Feeling at Home, Away from Home

Living in Germany has taught me countless lessons, more so as I continue to become a more involved global citizen. Over the course of my capstone assignments, I have been challenged to remain objective and inquisitive, allowing myself to understand the culture as a German citizen does. This week, I stayed within the city limits of Heidelberg (I have more travels planned in the future), further familiarizing myself with the day-to-day lives of the people here. Between my classes, outings with friends, and a viewing party of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, I experienced a week full of intense language study and hilarious, enlightening moments with friends. As with any standard week, however, Monday comes all too soon, and attending class comes first.

In class with Frau Althaus

By the time I am out of class at 12:30 pm, I have normally worked up quite an appetite, and begin to seek out lunch in the Altstadt. In this old part of the city, there are countless options for quenching one’s hunger (and thirst). Germany is truly an amalgamation of food types, and one can easily spend countless hours hopping from restaurant to restaurant, gorging delicious foods from cultures around the world. Some days, I find myself in the mood for a typical German meal, and make my way to one of many establishments where Wienerschnitzel and Bratwurst are bountiful. Other days, I am hungry for Vietnamese Pho, Korean BBQ, or spicy Indian curry. Nearly every type of food which I had grown accustomed to enjoying in the United States is available here, and usually tastes a bit higher quality and/or more authentic.

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Korean beef bulgogi and Banchan (sides) at Gogi Matcha
The Dubliner, a personal favorite for Irish fare

After finding some food for Mittagessen (sometimes before), I enjoy meeting with friends for a cup of coffee at a local café. There are seemingly endless choices for this activity, a favorite of the German people, and choosing a favorite is near impossible. Kaffee is the highest selling drink in all of Germany, placing it above German bier (something which I had a hard time believing at first)! Café Extrablatt has become one of my favorites due to the consistent high quality coffee, location on Hauptstraße, which is perfect for relaxation and people-watching, and its proximity to accessible, reliable wireless internet (something of a rarity here). German culture truly appreciates the opportunity for gathering with friends and enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee while sitting outside in the beautiful weather. As summer comes closer and closer, more people are outside every day taking advantage of the outdoors. I usually find the time to sit among them and enjoy the day-to-day life at a slower pace.

Delivery smart-car for Emma Café, a common sight in Heidelberg
Transit system map

As summer becomes more of a reality with each passing day, the climate in Heidelberg reflects the coming heat. I did some research into the city’s climate, and learned several interesting facts which help explain the seemingly bizarre weather patterns and vegetation here. Primarily, I found that Heidelberg is among the warmest regions in all of Germany. Because of this, plants which are atypical of the central European climate flourish here. Among them are fig and almond trees, as well as the more rare olive trees. Along the Philosophenweg (Philosophers’ Way), opposite the Altstadt across the Neckar, wine-growing was restarted in 2000, in part because of the area’s unusually warm climate. I walk past these wineries every day on the way to class, and can smell the grapes from some distance away. In addition to vegetation, the warm climate allows for a wild population of African rose-ringed parakeets, as well as Siberian swan-geese, which can primarily be seen on the islands of the Neckar near the Bergheim district. Since I live in such close proximity to this area, I see both types of creatures around my dorm on a daily basis.

Sunset from my dorm In Neuenheimer Feld

All in all, living here has taught me so much about experiencing another culture firsthand. I can safely say that each passing day is a gift which opens my eyes to the world from an entirely new perspective. While I was nervous and worried at first, those feelings have been entirely replaced with a newfound admiration for the differences between our culture in the United States and that of Germany. Living abroad has given me the confidence to settle down anywhere and find a place in the culture. Experiencing a place (Heidelberg in my case) not as a tourist, but as a resident, has allowed for me to view the United States from the outside, and reflect on much of what I have grown to believe about Europe. The experience has made me desire to live elsewhere, spend time listening to new languages, meeting the local people, and doing as they do. I believe that this is critical in the process of expanding one’s horizons, and I will never forget the lessons which I learn on a daily basis while living abroad.

A street in Heidelberg’s Bergheim district
A path which I use for morning jogs along the Neckar

I posted a video of a typical walk on Hauptstraße to YouTube, and you can view it here.

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