I have finally made it back to the US without missing any luggage or missing a train ride or a flight. I also learned how to read a real paper map. Overall it was an extremely successful trip. In three weeks I managed to take a two week study abroad class, earning three credit hours and spending an extra week traveling to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. Below is a general overview of my trip. If you are here because you heard this was a travel blog with tips for traveling, I plan to write those in the upcoming weeks. I will provide details of how I did everything on a student’s budget and made it alone in three big cities.
Germans have taken it upon themselves to find alternative ways to how we currently produce power, recycle and provide hot water. They believe that if they don’t start the trend to alternative resources, then who can we expect to take on this challenge? The class I took was about renewable energy in Germany. Currently about 25% of their energy comes from renewable resources. It was a two week class which met everyday besides Sunday. In the afternoon we would take field trips to a solar panel factory, bio-community in the countryside of Germany (they use animal “waste” to make hot water for the whole village), Climate House (a museum that educates you and simulates different climates and the ways of living there), a power plant that burns trash to make energy, and many more trips. They showed how Germany is creating a more eco-friendly country while also showing us many parts of Germany. We sometimes traveled two hours one way to these trips. This meant there was plenty of time to drink beer and to get to know everyone on the bus. The city that I was actually staying in was Wolfenbuttel, an hour away from Hanover, Germany. We did go to Berlin one day and saw all the major monuments and walked around the city. We saw the countryside as well, which was breathtakingly beautiful.
I met some really awesome people while on this trip. There were 14 Purdue students, 1 student from Finland, 6 students from Germany, and 6 students from China, and they were all amazing. The hospitality of the German students was unreal. They would find activities for us to do after class like canoeing, hiking, laser tag and of course… the bars. They opened up their apartments to us, let us stay the night and get to know their personal friends who weren’t in the class. One of their friends even invited me and two others over to her house and made us a homemade German meal. It was so incredibly nice we could not stop thanking her for the awesome meal. I have fallen in love with Germany. I told my mom now is our chance to move to Germany because we all know she would be completely okay with that :).
Did I get to travel on the Autobahn?
Yes I did, and I hate to break it to everyone, it really is not all it is cracked up to be. There are only certain parts that you drive without a speed limit, and when you’re in a bus full of 40 people, that really isn’t an option. It is also more of their version of an Interstate, and it is all over Germany. We took the Autobahn to almost every excursion that we went on.
What is the food like in Germany?
A TON OF MEAT. If you are a vegetarian I would not recommend going to Germany unless you can read the menu. In the states I eat a very low meat diet. When you are unable to read the menus because they are in German, you kind of just have to go with whatever looks the best. Also, lunch meat sandwiches are a common breakfast food. The bread however is more of a roll like texture and shape, but it’s basically a lunch meat sandwich. However, my favorite food was döner, which is a gyro sort of meal with a German spin. It is cheap and delicious: two things college kids love.
Did I pass the class?
I hope so 🙂
Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris
The most expensive part about going to Europe is the plane ticket over there. Besides that, everything else is relatively cheap. My hostel in Paris was $24 a night and was close to the train station. With that being said two weeks was not enough time for me in Europe. Since I was in northern Germany, I decided to see all the major attractions on that side of Europe. I spent 2 nights in Amsterdam, 1 night in Brussels and 2 nights in Paris. I was supposed to travel with one other person, but that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. I ended up spending 80% of the time on my trip alone. I of course waited till I got back into the states to let my family know this. I didn’t want them to worry too much.
Amsterdam is the Las Vegas of Europe with about what seemed like 90% of the people being tourists. The city is completely English-friendly and very easy to navigate. While I was there I went to the Van Gogh Museum, my absolute favorite artist. The museum was amazing and lived up to all of the hype I had read about on the Internet. One of my friends from Germany, Jan (pronounced yawn), actually met me in Amsterdam for a day to show me around the city. Sitting on the canal just enjoying the view was one of our favorite things to do. While I was there I also ate at this amazing Indonesian restaurant that I still have dreams about.
Brussels is a lot more low key and is a slower pace than what any of the other places I visited. Unfortunately it was a holiday when I went there, so I could not go and check out any museums. But, I did take a beer tour and go on a bike tour around the city, and those were both awesome. Brussels beer is very, very, very good, and now I have opened my beer pallet to many new flavors. My favorite beer was a strawberry beer. It was sweet, but not as sweet as a strawberrita, which made it perfect. Of course I tried a Belgian waffle while I was there, and I couldn’t eat enough of those. For two Euros you can get a waffle with chocolate drizzled on top! What more could you ask for!?
Paris. Now I don’t want to ruin anyone’s dream of how awesome Paris is and how much fun you’ll have there, but personally for me I thought it kind of sucked. It was the only city that I felt unsafe in when I had to walk alone. The best part about Paris actually was when I left the city and went to the Palace of Versailles, which was absolutely beautiful. I had so much fun getting lost in the garden trails and just walking around. After I went to Versailles, I went back into the city and went to Mass at Notre Dame. The Mass was all in French, but I knew what to do when it came time for Communion, since all Catholics do the same. The church was just as beautiful as it seemed in the Hunchback of Notre Dame! I of course went to the Eiffel Tower and watched the sunset. Once the sun sets, there is a small light show that happens which is very enjoyable.
Overall I loved Europe, and I can’t wait to go back. There is so much more that I want to see and now that I am able to read maps, ride the metro, and know an average cost for how much everything is, I plan to go back next summer. I am hoping that my mother can go back with me so we can do it together. If you have any questions about how I did it, feel free to leave a comment. As mentioned above if you came here to get travel tips and are feeling disappointed, please come back later. I plan to post the details of how to travel with a student budget, tips for traveling alone, and flying in an airport abroad.