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 :-)

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