usually a problem, but it was enough to get him eyed by a policeman at a Christkindlesmarkt. That was a little scary because all the policemen in Germany are armed to the teeth. I think traveling with other people made it safer for him to go to crowded events, because his travel mates could have vouched for him had he ever been confronted and being with lighter skinned people made authority figures see him as less of a potential threat.


  1. Are there refugees in Marburg?
    -There were no refugee camps as of my time abroad in the winter of 2017, but there are refugees in the city. Most of the possible refugees I saw were beggars, and people who actively try to get you to give them money. One woman asked me to ‘donate money for my brother’s operation’ after ‘giving’ me a rose, only to later appear in the Mensa and ask people for ‘money for the baby’ whom she carried on her back. People offer roses in many cities in Germany, but if you take it you have to pay for it. Some of these people may be in real need, but most of them are beggars who station themselves by places where money will be (ie: the bank, the mall). The cost of living is relatively low in Germany, so it’s entirely possible for these people to live off of donations perpetually. If you want to help these people, then please consider giving to programs that help refugees establish themselves in Germany, rather than giving donations to individuals. Marburg has a program to help refugees study in its university and some of the IUSP teachers are directly involved in teaching refugees German. The IUSP office should know more if you would like to look into this.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 12. Are there any public holidays I should be aware of?

-Since Germany is not a secular country, many Catholic holidays are celebrated, and when they are, everything closes. The grocery stores and banks also aren’t open on Sundays, so plan accordingly. There are some exceptions to this Sunday rule, as the hospital and a handful of museums stay open, so check their hours in advance.


13. Should I buy a Deutsche Bahn monthly/yearly pass so I can use the trains?

-Not necessarily. Part of your IUSP registration fee goes to buying you a semester ticket which lets you travel the entire state of Hesse for free using buses and trains. This means traveling to and throughout Marburg, Frankfurt, and Heidelberg are absolutely free. If you want to travel a long distance, I heard there are many affordable bus shuttles that can also take you to ‘far off’ places like France and Italy. During the program there isn’t much time for sight-seeing because you’re working on school stuff, so if you want to travel you should set aside time before or after the program.


  1. FAQs https://www.uni-marburg.de/en/studying/studying-at-umr/exchange/iusp/faq-1


15. Where can I ask the IUSP folks other questions?

Here is their contact page:


End of Program: Preparing for Re-Entry & Maintaining your International Connections

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”
-Winnie the Pooh

It’s almost time for me to leave Germany now. It’s Saturday today, and we’ll be leaving early on Thursday. I’ll miss this for sure. Here are some reflective question my school gave me that I think give some valuable incites into this experience:

  • What have you missed most about the United States?

-My family’s cats

-I appreciate the English language a lot more now, and miss the various words we have which talk about very similar things, except with subtle nuances. Please take the verbs, ‘drizzling’, ‘pouring’, ‘sprinkling’, and ‘raining buckets’ for example. All of these can be put under the umbrella term of ‘raining’ (or the German, ‘regen’). German doesn’t have as many of these words as English dose, although they do have words that English doesn’t have, ‘rieseln’ being one of them. It’s a verb for when snow falls to the ground slowly. What it ultimately comes down to is that the English Language stole a lot of words from other languages, so we have a lot of variety. This variety is what I miss, however, the straightforwardness of German words which get straight to the point make it much easier for me to understand it as a speaker who’s still learning the language.

-The sweet, dry weeds that grow in my state that smell wonderful when the dew hits them in the morning or in the afternoon when they’ve endured the heat of the mid-day sun

-Being able to call my over 101 year old  Aunt every day

-Politically correct ideas of Native Americans, as here their called ‘red skinned In’juns’. There’s a lot of blatantly wrong information about them over here in general, and some disrespectful public events, put on in the spirit of fun.

-Boudins sourdough bread

-Lower stamp prices as some of my friends are living back in the States now, so I won’t need international stamps when I go back, at least, until they go abroad again

-Supermarkets not selling condoms at the checkout lines, because I really don’t need to see that.


    • What will you miss about your host country when your return?

-Affordable food, housing, and tuition

-People not speaking German everywhere

-Not being able to hop on a train or two to see my relatives

-Not being able to see Shanderkahn, my relatives neighbor. He’s a horse~

-Towns being too big to walk around all of it on foot

-Milchreis, kaesestrengen, Spaghettieis, and cooking dinner with my friend in the evenings

-Being able to check up on my friend and give him hugs if he’s feeling down

-being close enough to visit the local animal shelter if I’m desperately cat deprived

-German public transit

-The stores. There is always something interesting to look at, or to buy. Hedgehog cup coasters, stickers with German phrases for letters, and four leaf clovers are amongst the things I’ve found at local stores.

    • Do you think you’ll experience reverse culture shock when you return?

-Only slightly. It’s going to be great to see my family again, but I suspect I’ll miss being as mobile as I was during my time in Marburg. I’ll also miss seeing what gems the stores have for sale, and being able to find a backer on every corner. I’ll also be unhappy to see all the trash on the ground, so I may just buy a pair of trash picking up gloves and change that myself. And of course, it’s going to take a while for my ears to get used to hearing English again. My relatives joked at the beginning of the semester that when I come back I won’t remember any English ^^; Just German.

    • Do you have a plan for how you can immerse back into home campus life and share your experience with family and friends?

-I plan on telling stories about my stay to my friends and family and the clubs I’m apart of back home (the Anime and Manga Club at my high school, and the Fencing club at my Uni).

-I want to make a scrapbook and also post more stories here about my stays in different cities.

-I’ll take the skills I learned here and try to apply them to life back home as well, which should help me adjust to the transition.

    • How do you plan to keep your study abroad experience as a key factor in your life; maintaining friendships, language skills, staying internationally engaged?

-First of all, I will continue to brush up on my German. I may buy an international phone plan like my brother has, so that I can call my relatives and talk to them in my morning (their evening).

-I would like to keep in contact with the friends I have made here via letters and e-mail, which shouldn’t be too hard. Letters come much more naturally to me but I’ll do my best!

-It would also be nice to stay updated on what kinds of things are going on here, so I may try to finally watch German news as my teachers have been telling me all along. That will only be feasible if the internet still works without Net Neutrality though, seeing as the FCC vetoed it yesterday.


Protect Net Neutrality



Sometimes important things happen when your away from home but you still feel like you need to do something about it.

I remember one of my German teachers, an East German, once say she was away on a business trip in the Nordics when the Berlin wall fell, and how it was one of the greatest regrets of her life that she couldn’t be in her country to celebrate it with her countrymen.

I feel this is something similar, only it’s not a good change. It’s a very bad one. And it would be nice to be home to call someone about it. Unfortunately though, I am not home to call someone about it. I cannot call anyone about it. So please, look into this and write to congress and call them before it’s too late, not only for me, but for everyone who uses the internet. Because if it gets passed in the United States, other companies in other countries will try to pass similar laws too, and nobody wants to be trapped in one place by paywalls.

Save the internet:


Mid Program: Everyday life, surprises, and advice

Living here in Marburg is peaceful, and the living accommodations in the international student dorms are exceptional. My dorm room has twice the space of my shared dorm room back home, and comes with a sink, walk in closet, bed with bedding (there is even a cleaning service for the bedspread but as I’ve been out of town most weekends I haven’t tested it yet), recliner, and several sets of shelves. The rooms are cozy even without anything in them. My dorm is also next to a residential area- something which let my friend and I visit a local Haunted House on this past Halloween. We were able to enter despite being strangers, and it was the high point of our holiday~

Even though the university is spread out all over the city, the city is small enough to access all everyday needs by foot. Walking around  Marburg is nice, as long as you can go up inclines. The old city has cobblestone streets, and if you keep walking up you’ll eventually reach the castle. I haven’t visited it yet,  but I mean to before long. The smell of cigarette smoke is also not uncommon, and it seems to be very fashionable here. On a daily basis, you can see everyone from sixteen year old’s, to parents pushing strollers, to sixty year olds getting off from work- all with a lit cigarette in hand. It can be very difficult to get away from all the smoke. In mid-November, Christmas trees started appearing out of the blue in main public squares, and even now the Christkindmarkt in the  Understat is halfway assembled. When you need a break from the buildings (and the smokers!), chances are that your not far from a wooded hiking trail. I’ve seen squirrels, the occasional stray cat, birds, moths, mosquitoes, and even a few rats on my outings through the outskirts of the city and on trails. The rats surprised me most, and the cats are majorly indoor only cats that scampered outside against their humans wishes. Germany is not as clean as Japan, but is definitely cleaner than the United States. However, on the few occasions I have tried to pick up trash sitting non-conspicuously besides a hiking trail when with my relatives, they berated me and told me to put it back on the ground, teasing that they wouldn’t let me back into their car after our hike unless I did so. Luckily we passed by a garbage can by a bench and I was able to dispose of it there to both of our satisfactions. I still don’t understand what they were thinking though, perhaps something is being lost in translation…

As with most things in life, I’ve found that its the little things which have surprised and delighted me most about this trip. For example:

  • At first I didn’t realize that most people in Germany don’t use dryers. It wasn’t long before I resigned myself to drying my clothes their way- on hangers or a line. Clothes dry in my dorm room this way even when it’s not warm, but let the traveler be warned- they will not dry overnight. Typically all of my clothes will have dried after at least three days on the line, so it’s important to have a few spare clean clothes when doing the laundry so you don’t have to change into damp ones.
  • Germany’s harvest festival is called the Erntedankfest. It has far less emphasis than Octoberfest or the USA’s Thanksgiving. The  Erntedankfest is celebrated on the first Sunday of October. It consists of a giant crown of vegetables and wheat being woven together and being brought into church to be blessed during mass. After mass, people take some of the vegetables and other foodstuffs that have been blessed at church to their homes. They cook a meal with it, and share it with their family. One of my cousins showed me a picture of such a crown from a trip that he took to Austria. In preparation for the harvest season, some people also make Früchteteppichs- intricate mosaics made of seeds. Here is one from a village my relatives took me to depicting the parable of Lazareth:

  • I underestimated how much Germans love their carbonated water. If you don’t ask for “stilles Wasser” or “Leitungswasser”, odds are your getting a carbonated beverage. Also: water is not free unless you ask for tap water or , Leitungswasser (“pipe water”), although some establishments may try to charge you for that anyway. Once in Berlin I was charged 5 for a liter bottle of water because it was a ‘fancy’ restaurant. Yet some restaurants don’t even have non-carbonated water. So check to see if your getting the right kind of water, and check the price too.
  • People may not supposed to be smoking in or close to buildings but some do it anyway. My neighbor was smoking weed at the beginning of the semester and opened his door so it stank up the hall. Somehow it didn’t set off the buildings fire alarm. Overhangs and entrances of buildings are especially beloved by smokers, and oftentimes come with their own ashtrays. E-cigarettes also appear to be gaining popularity with people in their twenty’s. If you come to Germany, you will end up inhaling tobacco smoke, whether you set out to do that or not, so if you need an inhaler, please bring it.
  • If you go to a bar and order “tacos” they are actually nachos with cheese sauce and weak salsa. While a slight disappointment to taco lovers, they are still very tasty.
  • Unfortunately, Germany still has a ways to go as far as sexism is concerned. I don’t know where it stems from, although part of it is simply embedded in the German language itself as as far as I understand, if one is referring to a group of people or objects, they receive the pronoun “his/him”. In English you can express the same idea with using ‘they/them/their(s)’- a non-gendered determiner. This also wiggles it’s way into nouns, as a man can only wear ein Hemd, and women are supposed to wear something else (the word escapes me because for all my years of learning German I thought Hemd was all I’d ever need- how the truth stings). Let people where what they want says I. For a visual, please compare these two mugs that I found at a pirate themed rest stop:

One of these definitely looks more fun than the other…

  • The concept of sharing a dorm room with a stranger is foreign and unsettling to many Germans, so if you come from the United States chances are you’ll get the nicest dorm room you’ve ever had- and all to yourself.

As to the goals that I set out for myself at the beginning of the program, I believe most of them have been met:

  • 1. Although I am not fluent in German yet, I am drastically better and well on the way to being so. After our intensive language course at the beginning of the program, my language teacher said that if I was able to sort out a few things with my German (verb positioning and tense, articles, etc) that my German language level would be C1! That’s the highest level of fluency. I’m still not quite there, but talking to my relatives regularly has definitely helped.
  • 2. I have learned much more about my relatives than I did before, and much more about Gisela, my Oma’s corespondent within the German side of our family. Unfortunately, Gisela recently died due to kidney failure. I feel very lucky to have been able to meet and talk to her in person, and be able to represent Oma’s side of their beautiful friendship at her funeral. I’m sure both Oma and Gisela are drinking coffee somewhere together like they did so many years ago, and which they’ve wanted to do again for so long. While her death marks the end of the loving voice I’ve heard about through Oma and her correspondence since I was a child, I’m glad that she’s in a better place now and I hope to continue the correspondence between the different sides of our family with my other relatives.
  • 3. Not only have I taken pictures of the Blue Danube for Auntie, I’ve taken notes in my travel journal about what it actually felt to be there, and catch some of the details my camera couldn’t. I look forward to sharing them all with her soon~
  • 4: Adrian is actually doing better than when he came here!:

– He is more awake and alert during the day, appears better able to self motivate himself to work on projects, and has started working on programing an engine for himself again.

– Whereas he used to be overcautious, now he”s finally giving himself the space to relax when possible. If no one is wandering around in the common areas and he’s in the bathroom, he no longer feels the need to lock his dorm room door. If I’m traveling for a day with a friend, he doesn’t feel the need to force himself to come with us to reassure himself we won’t be kidnapped. And if he asks me if he’s locked his door and I say he has, he takes my answer without going back to triple check it.

-Thanks to his wonderful and enthusiastic German A2 teacher Stephan, his German and speaking confidence has dramatically improved. I believe that now if he chooses to peruse his study of the language, he will have the foundation needed to understand it and become semi-fluent.

– During our first week of school, we decided to ally ourselves with another student here named Elizabeth. Not only was she in his language class, but she has proven to be a valuable friend and comrade. I doubt that this will be the last we hear or see of her, and I believe her friendship with Adrian is helping him in ways even he can not yet see.

  • 5. I too have befriended Elizabeth, and hopefully we can write to each other after our program ends~
  • 6. While I have put a Taurus in a gym and caught both a Mr. Mime and a dratini, Mutti has done neither. Hopefully a Mr. Mime will chose to locate itself in one of our hotel rooms when she comes in December to pick us up.
  • 7. We have all had many adventures, and I am sure even more will come our way before the month is through~ Here are a handful of them, which I hope to write about here later:

-getting scarlet fever

– visiting the castle of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau

– Walking a piece of the Philosophers Way in Heidelberg

-Celebrating Thanksgiving with Adrian and Elizabeth

-visiting the Roman baths in Baden-Baden

-Seeing the tradesman’s house and the Night watchman’s tour in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

-Summer Ludge rides

-visiting Marburgs Dunkelcafé

-visiting my relatives

-and perhaps most importantly, studying in Marburg~

Cultural Immersion

November 20, 2017

With only 5 more weeks in the program, it’s high time to reflect on the experience thus far. Although there are not many posts here, I am writing consistently in a travel journal, and will post entries from there after the program is over. There is a balance between writing about things so you can remember them, and experiencing new things so you can write about them later. Writing in a paper journal gives me the time to make more memories, as writing about experiences twice takes twice as long.

Here are some of my favorite things about Germany and Marburg thus far:

  • Everything is green! Coming from a place with minimal rain, it always surprises me when I am reminded that the rest of the world is not so. When the locals are complaining about a day “spoiled” by rain, I am rejoicing.
  • Food is affordable and of good quality: €200 will last me two or more weeks for groceries- and this feeds both me and my friend. We are living on a diet consisting of sautéed vegetables, vegetable soup, milk, fried rice with eggs and peas, the occasional pizza and pizza bread, musli (it’s like cereal, only out of granola), and bars for snacks.
  • The villages. Everyone knows everyone and their brother, people are extremely polite, the atmosphere is incredibly peaceful.
  • Being able to visit my relatives. It has given me a more authentic perspective on how people live their everyday lives, is a wonderful opportunity to brush up on my German (I wouldn’t have improved near as much if I hadn’t been visiting them every weekend), and it’s great to be able to meet people I’ve heard about since I was small.
  • The public transit. It is a godsend for traveling.
  • Everything is in the vicinity of everything else- I can walk to class from my dorm building a few miles from where we have class, or take the bus.
  • Marburg has great hiking trails; there on the edges of the city, so within 5 minutes you can transition from streets and houses to forest.
  • The University clinic. My immune system is very weak, so I’ve already been sick thrice since arriving in August. The clinic however is free, and has hours that fit my schedule so I can go, get a prescription, and get that filled out at an apothecary. If I get sick, by the end of the day I can have a doctor’s note for class and the medicine I need for a complete and speedy recovery.
  • There are bakeries on every street corner. My friend’s teacher said, “If a place in Germany doesn’t have a bakery, it’s not a city.” Too bad my relatives’ supermarket closed because there weren’t enough costumers. Now they drive two villages over for groceries.

There are more things that I like of course, but those are the main ones. As to my experiences associated with school, the first thing that stood out to me is that the university is scattered all around the town. One building where I have classes is a 10-minute walk from the other, and between them are other university buildings, homes, businesses, and a theater. Likewise, the libraries are also scattered all around. Each department has their own separate library within it, but the public library is behind the Mensa- their student cafeteria. I’ve had mixed luck with the cafeteria- not all of their vegetarian labeled food seems to be vegetarian. This is especially true of the soups, which smell like chicken, and I suspect have a chicken broth. The classes are informative and interesting. One of my classes is “Sea routes and Ships from the Archaic through Hellenistic Period” and the other is “Kino und Politik, Zensur, Skandale, und kulturelle Provocationen in Deutschland seit 1919”. Ships in the Mediterranean and censorship in Germany’s movie industry. The classes begin 15 minutes after they say they will start, and tend to end when the teacher runs out of material to review, not holding students late just because class isn’t supposed to get out yet. These are the first classes I’ve ever had where there is no homework- your final grade is entirely dependent on attendance, and your final project. For my ship class I’ll be giving a 30-45-minute presentation on depictions of ships and shipwrecks in the classical era, and for Kino und Politik I’ll be either given an oral exam about one of the movies that we’ve watched and its historical background, or write a paper based on one of several German books about German movie censorship. I original also intended to join Marburg’s fencing club, but was ultimately unable to because it’s on the other side of town and begins after the buses stop running.

Having been away from home for extended periods of time before, I believe I have been coping with the cultural differences well. My lifestyle has not changed considerably, except that now I have a much bigger dorm room than I would have thought possible in back home. I’ve been trying to immerse myself in this experience and get the most out of it; however, I have continued to listen to songs in English because they remind me of home. If I could, I’d listen to German radio more, but on FFH, the radio station most of my cousins listen to, half of the songs are in English. They’re also pop songs, which are not the genre I would normally turn to for comfort. I’ve also started to get a little annoyed that in English we have multiple words for one object, to point out small differences between them, but German doesn’t seem to have such words to the same extent. For example, English has the words bottle, flask, and jar to refer to a small container, each getting respectively smaller. German however, only seems to have die Flasche and das Glas, Flasche being used to refer to both bottles and flasks. This is just a linguistic pet peeve of mine and English probably has more variation because it draws vocabulary from many languages, so I try not to let it bother me. It helps me when I remember that German makes it much easier to create compound words than in English; that each language has its strengths. I’ve also been trying to celebrate major holidays that I usually celebrate back home such as Halloween and Thanksgiving, which energizes me and gives me the ability to focus better on school later.

The only thing I would like to have done differently, is research more about other countries in Europe so I’d know which cities I’d like to visit once I’d arrived. Last week I found out about a website that has super cheap flights all around Europe. It’s called “goeuro.com”; a round-way ticket from Marburg to Granada Spain costs only around €230.

Overall, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to have this experience, and believe that now I have the means to become a better global citizen. People tend to fear things that are foreign, and as People to People, the travel program that let me go to Japan phrased it, traveling ‘promotes peace through understanding’. I do understand better, and my German has drastically improved, which will help me continue to interact with the German speaking world after I return to my country.




Arrival: The Adventure Begins

“…I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

“I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them…” –


August 5th?

On the flight to Frankfurt now, several hours in perhaps- I can’t keep track on the time. While we’ve flown I’ve watched several movies, as some international flight planes have touchscreens with movies and games embedded into the backs of the headrests. When I went to Japan they had a few language learning games that were useful, but this plane has no such thing.

My seat is a little behind the wing. The view out the window is beautiful in the full moonlight; a picture of blues and blacks reflecting the light of the moon in the water, and the twinkling of lights on the shore. I’m glad I took my watercolors and paints with me last minuet- hopefully I’ll be able to capture scenes like this in my sketchbook. I find myself wondering about the lights in the distance- Where are they from? Whom do they belong to? I do not have the answers, but I certainly hope to know more by the time I return. I suspect being in Germany will be like it was in Japan- having the surreal feeling of being on a different place on a map, and not quite believing your luck. Best try to rest now, but will write later.


Now it’s evening back home, and the moon has shifted slightly into my view. It’s a beautiful sight: We’re above an ocean of cloud. It rolls like the sea and the moon illuminates the crests of the waves. The star Sirius, my old friend, is also out tonight. And between Serius and Serius’ partner I saw a shooting star, and wished for the trip to go well. How wonderful it would be to see the sun rise over this ocean, set aglow with colors…

August 6- Early Morning

The sun is beginning to make the sky lighter, although no colors have taken stage across the white sea. It is a queer feeling indeed, to know oneself over islands and places one has heard of all ones’ life- to know your ancestors lived there and perhaps relatives still do (although you may not know them), and to know as well, that it is a place with stories both good and bad- and that perhaps- perhaps! You may be able to see them. The tops of the clouds have just presently turned from white to pink to white again. The plane is waking up. All is silent except for the roaring of the engines.

August 7- In a tiny German village nestled amongst small mountains- 6:33 am- Day 2

This is our second day here- we were so tired we didn’t write last night about yesterday’s adventure, and truly an adventure it was. The church bells have just rung, so I’ll write now. After a little excitement trying to find Vatti’s cart, we made it through customs, collected our luggage, declared that we had no illegal items, then met our relatives at the exit. The only things of note in the airport were two police-men with sub-machineguns strapped to their chests (let’s not make them upset, shall we?!), two prayer rooms (one for Muslims, one for Jews), and a yoga room. I thought the extra consideration for them was nice. We left the airport with our relatives who embraced us with open arms. From the first moment we were all old friends, even though I couldn’t remember them from the last time we visited, because I was too young.

I have never seen such a beautiful country before. Everything is so green. The houses are beautiful, and the land is beautiful, and the people are beautiful. On our car ride over, Maria told us how Gisela is doing. Gisela is Maria’s mother, and a good friend of my Oma. They hit it off right from their first meeting, and became pen pals for years. I used to write some of the letters to Gisela for Oma, because my German was better than her Swiss, and our German relatives think their English is too bad (It’s actually quite good!). My Oma passed away last summer, so there have been fewer letters between our relatives and us since then- but we remain close despite the static. Anyway, recently Gisela had another stroke, and is now in a hospital. This is not the first stroke she has had recently, but this one only happened last month. She can’t speak much, but they say she continually asks, “When are the Americans coming?”, because she doesn’t want to miss our visit. She is able to walk though, and remember things a little. No one knows when or if she’ll be able to come home again. She knows that we will arrive soon, but she doesn’t know the day- so we are going to surprise her at the hospital this afternoon.

Yesterday we arrived at Bärbel and Deter’s house, and Deter gave me a tour. He helped make most of the house himself, and the care he’s put into it really shows. The entry way has a spiral staircase with marble inlaid into the steps. There’s a large garden in the back and a shed for bicycles and firewood. They have a lot of firewood since it gets very cold- the attic is full of wood, some from two years ago. After the tour we sat out on the balcony for several hours and caught up. Eighteen years between visits makes for a lot of conversation! They even remembered my birthday, and Julia made a rum cake. She’s and excellent cook, and everyone liked all of her desserts. In particular, there was a yellow crumble cake I was very fond of. They also gave me a few gifts: a tiny divider for school, vegetarian gummy sweets (Haven’t been able to have them in years because back home they all have gelatin), and scarfs (Julia’s also very fashionable! She picked them out). We all had a wonderful time, and could all understand each other despite the language barrier. When we were especially successful at communicating something complicated, one of them (Usually Bärbel) would enthusiastically say, “We can do it!”, because Obama used to say it and they liked his policies.

The rest of the day was fairly peaceful, and concluded for me with a walking tour of the town (Mum and Vatti were too jet-lagged to stay awake). They showed me their church, which is over three hundred years old, and the accompanying graveyard. The graves are all very beautiful because flowers are planted right over them, and there’s a fountain with watering cans to water them with. People care about the graves because every ten years the graveyard sends a letter requesting renewal of the grave plot via a sum of money. If no one cares enough to pay, your headstone’s removed. The graves for cremated people are smaller but also have flowers. In German those graves are called “Ungrab”, or “Un-grave”. Deter showed me the grave of a young woman who accidentally hit a tree with her car and died the day after she graduated high school. She was sober, and was going to pick up something for her mother from the school. Deter said many people- especially children- cried at her grave.

The church has the same baptismal font that was used to baptize Oma’s father three generations ago, which is cool. Oma’s father was also friends with the bishop who used to work at this church. He ended up becoming a missionary and working in Northern Korea before it split. A few weeks ago, I actually saw a letter he had sent to Oma’s family telling them about the extreme poverty in that area. He said sometimes he stayed awake at night worrying because he didn’t know where he was going to get the money to take care of these impoverished people, and he didn’t want to turn anyone away. He asked them for money, but I don’t know if anyone responded. This bishop was eventually martyred because the North Korean government was cracking down on religious institutions. We ended up meeting this bishop’s niece when we were walking in town a few days later.

I also saw Gisela’s barn, which is now only housing bunnies, since she can’t take care of many animals anymore. My cousin Lea, who’s ten, has a grey bunny name Hermena who has a dark band around her neck. Another one of the bunnies was blind.

After the walk we had dinner, and we gave gifts to everyone. Shabie then gave me another tour of the town in his convertible (Which didn’t take that long at all), and we all turned in for the night. And that was the beginning of our adventure.


Pre-Departure: Goals

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.Marcus Annaeus Seneca

The eve of our departure is quickly approaching, and as always, there is just one more thing to be finished before we leave. Preparing months in advance sounds like a better idea with each day that passes. Our hotels have been booked, almost all of the gifts for our relatives have been gathered, and I’m giving the cats extra attention to try to make up for my upcoming four months leave of absence.

I’m finding it easier to look forward to this experience as my understanding of the initial part of the trip- sightseeing mit meine Mutti und Vatti- is filled in. I am most looking forward to meeting my relatives again, and I hope that we all get along well (and that we can understand each other!). My primary motivation for learning German has always been to bridge the language barrier between my relatives in Germany and America, so being able to talk to them is very important to me. Consequentially I’m most anxious about becoming a fluent speaker. But as Kyoko always says in Skip Beat, “Ganbatte!” (I’ll do my best!). Hopefully all of those German classes and watching Heide in German will pay off!

Here is a list of my personal goals which I hope are achieved by the time I return:

  1. Be fluent in German
  2. Get to know my German relatives
  3. Take pictures of the Blue Danube to send to Auntie
  4. Have Adrian feel better:

-to feel less depressed/have a more positive outlook on life

-to not be as paranoid

-for him to be more self-reliant and confident

-for him to find something he likes to do

-for him to have learned more German

-for him to have made at least one new friend

  1. Make another close friend
  2. Mutti and I both catching a Mr. Mime (only available in Europe) and put a Taurus in a European gym (Taurus only spawn in North America)
  3. To have many new adventures

It’s setting the bar high but I think it will be worth it in the end. To sign off with another quote,

“We all make choices but in the end our choices make us.” -Andrew Ryan

I hope the choices I make in Europe will make me return as a better person.

Pre-Departure: Briefing

There are many things which I am very grateful for having the chance to experience in this life, and one of those is having the opportunity to study abroad in Germany this coming Fall. I’ll be in an intensive language and culture program at Marburg Universität with a friend of mine, and I dearly hope that by December I’ll be fluent in German and he’ll be a more confident and positive person. I’ve been studying the German language since high school, and have since taken five quarters of German classes at my University. Although I make many grammatical mistakes and don’t have a wide enough vocabulary, I do know enough to understand most of what people say and hold my own in conversations. The fact that all of my German classes at my university have been taught entirely in German has helped me tremendously. Before classes start, I’ll also be meeting with my German relatives who I haven’t seen since I was three, although I have written them letters for my Oma and spoken with them on the telephone occasionally. Then I’ll be traveling with my parents for a little over a fortnight to see castles, museums, and experience a little bit of German culture and history before school begins. My friend will be joining us in our travels right before we move into our respective dorms, and will be with us as we visit Burg Eltz, the Rhine, and Trier. This friend has been suffering from depression for many years, and I’m hopeful that a change of scenery and new experiences will help him pull out of it. Of the two of us, he knows the least amount of German, as he has only taken one German language course for a single semester. In a positive environment however, I believe that he will return home as a fairly fluent speaker. Overall, I’m looking forward to the whole experience, including the roadblocks we’ll undoubtedly face.


People To People Trip to Japan- The beginning of a great adventure

In the summer before my Sophomore year of High School, I went on a People to People trip to Japan. During our 14 day adventure we were lucky enough to see the Emperor’s garden, Akihabara, Hiroshima Peace Memorial, and much much more. This trip has made an incredible impact on my life, and I am extremely grateful for having had the chance to visit such a beautiful and clean country and meet such kind people. The above is an account of some of my delegations experiences.