Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Most Amazing Adventure of my Life, Part 1.

So you may or may not have noticed that in a few of my previous posts, I've mentioned that there was a long and complicated story about my absence from certain activities. Well, I think the time has come for me to begin telling you that story. It is indeed very long: so long, in fact, that there is no way I can cover it all in one blog post. This is merely the beginning. 

The Heidelberg castle in the winter time.
So I've mentioned that I'm a double major in Linguistics and German. Well, the Linguistics degree was coming along quite well, but my German comprehension was remaining at about the same level. I'd contemplated furthering my studies in German for a while, but in Fall 2008, I decided to actually do something about it. I had an interview with the head of the German study abroad coordinator in November, and she encouraged me to fill out an application. My boyfriend at the time was supportive of the idea (at the time, I never did anything without his approval), and so I did. I filled the 85 pounds worth of paperwork, wrote a heartbreaking essay about how I'd die if I didn't get on this exchange, paid the entry fee, and waited. And waited. And waited. 2 months went by, and I didn't hear a word. Christmas came and went. A new semester began. The study abroad coordinator became a teacher of mine. I'm almost positive she got tired of my asking every day in class whether or not they'd made a decision yet. I know I got tired of hearing her say "Not yet. Not yet."

Finally, one day in early February, after almost going insane, I received an email. The preview of it said "Exchange 2009-2010: We would like to inform you that..." I swear it took me 30 minutes to work up the courage to actually click the email and see what it said. I needn't have worried: The email was full of good news. I was accepted to go to Heidelberg, Germany for a whole year. Hello new country, goodbye old life! 

The money is so colorful here!
I'll skip the rest of this school year, the summer, the break-up, and go straight to the day I was supposed to fly out of the country for the first time. I'd become good friends with another girl who was also going to Heidelberg (there were only three of us, and the third guy never spoke to us), and we decided to fly to Germany together. We took the red eye, and arrived in Frankfurt Flughafen (airport) at about 7:30am. I couldn't sleep the whole ride over, and so was basically running on a lot of coffee and adrenaline when we finally landed. An online friend of mine was supposed to meet us to help us get to Heidelberg, but there were two problems with that: a) I didn't really know what she looked like, and b) I had no way to call her and see where she was. It was only by complete chance that she found us while we were getting some Euros. We got on the ICE train (Stands for Inter-City Express) with our 892719274631792673712098127 suitcases and successfully managed to make it to Heidelberg. I won't bore you with the ridiculous amounts of paperwork we had to do and the attempt to actually find our new dorms (sounds like it'd be fun, but it's really not). I'll also skip to the first day of classes.

Nicole and I. She was one of my first friends.
We had to take an introductory class that would supposedly help us acclimate to the German culture and colloquial speech. It turned out to just be a grammar class. On the bright side, I did learn how to snore in German. Other than that, it was an extremely boring time. I did get to meet my first new friends: an Arizona girl named Nicole, a couple of French guys named Florian and Pierre, a Scotsman named Craig, and a bunch more. Nicole introduced me to a schoolmate of hers back in the States named Ashley (name sound familiar?). Every day for a month, they gave us a traditional German breakfast (bread / pretzel, coffee, some kind of meat every once in a while, or some kind of pastry), and we strengthened our friendships. The best part of the day was definitely when we were dismissed from class. Nicole and I would walk down the Hauptstrasse (main street. This is the main shopping district of the town) and try on clothes, look for stuff for our dorm, and marvel at the fact that we were actually living in Germany. 

My intro class. Everyone came from all over the world!
It was a boring class, but I'm glad I got to meet these
One thing I had to adjust to was walking everywhere. I wasn't the skinniest of girls before I left the States, so having to walk even a mile was a little bit of a challenge. But in Germany, everyone either walks or takes the bus. There are few people who actually drive. I'd huff and puff and complain about having to just walk up and down the Hauptstrasse once, but by the end of the month, it wasn't even a challenge anymore. 

Up at the castle! Ashley, me, Abby (the other UGA girl),
Dan, and Kenny! (Photo by Lauren)

Towards the end of the month, a famous violinist (Andre Rieu) came to do a concert in downtown Heidelberg. The tickets were very expensive, and they sold out very quickly. However, there was one place with excellent seating and the price couldn't be beat (Read: free): Up at the castle. A little geography lesson about Heidelberg: it's nestled in this little valley in the foothills of the Alps. The castle is about halfway (or about 314 steps) up the mountain, so the location had an excellent view. Ashley invited me to go up there that night with some of her new friends on a midnight picnic. I was a little concerned about the legality, but I decided it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I went anyway. We hiked up the mountain with our wares (read: various types of alcohol. The drinking age is 16, and there are no open container laws in Germany, so we weren't breaking the law in that sense), found a great location in one of the gardens, and listened to the beautiful concert. On the way up, I was introduced to Ashley's other friends: Kenny, Dan, and Lauren. I brought along Abby, the friend who also came from my school. Dan was very friendly, and we really hit it off (that's a long story that you don't really need to know about). The view was a bit obscured by the castle, but the music came in just fine. We had a great time, and we even had a nice conversation with the security guard (so much for the illegality).

I arrived home that night very late, and very tired. But I fell asleep with a smile on my face, excited that the year was shaping up to be so awesome.


I'm sorry I haven't been posting so much these past few days. I'm on vacation (blog about that to follow soon) right now, so it's preventing normal posting. This adventure is going to take several posts as well, so just sit back, relax, and enjoy! See you next time!!

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