I left Reno at 1:30pm on a flight to Denver, CO on August 31st. Now of course THAT flight was late (45 minutes late to be exact) so by the time I got to Denver, I was in a bit of a panic thinking that I was screwing up my first international travel experience. I hauled ass (sorry for the language, Dad) through the Denver Airport, which is quite large. I made it to my gate as everyone was boarding and hopped on like a pro. My 10 hour trip from Denver to Frankfurt went very quickly, probably because I slept for about 6 of those hours and did crossword puzzles the other 4! (I get the super easy puzzles; it really boosts my confidence!). The food was yummy and I sat next to a really sweet German lady who helped me practice my German pronunciation and let me in on some little cultural secrets. I got off in Frankfurt and had to go through customs and cross into a different terminal to catch my short flight into Basel, Switzerland. I was nervous about having trouble getting through customs, but the seriously just looked at my passport and shoved me through. They’ll let anyone in these days! Haha. While walking through the FRANKFURT airport, I hear some call out my name. "WHAT!?" you say...."But you are in Germany!?" Yes, I know this. I was thinking the same. I turn around to investigate and see my friend Sami from USD standing there waving like a little kid. He just happened to be waiting to catch his flight to Madrid in the same terminal as me. I know, I know, so wierd! We grabbed a quick coffee and then I headed over to catch my flight to Basel.
The flight was just about an hour long so of course it was on one of those planes that is the size of an almond... I am really not afraid of flying at all, but the possibility of death always lingers close on those flights. Fortunately, death was not in the cards for me on the morning of September 1, so I made it to Basel safely, grabbed up my [oversized, HEAVY] bags, and got on the Freiburger Airport Bus. I think that the bus ride was about an hour, but I actually have no idea because I was totally comatose the whole time (I guess my jet lag sets in QUICK!). The bus dropped us off at the Freiburg train station and I took a 10 minute taxi ride to my school, The IES Institute. They immediately started me in with loads of orientation information and such; extremely overwhelming when you are too tired to form a sentence. The school is located in an old 19th century building which has been renovated very beautifully. The garden is awesome and the inside is brand new. Around 4pm I was shown to my dorm and allowed to get settled for like 9 seconds before the whole group left for dinner. The dorm is a bit of a ride from the school so I'll be taking the public transit to get there every day. It is a really easy system which is fortunate since I am a Reno girl at heart and public transpo just ain't our thang.
Not to be a complainer, but I got the short end of the stick in the dorm department (at least compared to all of my previous ones in SD). My building is a renovated French barrack from when France occupied the territory in the early '90s. It is clean but that whole military thing kinda ruins the mood for me. I'll put up some pictures soon, but trust me when I say that you guys aren't missing out on much. I gotta get some flowers in here ASAP; I am about to develop seasonal depression. On the bright side though, we get the privilege of sharing a flat with other German (and international) students that go to the university in Freiburg which is pretty cool.
There are about 35 of us in my program, which is referred to as the ‘EU Program’ since our studies are focused almost entirely on the European Union. We are mostly Americans but there are a few international students as well. We went to a pizza place where I ordered a 'Pizza Pepperoni' (a safe choice, right?). NOT. That baby came out with chilies all over it. Actual green chilies. Yikes! Well, of course I ate it (I am a Feroah, after all). Actually it was pretty delicious. There is a local brewery here called Ganter Beer and I had a stein of that. It tasted like metal at first (I was told that is because it's on tap...I told that person that I'd rather drink warm milk than suck on a quarter.), but after a few sips that ick subsided. The alcohol was clearly doing its job. Ha! I'll keep ya'll updated on my European alcohol adventures. As far as I can tell, most of the other kids in my program have hardly had a sip of alcohol in their lives (I cannot say the same, much to my parents' dismay) so this whole “it’s legal to drink" thing will probably get very entertaining for me as I watch them "find their limits". (Don’t worry Mom & Dad, I've already found mine. Let's just say that I won't be needing to spend a large portion of my money on booze since it only takes one drink to do the trick! I obviously have my mother’s tolerance for alcohol…).
There are so many little cultural quirks that totally puzzle/excite me! For instance, they recycle EVERYTHING here. Seriously, the system is more confusing than my senior calculus class. It's a joke. But hey, maybe I'll learn their ways and come back as a more environmentally conscious American (God knows we need 'em...). Also, Germans don't smile. Not in their conversations with one another and DEFINITELY not to strangers. Word on the street is that it's simply a "cultural difference", but I just think that their faces don't easily form a smile. Just a thought... We as Americans do it all the time, probably a lot more than we realize. I need to stop that right away for fear of tagging myself as a foreigner! Better get my nasty face on... :) There are so many other little things about this place that are so different and so interesting; I will log them as I think of them, just for the entertainment value!
I am currently sitting in my [bleak little] room in my PJs after an outrageously long day. It's 10pm on the 2nd of September and I will be crawling into my child-size bed shortly! I've included are some pictures to give you a better idea of my glorious reality! So much for that short blog thing...
Enjoy my friends.
Freiburg's new pedestrian/bike bridge and the Black Forrest in the distance!