There are some things that you learn about in textbooks that can hit you pretty hard and at times leave you at a loss for words but there is so much more powerful about actually being able to physically stand in the same place that is mentioned in the text...
Truly there are no words to describe how I felt as I walked through this memorial site. The same continuous thought in my head: I am walking on the same ground as the people who were prisoners of this concentration camp. My mind could not wrap itself around all of the terrible things that had happened in this place.
The atmosphere was silent especially in the memorials and churches on the grounds. As some of my friends and I walked into a church, where people who were imprisoned at this camp could go and have nuns pray for them, there was complete silence. As we all walked up to the front of the church without a word we all sat down and had several minutes of silence. Another church that you can also find on the grounds of the concentration camp was actually built by a former prisoner. This man designed the church with odd shapes to show the brake in structure of the aligned rectangular buildings that every concentration camp had. He also built a walk way that goes underneath what looks like a wing that is always shadowed. He did this to say that God will protect you under his wing.
After going into the churches I then went into a building that was completely made out of black lava that had a ramp going deep into the ground. This was another memorial site for all the lives that were lost.
The ramp leads you into a small room that is almost completely dark, except for one whole in the ceiling that allows light to come in and give the room some light. This light symbolizes that even in the darkest times there can still be hope for a better future.
One thing I have learned from Germany is that even though terrible things happened here that they are learning from their mistakes and they are excited about what is going on now.
The past is the past and you can't change it, so you have to learn from it and look at all of the good that is going on now.
The children are given a lot of freedom and independence and I am amazed at how seriously they take that responsibility at such a young age. I get the sense that parents/guardians are more trusting of their children.
When I go to school in the morning my host and I take a public bus and along the way we will pick up students that go to our school. These students walk to the bus stop , get on the bus, and get off at the school stop all on their own. I find myself always being a little worried knowing they have to do this all on their own because some of the children are only in first grade. During my student teaching placement I was in a first grade classroom and I can say that I am not sure that some of the students would be able to do all of that on their own. I think that in the United States we have a tendency to be helicopter parents and want to constantly know where our child is , what there doing, who their with, and if their okay. Sometimes it is to aggressive and I believe this causes our children to be less independent and more dependent on other people.
Growing up my dad always told me that no matter where I go to use the buddy system. He was never a helicopter parent but he just always wanted to know that I was never alone. I think that because I always had a buddy to go anywhere with me when I was younger, that as I got older it stuck with me and I always ask anyone around if they would like to go with me. But while being in Germany I have found that I too have become a lot more independent because almost everyday at some point I am traveling alone. At first the thought of taking public transportation by myself, especially in an unfamiliar place was terrifying. My first ride home by myself was lonely and slightly uncomfortable. But as I sat there I began to reflect (reflex of being an educator) and I thought to myself that I need to grow from this experience because sometimes I am not always going to have a buddy with me and that is okay.
I have been so proud of myself that independently I can navigate my way home and not feel anxious about being by myself. Before leaving for Germany I was talking with Tamara, one of the co-directors, and I told her that one thing I am nervous but excited for during this trip is becoming more independent. I have not only gained independence from traveling alone but also from not living with my cohort. This is my first experience studying abroad and not being under the same roof as my cohort which also was nerve racking at first because I would be staying with someone whom I had never met before. But once again I find myself reflecting and being so grateful for this experience because I could not have a more perfect host!
Our first stop in Germany was the city of Berlin. Berlin is similar to New York City but a little bit more spread out. While running through the city I was able to see so many different places. One of the places I saw was the House of Cultures which was a gift to Germany from the United States and it is easy to spot because of its curved white roof. I was able to see this from the Reichstag Globe. This building by far had the best view of Berlin. As I was walking up the ramp that outlined the building I was able to listen and learn about all of the important buildings around Berlin.
As I continued with our adventurous weekend in Berlin I was also able to see things different memorials from WW2 and also the Berlin wall. Of course I wasn’t able to see the entire Berlin wall but I was able to see a lot of it which now has art work all over it from different artist. I love being able to visit and view these places that I have learned about. It is such a different experience from seeing something in a text book to seeing it in real life. The beauty of Berlin and its buildings was indescribable.
I’m also getting very excited because I just arrived at my host house today. Her name is Eva and she is so sweet! When I landed in Stuttgart she was waiting for me with a sign made from the first graders that she teaches. I am so excited to meet them and she told me that they are also very excited to meet me as well. Eva said that each week the students will set goals for themselves and she said that some of the goals that the students set today were to talk to me using the little English that they know. Eva said that they will be able to ask me what my name is, how old I am, and what my favorite color is. I’m very curious to see the setup of the school and what the classroom will be like. I’m also excited to watch Eva teach English because that is what my concentration was in school.
I’ll keep you posted!
You would think that previously studying abroad would make it less nerve racking to travel to other countries but i can honestly say that I think this is the most nervous I have been about traveling. I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that this time around I am staying with an actual host and wont be living under the same roof as my cohort.
This experience is truly going to push me completely out of my comfort zone which I think we all need to do more often. Though I am extremely nervous I am also very excited because this will all be so different from what I am used to. Talking to my host over the past several months has helped to calm the nerves about a lot of things I was anxious about. I like that we were able to start building our relationship before I actually get to meet her. One thing that she has made me very excited for is the food in Germany so definitely stay tuned for all of the food pictures!
One of the most excited things that I love about studying abroad is being able to see all of the beauty of these countries. During some of our meetings prior to travel we were able to look at pictures and learn about something of the things we will see and the places we will visit. Of course the pictures were beautiful but I know that actually being able to see these places in real life will be 100 times better.
So as I post this blog with only and hour left before our bus leaves to take us to the airport I just want to make a personal note for myself to try new things and be open to adventure because this time will fly and before I know it I will be on my flight back home.
As the final days until graduation become closer and closer I am just reminded that the countdown for when I leave for Germany also become closer. I am excited but very nervous to study abroad in Germany. One aspect of this study abroad experience that I am most nervous about is staying with a host. I think I am most nervous about this experience because when I have study abroad before I have always stayed with my cohort. I'm hoping that this experience will take me out of my comfort zone and allow me to experience something that I never have before.
Before traveling, we attend classes that go over traveling procedures and also allows us to explore Germany before we arrive. So far I have learned that the language is not as scary as it looks. If you just take your time and sound everything out exactly how it looks you should be on the right track. I've also learned a lot about different places that we are going to travel to while in Germany. This is what I am most excited about. I think that the best part of traveling is being able to visit the places you see in pictures and actually experience what it will be like to be in the moment of such beautiful places. I have also been able to learn about the differences between how we live in the United States compared to how some people live in Germany. I think it will be eye opening and fun to immerse myself into the Germany culture.
I am also very excited to conduct my research while in Germany. My research will be on what literacy programs are being used in the schools and how they are similar or different to the literacy programs that are used in the United States. While doing some prior research I found a study that says that there is a significant decrease in motivation to read between the ages of 4th grade and the age of 15 years old.
So come along and follow me on this adventure.