Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Germany (page 1 of 26)


Author: Elisabeth Walters

Location: Reutlingen, Germany

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Before leaving to come to Reutlingen in August, I was nervous and scared. The idea of leaving the country I call home to experience something new was, although exciting, also nerve wrecking. My mind kept replaying all the things that could go wrong. However, going out of my comfort zone was the best thing I could have done for myself.

By going out of my comfort zone, I have, firstly, seen the sights of the world from the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt to Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom. Secondly, I am able to say that I’ve tried swabian food from Germany and seafood from the Mediterranean Sea. Also, I am able to say that I have lived in a culture that varies from my own and I am able to compare the teaching styles of Germany to the United States. Another thing is that I have faced challenges that I would have never have faced back at home and I’ve learned important life lessons from those challenges.

Besides the lessons that I’ve learned, the most important thing is that throughout my study abroad semester I have made true friendships with people who live differently than me. I’m able to say that I have a home away from home because I have come to love the city I stayed in during my time in Germany. Also, during my stay in Reutlingen, I’ve made memories that I’ll be able to replay in my mind for the rest of my life as well as share with others.

Clara, Ethan, and I eating smores on top of Georgenberg

A couple of us celebrating Ethan’s birthday in Reutlingen

As my time in Germany comes to an end, I have realized that I am no longer the same person that I was when I came here in September. I have changed. I am no longer afraid to test the limits and go for what I want in life. I have also changed in regards to my cultural awareness. Having stayed in Germany for a few months, I can say that I am more aware of what is a stereotype of that culture and what is not. Lastly, the lessons I have learned, the memories I have made, and the friendships that have blossomed in Reutlingen are not ones that I am saying “goodbye” to, but simply saying “see you later”.

Do You Really Know the Country You Studied in?

Author: Elisabeth Walters

Location: Trier, Erfurt, & Cologne Germany

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

When students study abroad in a foreign country for a semester, they come back saying they have seen and experienced the culture of that country. However, one of the professors, here in Reutlingen, mentioned how “one cannot go to Washington D.C. and say they’ve seen America; just as one cannot say they went to Reutlingen and seen Germany”. Thus, my roommate and I decided to visit all sixteen states of Germany.

When we made our decision to complete this task, we had already visited five of the sixteen states through both school-guided and personal excursions. Therefore, we decided to focus on the ones we had not visited yet. The first stop was the state of Rheinland-Pfalz, which we had chosen Trier as the city we would visit. When visiting Trier, we walked around the city and saw the Porta Nigra, which is a Roman Gate.

Also, we visited the Aula Palatina, originally built as an audience hall for Emperor Constantine’s Palace, and the Electoral Palace, which is attached to the Aula Palatina. During our travel to Trier we witnessed how the state and city was focused on its production and sales of wine, whereas in Reutlingen this is not the case.

While in Erfurt, we first visited the Krämerbrücke (Merchant’s Bridge). The Merchant’s Bridge, which is the longest Medieval Bridge in Europe that has inhabited houses, was beautiful; however, it is still a mystery on how one gets to the middle buildings on this bridge.

Next we visited the beautiful Erfurt Cathedral, here we realized that a majority of people in this state did not speak English very well. Thus, our German language skills were utilized more. Lastly, we visited the Erfurt Zoo; however, when traveling to the zoo, we witnessed a demonstration pertaining to chemicals in food products. Through witnessing this demonstration, we were able to observe the importance of health among the German people.

The third state that we accomplished was Nordrhein-Westfalen. For this state, I visited Köln, with another Valpo student, on German Unity Day. During this national holiday, all schools have off alongside a majority of shops and museums being closed. However, while in Köln, I was able to visit the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) and the Schokoladen Museum (Chocolate Museum) as well as a stroll along the Rhine River. The first stop in Köln was the Kölner Dom because the cathedral is directly outside the train station. Although I did not get to go within the cathedral, I was able to marvel at its towering height from outside. The second stop was the Schokoladen Museum, there I was able to learn about the different ingredients, the evolution of brand advertising and production, and even about different countries’ economies being affected by chocolate production. Although I learned a varying amount of fascinating information, my favorite part was when we received free chocolate throughout the tour because who does not love free chocolate. Once we visited the museum and cathedral, my friend and I strolled along the Rhine River. Overall, through this experience, we were able to observe another side of Germany, one where chocolate is just as important as beer to the culture of Germans.

As of now, I currently have eight more states to visit before my time in Germany concludes. However, although I have not seen all the states yet, I’m starting to get a better image of what Germany is really like. Through the states I have visited, I am able to diminish the stereotypes of Germany that I once believed and replace them with real facts about the culture and behaviors within the country.

A Day in Reutlingen

Author: Elisabeth Walters

Location: Reutlingen, Germany

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

When choosing a place to study abroad, one of the aspects I considered was which location provided more opportunities to travel and observe different cultures. For me, Reutlingen provided easier access for my desires, however; I never imagined the amble amount of experiences that the location itself contained. Within just one day this city has provided me with an experience that cannot be found in any other study abroad location.

When starting off my day in Reutlingen, I walked around the campus and local streets. While doing this activity, I realized the calming atmosphere of the city as well as its unique beauty compared to where I call home. Also, when choosing to walk, I got to closely observe the true culture of the country and city, in which I witnessed to be true to staying both healthy and active.

After enjoying my morning and early afternoon, the Valpo group met with the program’s Resident Director, who is thrilled to show our group the true culture of the country. After the meeting, we headed to downtown Reutlingen with the Resident Director to see specific sites and visit the city’s Weindorf (wine fest). Before visiting Weindorf, the group visited the narrowest street in the world, which is in downtown Reutlingen as well as the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church).

The Marienkirche, which was built between 1247 and 1343, is one of the most Gothic buildings in Swabia (the region in which Reutlingen is in). When inside the Marienkirche one can easily depict the differences between American and European culture, not only through the architecture, but the furniture within the church.

Baptismal Fount inside the Marienkirche

Once we explored the downtown area a little bit, we continued onto Weindorf, where the cultural experience did not stop. While at Weindorf, our group enjoyed different types of wines and enjoyed the music provided by two talented accordion players. While sitting in the streets of downtown Reutlingen I could not help but enjoy the fun and exciting new atmosphere.

At the end of the night, we were able to choose where we wished to go. Although we were allowed to separate, the whole group decided to visit the Irish Pub and there we met other international students who are studying in Reutlingen as well this semester. Through this meeting, we got to witness a mixture of cultures as well as develop new friendships.

Overall, the lesson learned was that one can always find culture and unique experiences within the city they are staying in. Also, that the program in Reutlingen has more to offer than what meets the eye.

What the hell is Water?

Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Reutlingen, Germany

Pronouns: He/Him/His

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” -David Foster Wallace

I’d heard this joke before. David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite writers, and I’d read the speech-given at Kenyon College in 2005-a few times before. However, I read it again about a week ago, and it just stood out to me. This joke, in my opinion, describes what the study abroad experience is all about.

“Water” in this case, is just our daily surroundings. We don’t think of it at all. It’s just where we are. Valpo is Water. Founders is Water. Our classes are Water. And we just keep swimming. I fell into this mindset my sophomore year. I had tunnel vision with my immediate social circle, and with Valpo in general. I didn’t think much about big picture things, I just went to class, went home, did things around campus, and called it a night. All of that was Water to me. I never truly appreciated the good or seriously questioned the bad. I just kept swimming.

Study abroad changed a lot of that for me. I thought more about the world, and our place in it, as Americans, as young people, as human beings. I met people from all walks of life, and every different continent. I was more independent than ever before. I failed-many times-but every time something went wrong it just taught me more. Growth is never easy. Growth doesn’t come from staying inside your comfort zone. It comes from good old fashioned fear. It comes from trying new things and failing miserably. It comes from living in a country for a whole semester without even speaking the language. I grew up a lot this semester. As a student, as a friend, and as a person. Living in a foreign country was difficult, but it’s the best kind of difficult. It gave me perspective. Being able to see Valpo as a small part of a larger whole was extremely eye opening. I figured out what the Water was.

So, in summation, I think this semester went well. I can’t say I have any major regrets, and I honestly think that this semester changed me more than any other semester has. I’m going to miss this place a lot, but I’m eternally grateful for what it’s brought me, and the person that it’s shaped me into. I’m coming back to Valpo as a more well-traveled person who’s better equipped for life at VU and elsewhere. Germany was amazing, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who’s even considering going. It’s been an amazing time, and I can’t wait to make it back to Europe again sometime in the future. Until next time.


William Bodlak
Valpo Class of 2020
Reutlingen Study Abroad Class of Fall 2018

Christmas Markets

Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Germany

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Fröhliche Weihnachten! It’s still a little bit (about two weeks as of my writing this) before Christmas, but the Christmas spirit is in full swing here in Germany. Christmas Markets are in just about every town here. They feature people selling food, drinks, and just general gift items. One of the more popular drinks here is gluhwein. It’s mulled wine that everyone in Germany drinks a lot of during the holidays, and it’s amazing. Hot wine tastes a little odd at first, but once you’re used to it it’s amazing.The overall vibe of Christmas in Germany is like nothing else. Hearing the music, seeing all of the people milling about, it’s something that never fails to amaze no matter how old you are. Some Christmas markets have different features. For example, Reutlingen’s has an ice skating rink, that I skated on for a bit and somehow managed not to fall. It’s a wholesome, fun experience that reminds us about how special the Christmas season really is. It reminded me of when my family would go see the living Nativity sets when me and my sister were younger. Something about the cold air, hot drinks, and the Christmas spirit just creates an incomparable vibe. That is 100% the corniest thing I’ve ever written, and it’s 100% true. Merry Christmas!

A picture I took at a Christmas Market in Prague


Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Germany

Pronouns: He/Him/His

I’ll admit to not knowing Germans didn’t celebrate thanksgiving until around mid September. It’s so ingrained in our culture, I figured everyone celebrated it in some facet, no matter how US centric it is. However, we didn’t get the day off for Thanksgiving, and most people I met here either knew about it but didn’t celebrate it, or had never even really heard about it. We did, however, have a Thanksgiving celebration put on by our university. It was interesting. All of the staple thanksgiving foods were there (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes), and the international students that came seemed very intrigued at this foreign (to them, at least) tradition.

One thing that caught my attention was the way the Thanksgiving story was told. We were treated to a presentation by some American students about Thanksgiving, and it was the standard story that every American is used to hearing, with the good feelings between pilgrims and natives. I was wondering whether or not a more critical version of the story would be told, as recently the colonialism of the holiday has been called into question, and many find it distasteful to celebrate a holiday started by heinous actions like this. None of this controversy was mentioned in the speech, however, and we went on with the meal. It was a good time with better people. I missed my family for sure, but I really enjoyed getting to enjoy the meal with people who I’ve become extremely close to recently. It’s well past Thanksgiving, but to everyone reading this, I hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving, whether you’re in America or elsewhere.

Florence/Rome/Venice, Italy; Reutlingen, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands

Author: Shannon Ilg

Location: Florence/Rome/Venice, Italy; Reutlingen, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

October 28, 2018

During Fall Break, we continued to travel across Europe. After we left Paris, we went to Florence. Upon arrival I see this magnificent building and am reminded how very, very much I love Italy. I mean, I think mountains are beautiful, but I think that Italian cities have been the most interesting to me.

October 29, 2018

It was a little bit rainy the first full day we were in Florence, but it was just so beautiful! We were staying in the city, but took a bit of a hike just outside the city and were able to see these stunning views.

October 30, 2018

Here is the view from our rooftop Airbnb. It felt like we were in an action movie and could just go run and jump across all the rooftops. I couldn’t get enough. Did I mention how much I love Italy?

October 31, 2018

Next stop? It’s where all roads lead. It’s where you do what the other people do, it’s Rome! The first full day we were there we got to… roam… around quite a bit. We saw the Vatican and all of the ruins, and everything was breathtaking. I really appreciated that anywhere you turned, another building you had seen a million pictures of was right there in front of you, and it’s then that you realize how little pictures actually capture. You can’t tell how beautiful or massive or intricate these places are without visiting them. It’s times like that where I really am just thrilled that I chose to study abroad. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Ooh, I almost forgot! This night, we all decided that we wanted to make dinner and mac and cheese was what we came up with. So, we bought three random cheeses, and tried it out. It was by far the weirdest but most delicious mac and cheese I have had. This is because apparently those cheeses were not meant to melt into noodles. Instead it was a cheese block with noodles, but oh man was that cheese block good.

November 1, 2018

The second day in Rome was much less eventful. It was very rainy pretty much the whole day and within the ten or twenty minutes we were actually outside, we decided just to head back with a fresh pineapple and enjoy a day inside. I had to catch up on some homework and lecture videos that I had fallen behind on the previous several days. That and we watched Monty Python’s Life of Brian (What did the Romans ever do for us??). Despite being indoors, it was a great day. It was nice to just relax and also be productive, finishing some homework.

November 2, 2018

This is one of the coolest doors that I have seen abroad. I mean, mostly because of the artistic lighting and dense shadows, but it really caught my eye and I just had to share!

This was on the way back from Rome when we stopped in Venice. Which was beautiful. Originally, we had an Airbnb here for the night, but Venice had just been badly flooded, so we thought it would be best not to stay so we canceled our booking. Instead of finding another train, we kept our reservations and spent a couple hours in Venice anyway. For the record, there was no more flooding, and we totally could have stayed there. But in all honesty, it was nice to sleep in Reutlingen for free in my own bed for a night. (Not this night though.. this night we spent on an awesome overnight train where the seats stretched out into a bed that we somehow managed to fit 6 people on…)

November 3, 2018

Back in Reutlingen, I caught up on homework yet again and relaxed for the day. This was the fall view from a late afternoon walk.

November 4, 2018

Reutlingen with the fall colors truly is beautiful. I just love being able to look out the window and see mountains. It’s wonderful.

November 5, 2018

This is the last leg of our journey for Reutlingen’s fall break. Amsterdam was quite an interesting city to spend a couple days in. Here you see a street performer who used audience volunteers to tie him up in a straitjacket with chains wrapped all around him, and then proceeded to escape. It was quite the show! He was very funny and in general very engaging to his crowd.

November 6, 2018

Amsterdam has quite the collection of museums to choose from! I didn’t end up going into the Van Gogh museum, but I went into two pretty weird museums. One was a torture museum, where they have the history of Medieval torture devices and at the end, a very meaningful message that questions the reader about what we have in society today that is really just other means of torture.

The second museum was that which you see above. It’s from the only microbe museum in the world. It brought you through the history of, well, the world, on a molecular and biological level. It was very interactive, allowing you to look through various microscopes at different stages of growth for all sorts of microbes. All together a very engaging museum, and the coolest bit was the fact that they have a lab in the back of the museum where they grow all of the different organisms.

November 7, 2018

This was our last goodbye look on Amsterdam. Just one of the many pretty canals throughout the city.

Here I also say goodbye to the Valpo Voyager. As you can see by the date of the last photo, I still had over a month to the end of the semester, and I continued to take pictures every day. But by now, you have seen much of the wonders I explored throughout Europe, as well as the boredom of schoolwork, and the nuance of being in a new place. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my journey and that perhaps it has inspired you to make your own adventures.

Stockholm, Sweden; Reutlingen, Germany; Paris, France

Author: Shannon Ilg

Location: Stockholm, Sweden; Reutlingen, Germany; Paris, France

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

October 20, 2018

Stockholm, Sweden. A beautiful city! Although, it was rather chilly to walk around all day (40,000+ steps, if anyone is counting…) so I ended up purchasing a coat from a second hand shop and a touristy winter hat. Both of them have since then been wonderful additions to my travel wardrobe. Side note… my silly self decided that I wouldn’t need a winter coat so I had originally just brought a jean jacket and a slightly insulated raincoat. I think I would have been okay just in Reutlingen, but with all of the traveling I am certainly glad to have bought the coat and the hat.

October 21, 2018

To save time on traveling by train I secured a cheap flight back from Sweden. It was certainly a great choice, as I got to see the beautiful sunrise over the wing of the airplane (and also saved myself from a 24 hour journey…). Upon flying back into Hamburg, we significantly lowered travel time, and also were able to stop briefly in Berlin again, where we attempted to buy currywurst where we had previously (a delicious sausage street food). Unfortunately, the vendor was not open yet as it was 9 am, so we settled for a chain restaurant.

October 22, 2018

The next morning, Reutlingen greeted us with the first frost. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

October 23, 2018

Another day, spent completely in the walls of the study room, working endlessly on homework. I mean, this is *study* abroad… we can’t just travel all the time! (Although I have done a fair job of traveling every spare moment)

October 24, 2018

I just have to say kudos to the chef of this wonderfully magical mac and cheese that breathed the life back into me at 2 am. It was delicious. Thank you, Lauren.

October 25, 2018

Here you see the contents of approximately 73% of the meals I eat when I’m traveling. A) it’s cheap. B) it’s quite delicious. C) it’s easy to pack upwards of 5 meals for two people at the same time. D) It’s relatively light and packable. E) You can easily carry peanut butter and jam, Nutella and honey, or a number of other combinations so it doesn’t get boring. F) I mean, I could go on, but I think you get the gist…

Oh, by the way, this is the start of Fall Break for classes in Reutlingen (although I still had to keep up with my 3 classes from Valpo), and this countertop is in Paris.

October 26, 2018

Oh, look at that! The Eiffel tower! In all honesty, I was not expecting a whole lot from it at all. My thoughts were approximately ‘it is an overrated hunk of metal that everyone likes taking pictures of’. But it was actually really cool to see in person! It was a lot taller than I was expecting, and you could see it from very far away. Although I don’t think I need to go back any time soon, it was certainly worth the time to go see.

October 27, 2018

So as you can see, I had a pigeon on my arm. This was in front of Notre Dame, and there were a bajillion of these birds out there. There were some men selling bird food that you could attract them with, some people having ten or twenty birds on them at the same time. I happened to have a bunch of stale granola with me, so we used that and had the time of our lives waiting for our tour to begin.

Financial Blog Part Two

Author: Michael Boyajian

Location: Reutlingen, Germany 

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Greetings again, readers! The picture that I have attached is a recording of my expenses for the month of October. I started the month with $2,458.08 left in my budget. What you’ll see is that this month, not only did I have more expenses, but I also had some income. You’ll notice that I spent the bulk of my expenses in the “Austria Trip” section. Over fall break, my mother came out to visit with me and our extended family, who happen to live in Graz, Austria. During our trip, my mother discovered that her Discover Card did not work in most places, so I ended up paying for both of us when we stayed in hotels and had meals. Luckily, we were able to stay with our family, which saved us plenty of money on living/meal expenses. At the end of our visit, my mother’s cousin gave me an unexpected gift of 300 euros “for travelling”, which converts to roughly $350. Because many of my purchases this month were
made with a card, I have a good amount of cash going into the month of November, and I expect to not have to withdraw much money from my account.

Although my expenses were higher this month, I did receive a larger amount of income, leaving me with $2,346.02 left in my budget at the beginning of November. Going forward, I expect to go on one or two more weekend trips and I don’t expect to see any more income for the rest of my time in Germany. I will keep recording my expenses, and I’ll post again at the beginning of December before I post my total expenses for the semester. Hope this helps! Bis spater, und Ciao!


Author: Liam Bodlak

Location: Munich/Stuttgart, Germany

Pronouns: He/Him/His

“What’s the history of Oktoberfest? Like, what’s the significance?”

A friend asked me this question, and I honestly didn’t know how to respond. I’d been to the festival three separate times-twice in Stuttgart, once in Munich-and I was unaware of any sort of major historical significance of it. So I did my research, thought about it, and finally figured out what Oktoberfest was all about. The answer is that, in 1810, King Ludwig I put on a festival to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese, and the event sort of caught on and was celebrated every year.

My first Oktoberfest experience was in Munich. Me and three friends took a late train from Leipzig to Munich, and after arriving, met up with our Airbnb hosts. After a survey of our Airbnb (complete with a box shower that kept the water warm for about thirty seconds), we were all ready to start our day at Oktoberfest. And what a day it was. We found ourselves in the Hofbrau House, where we found ourselves seated next to two Scotsmen, who we spent most of the day with. We talked about various topics, including the Midwest (“Indiana’s the one with a lot of NASCAR, right?”) and Unicorns (the national animal of Scotland, because Scotland is amazing). I also received travel advice from a very friendly Dutchman, who talked my ear off about how Rotterdam was better than Amsterdam. A few hours later, I was feeling pretty hungry. I went to a McDonalds right outside the venue, and was reminded again that Europeans don’t have sweet tea. (I tried explaining it for a solid 10 minutes to someone in Copenhagen and he couldn’t wrap his head around the concept. If nothing else, Americans are outdoing the rest of the world in the field of sugary drinks). We eventually got back to the Airbnb, and we left the next morning. Munich Oktoberfest was a success.

Two weeks later, I spent two nights attending Wasen (Stuttgart’s version of Oktoberfest). Stuttgart was slightly smaller than Munich (Munich is around the size of San Diego, and Stuttgart is closer to Louisville), but it was still a great time. Highlights included multiple singalongs of Country Roads (John Denver is evidently huge in Germany) and having one of the people at my table scream, unprompted “I AM THE POLISH ANGUS YOUNG!”, a quote made exponentially better by the fact that there wasn’t even an AC/DC song playing at the time.

Everything was so overwhelmingly beautiful. From the rides, to the food, to the way the whole festival lights up at night. I was awestruck the entire time I was there. I felt a sort of togetherness with the people there. All of us were strangers that became friends for a few hours. We had fun together, but in a few months we’ll all be back in Scotland, or Ireland, or Poland, or wherever we’re from, and we’re all going to be a distant memory and a funny story to someone else. But that word-togetherness-is something I definitely felt at Oktoberfest. Just from little interactions, I felt a closeness with the world that I don’t normally experience. We’re all very different-culturally, spiritually, economically-but for a few hours, we were all together.



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