Germany: Around the world in 90 days

“Do the things you fear most and the death of fear is certain” – Mark Twain



The Road less Traveled

So it’s been a little over 2 months since I first arrived in Germany. A lot of my posts these past few months have been concerning travel. I’ve been to Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Bavaria, Mannheim, Frankfurt, etc. I’ve been traveling most weekends and haven’t really had time to reflect on the experience as a whole.

Before this experience, I had rarely traveled outside of Oregon. And in fact, I had barely spent time exploring my home city of Portland. I lived in a very tiny bubble. I remember the spark that planted the seed of adventure, the desire to see the world. By chance, I got a letter in the mail from an organization called “People to People” to be a student ambassador for non other than bowling (fun fact: I was in a bowling league for 10 years and president of my high school bowling club). Had I gone, I would’ve traveled to the Netherlands and competed with kids from all over the globe, but alas, it was not meant to be. Yet since that moment, I have waited for the day when the planets aligned and I could finally travel. That day never came, so I said “you know what, [insert expletive here] it, I’m going anyway”. Originally the idea was to travel to South America, as I was taking Spanish at the time and wanted to improve my Spanish while immersing myself in the culture. Yet I kept pushing the trip aside until, surprise, I was a Freshman in college. Then life happened, I grew up, started focusing on my career, and became highly involved around campus. Then I had a choice.

I could focus my energy on graduation, to have a diploma in my hand and a real sense of security, or I could push graduation back a few terms and go abroad. Not an easy decision. But as fate would have it, I decided to take summer classes a year ago. And during that time, there was an info session. And I remembered. 8 years ago, the excitement I felt when I was asked to travel to the Netherlands, the disappointment when I found out I couldn’t go. The years of Spanish, the desire to immerse myself in another culture. So I finally decided I would say yes. No matter what, I would go abroad. And here I am. Is it everything I dreamed it would be? It is. It is the single best decision I’ve made in my entire life. I’m not going to lie and say it was smooth sailing from that point out. In fact, it was anything but. As confident as I sound now, I had a lot of anxiety and reservation even after I made the commitment to myself. There were many times when I was ready to drop the program, when I wanted to say I had too much on my plate and I simply couldn’t afford to take a term abroad. But I asked myself, “When all is said and done, do I want to live a life of regrets”? To always wonder what would’ve been had I gone abroad. And that’s all I needed. A reminder that this was the next step in my journey. That, wherever life takes me, let it be forward. So why Germany?


Germany

Maybe it was all the history channel I watched as a kid, the pure fascination with the world and the association of Europe with cultural heritage. Perhaps it was the fabled rumors of delicious beer, beer that far surpasses any beer in America. Or it might of been the allure of magical castles or simply the idea itself (to experience something new). Yet if I’m to be honest, there were a few main reasons I chose Germany.

It’s centrally located

Want to spend a weekend in Paris? No problem. A weekend in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy? Absolutely no problem. In fact, London and Ireland are a short flight away as well. If you’re looking for easy travel, look no further than Germany.

It’s got history

Mosbach, while small, is the perfect embodiment when you think of a German town. Each building… Well… Just take a look for yourself. This is Mosbach and I’m actually living here! No joke, it’s pretty much straight out of a fairy tale. Oktoberfest is pretty cool as well, and Lederhosen are very stylish. Of course there’s more history than that, tis’ but a snippet.

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Following my roots

In the 8th grade, I had the privilege of being in Australia for my cousin’s wedding. While there, I hunted down my great great great grandfathers grave. It was fun and made me realize the importance of heritage. I take great pride in where I come and while I’m still trying to piece together the family tree, I can say I have a lot of German in me. In fact, on the name sheet for my classes, my nationality says German; was it a mistake or something more? I can’t really say. I’ve also learned ein bisschen Deutsch, so… Anyways, it’s a lot of fun if you have heritage from the country you’re going to! It’s something to consider, but not necessary to have a great time.

The U.S. 2016 presidential election

I picked the right time to go abroad. Will The U.S. collapse or prosper? Who knows, I’m in Germany. If I want to, I can simply come back here and live a peaceful existence, regardless of what the election outcome is.


Closing Thoughts

Am I a different person? Yes. Life is about taking risk. If we don’t takes risks, we don’t grow. And when we’re not growing, we’re stagnant or worse, stumbling backwards. I never want to wake up one morning and realize that I’m exactly the same as I was yesterday. The thought absolutely terrifies me. I want each day of my life to be an adventure and the best way to do so is to constantly set new goals. So my message is go out, be bold, and don’t waste your time worrying. If you’re on the fence about going abroad, don’t be. You don’t want to be the student that regrets not taking the opportunity while you had it. In fact, I honestly can’t imagine what my college experience would be like without this opportunity.

 

 

Germany Week 2 (and 3… and 4…): Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Germany is pretty cool and I’ve left the house a few times!

The question everyone is asking, “does Mike Cole speak German?” What’s the answer. Well, that’s the debate. I say “Jaaa” but many say “Nein, Nein, Nein!”. I however, am not deterred and have strengthened my resolve to practice pronunciation every minute of the day.

In other news, I left coffee in the coffee maker back home. It’s only been a month, so I’m sure it’s fine. An evil nail also ripped my pants, but I hear ripped pants are all the rage. And I lost my health insurance card, so if I don’t post for a while it either means I’m super busy or got struck by illness and am dead.

Adventures

 Switzerland

My big adventure for week 2 was going to Switzerland, which was absolutely gorgeous! Rhein (Rhine) Falls was absolutely amazing. The Falls are 250 ft wide and 75 ft high (as illustrated beautifully by the photo below). After standing in awe for a good while, we then headed over to Lucerne, where we spent a few hours exploring the city.

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Lucerne was absolutely amazing. The city had a giant monument of a dying Lion carved into a rock. Of course, words and photos can only say so much, but they say enough, so here’s a picture!

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Then of course there was the old town… Which had murals painted on the buildings.

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Other than that, it was just plain beautiful. Walking around, seeing the history of the city, it really is something that has to be experience. There’s a lot of character in European cities. Then we spent 10 hours in Zurich which was more or less the same (not a bad thing). My only regret is that I am but a broke college student, so I couldn’t buy a Swiss watch.

France

This last weekend I was in France, which was absolutely amazing. I drank French wine (both red and white), ate a crepe, ate a baguette (I almost started crying it was so delicious) and had some fancy French Chicken (forget what it’s called).

And of course, the most amazing part of the trip…

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Notre Dame

Disclaimer: I am attending class in case any of you were concerned. First two weeks I had a crash course in the German language, last week I had a Intercultural experience course, and this  week I’ve had business law and leadership.

That’s it, that’s my week(s)! Thanks for reading and stay classy friends!

Germany Week 1: I’m not dead!

I arrived and am alive!

So the first question you may be asking yourself, “Did Mike make it”? The answer is yes. The next question you might find yourself asking “what have I been doing the past week”? Well, let me tell you.

Classes started the 5th and I arrived at 6:10am on the 2nd to Frankfurt airport. Feeling overwhelmed at the airport, I quickly found the nearest Starbucks,which I suppose is better than going to McDonalds. After I had time to collect myself, the rest of the OSU squad arrived and we took a taxi to downtown Frankfurt (don’t, it cost 74 Euros!).  Frankfurt is basically the Wall Street of Europe, so there were plenty of skyscrapers and people in suits. When we arrived, we checked in at the youth hostel, had lunch, and then napped for a few hours (super exciting!). After our lovely nap, we decided to explore Frankfurt. Besides there being a lot of brothels (we didn’t go in, I swear!), there were…

Churches!!!

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I took a lot of photos but the one above is my favorite and is simply here to illustrate the fact that we explored around 3 to 4 churches, all of which were very beautiful. Just to give you an idea of scale: 20160902_170516

After the churches, we found…

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A bridge with love locks! A lot of love locks! That’s about it. It was cool, but nothin’ special.

And Then…

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The creepiest statue ever. And then…

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The chillest statue ever… But of course, I wouldn’t be a good business major if I didn’t take a photo of…

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The Bear and Bull of Frankfurt! So yes, it’s confirmed! Frankfurt is indeed the Wall Street of Europe if there ever was any doubt.

What else did I do? Ah yes, after Frankfurt I arrived safely in Mosbach via train. The housing is amazing and i’ll have more photos on the way… But for now, just to give you an idea of how awesome this experience has been thus far, here’s the bed i’ll be sleeping in for the next four months.

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Yes, it does have zebras! That’s all for now, cheers and stay classy friends!

Germany: What Have I done?

Life is about experience. If you had asked me a year ago where I saw myself a year from now, I bet you I wouldn’t be saying Germany. Yet a little over year ago, I asked myself a simple question, “why not”? I was taking summer classes at the time when I read an email saying “Hey, Study abroad is pretty cool, come listen to some guest speakers from Germany and Sweden talk about the programs”.  So I went. Sometimes that’s all it takes, a little nudge in the right direction. When I went to info session, I fell in love with the German program and as much as I’d love to say I did hours of research into every country I could experience through study abroad, Germany had me at Oktoberfest. I had my reservations at first but here I stand just a week away from what will be the greatest experience of my college career. So…

Why Go?

Perspective – It’s about understanding. The world would be a better place if everyone went abroad and learned that we as human beings are more similar than we are different. More so than understanding similarities, study abroad is a great way to teach you to value the differences.

Independence –  The great quest of the college student, learning how to Adult properly. You can spend your entire college career thinking you can Adult and are getting quite good at it only to realize once you graduate you’ve been doing it completely wrong. What better way to learn how to Adult the right way than in a foreign country?

YOLO You only live once. Was there ever a truer statement? Is study abroad a risk? Of course! I could end up living in a box when I get back from Germany because I spent all my money on beer. Who knows? But if we didn’t take risks, face our fears, and live for experience, then we wouldn’t get anywhere in life!

You actually save money! (In theory) – Groceries are cheaper, housing is cheaper, textbooks, etc. As far as I know, I’ll actually be saving money while overseas! Probably not, but one can dream.

But the main reason you should study abroad…

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As I said earlier, life is about experience, or better yet, life is about adventure. If we’re not moving forward, we are either standing still or moving backward. It is absolutely terrifying to take a leap of faith and say “I’m going to live in a foreign country for 4 months”. Yet the very fact that I’m terrified makes this opportunity all the more exciting. When we are afraid, it means we are outside of our comfort zone. Every time we step outside of our comfort zone, we grow. We push our limits and set new standards for ourselves. Our comfort zone expands each and every time we face our fears and that’s when we say “what’s the next adventure”?