Tuesday, June 10, 2008


The European Football Championships are going on right now for the month of June here in Europe. And when I say football, I mean what we call soccer in the US. Germany beat Poland the other night in the first round and will play Croatia on Thursday. It's a really big deal here all over Europe and when I asked my mom if she had heard Germany won, she told me no. I guess there's a lack in the broadcast of european sports on American news stations. But it's really cool because everywhere you go the German flag is being flown! And everyone can tell you at least a thing or two about the games, even if they don't like football. And since we don't have a tv in my apartment, we can watch the games on big screens set up all over campus and the city. And I hear Germany is going to do pretty well in the tournament...YAY!

Last week I was in Denmark visiting Linda's hometown of Odense and then we drove with our friend Björn to Copenhagen and spent 2 days sightseeing there. It was really cool though because it felt like my freshman year when we first met the Brits who were studying at U of I for a semester. We took them to our homes and showed them all around Chicago and they met our friends and family, and that's how this was. We stayed at Linda's apartment, went to her parents house and even though her parents don't speak English, it worked out well with Linda translating between us. Her hometown is the 3rd largest city in Denmark but it's very small with a population of about 150,000. But I had a blast seeing the Danish culture, people, and sights. Denmark is VERY expensive, but the trip was very worth it!

These pictures are in Odense, it's the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen and that's me with a statue of him.

Also in Odesne, at an old village that was from the 1800's with Linda's 2 best friends.

On the streets of Odense:

Linda & her brother:

Me in Copenhagen with the Little Mermaid Statue:

In the harbor of Nyhavn (pronounced New-hown) in Copenhagen:

On a boat tour we took of the harbor in Copenhagen:

Linda & Björn in Tivoli, an amusement park we went to in Copenhagen:

Gretchen, even though it doesn't look like I study much here, I assure you I do :-) HAHA I take tests, go to classes, and do assignments. In my free time, I enjoy traveling and seeing new things. This semester has been unreal and I'm doing so much. But I don't know when I'll be back so I need to make the most of my time here and enjoy it! :-)

Liebe Grüße von Kiel,
Love Greetings from Kiel


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Already June?!?

My roomate linda, who also happens to be my closest friend here in germany, came to my room last night needing to talk to someone. So of course we ended up talking all about relationships, friendships, life, etc. I believe I look at life optimistically with the glass always being half full. So with all that being said, this was definitely one of those times you just want to grab a big tub of ice cream and pop a really funny, girly dvd in, but with my lack of ice cream and no tv here, we settled for just talking about things.
Which leads me to my next thought. The whole study abroad experience is not just about taking classes and getting course credit. of course that IS the ultimate goal and it wouldn't be "study abroad" if you didn't take classes, but there's so much more to it that you get out of the whole experience. It's also about traveling to new places, seeing new things, learning about new cultures, experiencing new ways of life, meeting new people, and creating new friendships and bonds between people. For me, it's also been about finding myself. I feel like such a different person since living here in Kiel. I've adapted to a new way of life, of course American culture is very prevalent in European life and contrary to what some people may think, Europeans do not hate Americans, they simply hate our American govt. And honestly, who can blame them? But since the american way of life is so common here, it's hard to imagine that I've had to quote on quote "adapt or change to life here," but it's true. I can count on one hand how many Americans are actually here in Kiel. My friends I have made are from all over the world. I've grown a lot more tolerant to things I would never have been 3 months ago. I feel more knowledgeable, I have a stronger desire to learn more about different cultures, languages, history, and lifestyles. And even though it's only been 3 months and I've only been here for half of my semester, I can already feel the positive changes the whole experience has had on me. I feel more mature, and well, I guess moving to a foreign country, knowing not a soul around you will help you with that, but none the less I feel I hold a different perspective on things and ideas. And I am anxiously looking forward to what the next half of the semester will bring. And what new journeys and adventures I can and will embark on!! :-)

Last weekend, Linda, Ellu, & I went to Hamburg for a day. It was a lot of fun! Hamburg is one of the biggest and richest cities in Germany and luckily for us is only about an hour away from Kiel. We spent the day being tourists and doing a lot of sightseeing. There is a beautiful lake in the middle of the city and is also on the Elbe River and has one of the busiest harbors in the world. Here are a few pictures from that:

And tomorrow Linda, I and our friend Björn are driving to Denmark!! I am so excited!!! We will go to Odense where Linda is from and spend a few days in Copenhagen as well. The weather is supposed to be awesome! I will have a lot of pictures when we get back Sunday as well :-) I can't believe it's already June 3rd though! Time really does fly when you're having fun!

Liebe Grüße von Kiel

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Time Flies!

This will be quick because I am extremely busy, but I'm in a writing mood. Currently, at this exact moment, one of my best friends is back home in America! Erica and Bre were abroad this semester at the University of Nottingham in England and their semester is over with. Erica flew back home and I just talked to her and she made it home safely! It's so strange to think she is back home now and seeing her family, boyfriend, and friends after being away for 5 months! It literally just feels like yesterday when we were at O'hare in January saying bye...

And then I was reunited with them in March and we "Eurotripped" for about 15 days together going through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, & Switzerland. Here we are in Prague in the Czech Republic:

And at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy:

I can't wait to be reunited with them again in August and we will all live together (plus our friend Kim) in an apartment for our senior year of college! Can't wait!!

This past weekend I was also in Dusseldorf and Cologne Germany! It was an awesome trip and seeing the Kölner Dom (Cologne Catherdral) was breathtaking! Here are a few pictures of that:

And here I am in Cologne:

This weekend, some friends & I will spend a day in Hamburg. It is the closest (about an hour train ride) big city (population about 1.8 million) near Kiel. Then next week I will go to Denmark to Copenhagen and Odense, which is where my roomate is from and is the 3rd largest city in Denmark. So I have a lot to look forward to, but for now I MUST finish all this schoolwork...

Liebe Gruesse von Kiel! :-)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Back from Sweden

I haven't updated for awhile because I have been very busy with school and I was also doing some traveling. This past weekend, I was in Gothenburg, Sweden. There is a ferry that leaves from here in Kiel and it takes 14 hours to get to Sweden. I went with a group from the International Center here in the University. It was a complete blast!! The ride there we got to see the sunset, we went through Denmark, saw the world's 2nd largest bridge that connects two islands in Denmark, and upon arriving in Gothenburg you can see the islands which are a part of the archipelago of Sweden. This is unique to the Scandinavian countries, specifically Norway, Sweden, & Finland and are rocky islands that were created in the glaciers during the Ice Age. It's really a neat sight to see and is known as a geographic phenomenon. We went on city walking tours Friday & Saturday. On Sunday, we were going to go to the city museum and the World Culture Museum but since we were free to do whatever we wanted (we were with a group leader who is a student here in the University as well but she had things set up for us that the International Center organized such as the tours) I decided I did not want to spend my time walking through a museum when there were islands only found in this area to see!! So I went to the tourism office speaking not a word of Swedish (luckily for me most Swedes are very good at English) and figured out how to get from the city center to these islands. It turned out it wasn't too difficult, just a 35 minute tram ride and a 25 minute ferry ride in total costing about 2.50 euros. After talking about what I was going to be doing, most of the others decided they also wanted to do that! So we changed our plans slightly with a few minor problems, since it was Sunday trams/ferries weren't running as often and we needed to board the ferry back to Kiel at 7. So we split up, some of us went to the museums and the rest of us went to the islands. This was probably the coolest part of the trip (ok well besides the fact that I got to take that huge ship to Sweden which has been a dream of mine ever since arriving here in Kiel). There are not many people living on these islands and there are no stores or cars. Everyone has motorized bikes they ride to transport around. Also most people do not live here year round, it's more for summer homes to go to on the weekends or so. Our hostel we stayed at was about 20km (approx. 12ish miles) from the city center and was in the middle of nowhere! Which was super cool because there was a lake about 15 minutes from the hostel and it was very hilly, so at night we would hike to the lake. The air seemed very cold, about 12 degrees Celsius which is approx. 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but 4 of the girls decided to swim anyway! I think they are a bit more used to the cold though considering they were from Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France. We also sat in sauna that the hostel had which was also really neat because I learned it is a BIG part of the Scandic culture as well as Estonia. My friend, Ellu, who is from Estonia, has a sauna in her home and her family uses it almost daily.
That has also been something I have learned A LOT about being here in Germany -- different cultures and ways of living. My closest friends are from Denmark and Estonia, two places I have never really known much about, and we talk about the differences and their ways of life. They also enjoy hearing all about America and both confessed to me that when they first met me they thought it was so cool I was from the US and wanted to see if what they see on MTV and shows such as Cribs and Sweet 16 were really how Americans were. And they said since knowing me now for awhile, they see that not all Americans are as Hollywood portrays us to be. I really enjoy talking about all this and learning about new places and people. I feel like I also am more interested in different countries and cultures as well because of this. It was funny because this weekend in Sweden we were speaking german, english, polish, french, italian, and arabic because those are just some of the mother languages we speak in the group as a whole and when asked where we were from, we responded with, "All over the world!!!" It was fun!
Being on the ferry was also surreal to me! Ok, I call it a cruise but the Germans and Swedes call it a ferry. There were restaurants, cafes, discos, bars, shopping all on board and the rooms we slept in were like in a hotel! At night, we were in the disco dancing to songs like Twist 'n Shout and YMCA and it was so much fun! Since it's not summer yet and many people have to work or are still in school, most of the people on the ship were older. So it was fun talking to some of them and dancing with them as well, haha!
Something else I have noticed a lot since being here, is just how global the English langauge really is! Everyone wishes to or does know English. It may not be perfect like us Americans but they can speak it. The American culture is also displayed so much in Europe, it has a very big impact on European life. For example, when you go into a restaurant and the radio is playing, you hear all the big popstars from America playing! Linda and I were eating in a Burger King yesterday and on the radio was Britney Spears, Timbaland, 50 cent, all big American musicians! And I asked Linda, "Don't the Swedes want to hear Swedish singers??" And she told me that American cutlure is so prominent here in Europe. Hollywood movies are all big blockbusters here in Europe as well because the people all want to see things from the US. Of course they are dubbed (and sound really funny and weird I think when the actor speaking is not Johnny Depp or Cameron Diaz) in the language of the country or have the subtitles of that language. Of course they have their big movies and bands as well, but the American way of life is still a big role model. And because of noticing all this lately, I have thought about maybe teaching English. Everyone wants to learn this wonderful language which happens to be my native mother language. I want to teach people what I am an expert at. I am here learning German and see just how difficult it is to learn a language fluently. I struggle everyday because I cannot think of how to say something in german or get frustrated because I don't have the correct grammar to my sentence, but with teaching, learning, and practice I will become better. Since being here, which by the way was officially 2 months this past weekend, I have learned so much more! I feel confident speaking to native Germans and know that my German is improving everyday! I really am enjoying being surrounded by the German culture, language, people, and food. It is such an amazing experience and I am looking forward to the next few months I get to spend here meetimg more people, getting to know the ones I have already met (Germans and from all over the world) better, learning the language more, and seeing more this beautiful continent.

Well I have written a lot and need to finish some homework for the morning. I started an online course through a community college back home today to finish a gen ed so I can graduate on time. It is a western civ course and I feel nerdy saying this but I am SUPER excited to start it!! We will be learning about beginning European history, Middle Ages & the Reformation and western civilization. Even though the course is online and I will never see the professor, esp. because I am in Germany, he seems really interesting and seems to really know what he is talking about which is good. He has done research at U of I and teaches courses at Parkland basically for fun. I also am looking forward to looking at the brochures and maps and books Mom, Omi & Opi sent me. I am flying to Dusseldorf and Cologne this weekend and need to figure out things I want to see and do! I am also posting some pictures from this weekend in Sweden.

Liebe Grüße von Deutschland,
Love Greetings from Germany :-)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Life as I know it

"I absolutely love it here!" I find myself saying that a lot lately. Everyone always asks, "hows your time in germany?" or "hows your semester abroad going?" and I respond with "It's awesome!" I know that may sound cliche, to describe your time abroad as awesome because that's how other students at U of I would describe their experiences abroad, but it's so true! Every day I come home thinking, wow this place is great! I have not had a dull experience here yet! It helps that I never feel bored here and there is always something to do. Living on the ocean provides for some fun days :-) Friday, Linda & I went to Laboe, a small town northeast of Kiel also on the sea. It was very touristy and reminded me of being somwhere in California or on the east coast in some sort of resort town. Saturday, we went to Lubeck which is a town southeast of Kiel. It was gorgeous! Unlike Kiel, it survived the war and many buildings were built in the 1400's. I've discovered that I really like the architecture from that time period. And the history from the Middle Ages is remarkable. Today in Kiel we had a big flea market and there was a festival with a band playing by the harbor. The weather was nice so we ate lunch outside by the water.

I enjoy meeting new people all the time. And being here has allowed me to learn about so many new cultures and lifestyles. I have also learned a lot about the United States' impact on the world, and also the Europeans outlook on Americans which is very generalized but still provides us with some laughs. I also enjoy reading/learning about history and luckily Germany has a lot of it! haha! I am also looking forward to the trip we are taking to Sweden in a few days and I am also in the works for planning a trip to the western part of Germany (Cologne and Dusseldorf). I want to see as much of Germany and Europe as I possibly can while being here.

I can also say that God has blessed me with an amazing family. Moving across the world for a few months has been a big change in my life, but with the love and support of my family, it has been a successful and wonderful transition. I know they support me and will always be here for me. Also with the help of technology, I am able to talk to them daily on Skype. I think because of this I feel connected to them and vice versa which helps me because I have not felt homesick. (Which is good because some of my friends here are feeling really homesick since we've been here over a month now and it's a terrible feeling). Sure, I miss all my family and friends at home and everything about the states that europe does not have, but I know that I can go back to all that in a few months. So for now, I must live my life, see sights, and learn about different people, cultures, and history as much as possible and that is exactly what I am doing. :-)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The start of this blog...

So I always said I wanted to keep a blog during my stay here in Germany, but I hadn't gotten myself to start. I keep a written journal, but lately I have slacked on keeping up with it, I need to start again. While I was traveling around Europe, I was really good and religiously wrote in it and I am so glad I did. So let's hope I either keep up with this blog or my journal...

To start off, I am studying abroad in Kiel Germany, its on the Baltic Sea in northern Germany. Everyone asks me "Why Kiel?" You are from Chicago and should have went to Berlin or Vienna. And I respond with, "Why not Kiel?" I wanted a change from a big city and something that seemed more traditionally german. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED Berlin when I visited but it was very big like Chicago. So I chose to study German at Christian Albrechts University at Kiel Germany.

And here I am. I came here knowing nobody. (Ok well I sort of knew Steffen, who came to U of I for a year from Kiel but I had only met him after his year abroad was over.) And I absolutely love it here! I live on the ocean and the beach (or should I say beachES seen as there are a lot here) and best of all, I live among Germans and live, breathe, eat, drink GERMAN! Germany is somewhere I have always heard of because of my grandparents and I grew up eating german food and always hearing/seeing pictures of Germany. So to finally be here is amazing!

Back to the idea of coming here not knowing anybody. At first I was really nervous and missed my family a lot. I knew nobody, spoke not that much German and was scared. Well it has now been a month and all those feelings are completely gone! I have gotten really close to my "flatmate" Linda. She is from Denamrk and we share a lot of the same interests which is good! We both came to this foreign country knowing nobody and hoping to improve our german and live in a different country with a different lifestyle and learn more about the culture here. She also shares my "let's see as much as we possibly can in the short time we are here" attitude, which is awesome!!! We have gotten a lot closer and we are already planning her big trip to the states where I will show her EVERYTHING! She always hears me and Steffen talking about Illinois, Chicago, and U of I and she can't wait to be a big tourist and come there too :-) I also will meet her family this weekend which will be exciting! She is lucky enough to be only a few hours from her home in Denmark which allows for visits from family and friends which is nice! I have also met a lot of Germans which is so cool! I get to do things like eat at a real german home or watch german tv shows at their homes (I don't have one here) which is really cool!

Well I have written a lot for a first blog, and need to go to sleep because I need to get up early tomorrow. We are going to Lubeck which is a town not too far from here. I'll write more tomorrow about some of the things I've been up to while being here :-)