Europe tour part 1

My friend Amanda and I were fortunate enough to have our classes end before the University of Hertfordshire’s scheduled Easter Break and decided to use the free time to our advantage and explore as much of Europe as possible on our college-student budgets. For this first part of our journey we primarily utilized the Eurail pass. While the upfront cost was pretty significant (close to $500 for the any country 15 days in 2 months option), it gave us the freedom to hop on almost any train we wanted to. There were a few that we had to pay to reserve our seats on ahead of time, but with the pass we were still able to save money.

Amsterdam 4/15 – 4/17

We left England around 5pm on the Eurostar train. It took us directly to Amsterdam from London which was nice. When we arrived, we bought a pass for the tram system and headed straight for our hostel -Hostel Van Gogh- so we could rest up for the next day.

We woke up and ate breakfast at the hostel before going for a walk at a park nearby. The park had beautiful tulips and this interesting tree carving.

After the park we went to the Moco museum that featured a lot of Banksy’s artwork and had these floating tulips in the square outside.

Then we went shopping at local markets until it was time to meet Amanda’s friends that live in and near Amsterdam for dinner.

Berlin 4/17-4/19

After our day in Amsterdam, we left on a train for Berlin. This train was several hours, which let me finish one of my last papers. We arrived in Berlin and again headed straight for our hostel- Grand hostel Berlin- which is one of my favorites from our travels. The staff was really friendly and the overall atmosphere was so welcoming.

Our full day in Berlin was pretty packed. I went to a really cool film museum which was in the spacious Sony Center. It focused primarily on German film history, but a lot of the early German pioneers had a huge influence on American cinema and it was really cool to learn more about people I had only briefly heard about in classes back home.

Next up was the German Spy Museum. I have always been obsessed with spy movies and books and after taking a class on James Bond films last spring I was a little too excited for the interactive exhibits.

After the museums we went to Checkpoint Charlie and ended the day walking along the remaining section of the Berlin Wall which now functions as a gallery for street art. We ate dinner at scheers schnitzel which had amazing fresh food and a really chill atmosphere. There were signatures all over the wall from people who had eaten there before. Berlin was one of my favorite places but I wish I could have experienced it with my family. My dad has always wanted to visit Germany and it made me kind of sad that I was experiencing it without him and the rest of my family.

Next up: Prague and Austria in part 2

You Don’t Have to be ‘Living Your Best Life’ 24/7

Before I get into this post I want to say that I have loved my study abroad experience and hope that this post doesn’t discourage anyone from going abroad too. I just want to be transparent about something that I feel like isn’t talked about enough: every day of your study abroad experience isn’t going to be profound or life changing. You will have normal days just like you would back home and you will also have bad days that will be worse than back home because you don’t have your usual support system to calm you down and help you to the other side.

My first day in England was honestly awful. I arrived at 6am after an 8 hour flight with no sleep. Then when I finally arrived on campus (and so grateful that I had signed up for the uni-arranged transport) I found out that my accommodation wasn’t going to be ready for another couple of hours. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity I finally arrived in my room and tried to take a nap before venturing to the mall to buy sheets and other things I really needed but didn’t want to take up space in my luggage. It was around 4pm when I made it to the mall and already dark outside, which of course did not help my jet lag and disorientation. I bought my sheets without issue, but when I finally realized I was hungry and went to buy food, my card was declined. So I had to walk back to my room on campus to connect to wifi (I didn’t have a local number yet) to facetime my parents and set up an online virtual chat with my bank even though I had made sure to tell them before I left that I was going to be abroad. By that point I was too tired to walk back to the mall to get food and everything on campus was already closed so I decided to order a pizza. However, what I did not know was that the pizza delivery to the campus did not come directly to the flat, but instead to the nearby taxi circle. I waited by my flat door since I didn’t have a phone number that the delivery driver could call thinking I would be fine and be able to let them in the flat and get my pizza no problem. It wasn’t until a random person in my building came downstairs and told me about the delivery process on campus that I realized that my pizza was probably lost forever and I would likely go to bed hungry that night. I cried so much that day and I was so tempted to turn around and come back home. What I didn’t know was how quickly my situation would turn around. The next day, I was invited to go into London with a group by another exchange student from Oklahoma that I met at the airport. I was so tired that I almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad that I did. That day I met people that I became really close with over the course of the semester and that day is one of my favorites simply because it turned my outlook around. Since then I’ve still had days where I’ve been really homesick and questioned my decision to study abroad, but with any big life step that’s normal.

Don’t let someone’s social media influence how you think your experiences should be. You may not love every part of the experience, but trust me, in the end it will be worth it.

Pinterest: How I Increased My Engagement by 4000% in One Week

If you use Pinterest for business-related purposes, you may have asked yourself at one point or another whether promoted pins are worth it. Will the conversion rates be high enough? Will there be a significant enough of an increase in site traffic to justify paying for advertising? I argue that yes, both high conversion rates and increases in site traffic are entirely achievable. In my case, by using Pinterest Ads, I was able to increase my pin’s impressions by 4300% in one week. More importantly, user engagement with the pin shot up by 3600%. Need proof? Take a look for yourself:

Before Promotion:

pinterest engagement impressions views increase grow

After 7 Days of Promotion:

pinterest engagement impressions views increase grow

The best part about all of this? I spent less than $10.00 to advertise on Pinterest for one week.

Note: I created my Pinterest Ads account on the same day that I promoted my first pin. The “0%” increases in “Total Impressions”, “Total Engagement”, etc., reflect the fact that the Analytics and Ad portions of my Pinterest account had not been established for a long enough amount of time to gather such information.

pinterest engagement impressions views
My Pinterest Ads overview banner. Total spent: $8.58.

Now you might be thinking, “Great, so promoting a pin wouldn’t be a complete waste of money – but what purpose would it serve?” My personal goal in promoting a pin for the first time was to jumpstart a small amount of traffic to my brand new website. Although there are plenty of free ways to gain exposure for and increase traffic to a website, I was aiming to see growth beyond interactions from people within the network I’d already established organically.

Here’s why promoting my pin got me the results I wanted:

1. I can now analyze Pinterest Ads’ summary of users who interacted with my pin, making it easier for me to specify (and further streamline) my target audience.

While I chose the keywords and phrases through which to target users who might be interested in my pin, Pinterest has now done the rest of the work for me. After a few days of pin promotion, Pinterest Ads automatically sorts user information into a downloadable Excel sheet. This data includes information such as where the engaged users’ genders, where they are from and what languages they are searching in. This takes a large amount of the guesswork out of deciding who to target when promoting similar pins in the future.

2. Unlike an ad on Facebook or Instagram, my promoted pin will continue to earn organic engagement through the users who first interacted with it.

Although Facebook and Instagram could be better platforms to appeal to different age groups, geographic locations, etc., than of the majority of Pinterest users, using Promoted Pins has plenty of advantages. For example, if I were to publish an ad on Facebook or Instagram, creating one would take more time and more money to achieve similar results.

Additionally, it is much more likely for your pin to appear on a user’s feed regardless of how long ago it was published. In fact, most pins achieve their highest rates of engagement between three and a half months and two years after they were first published (Piqora).

Piqora Study, Pinterest engagement

Compared to the chronological timelines of Instagram and Facebook, those extra months (or even years) of exposure provides you with a much better opportunity for your content: a longer shelf life for less money.

What can I do to increase my Pinterest engagement if I don’t want to promote a pin?

  1. Make sure all of your content is original and high-quality.
  2. Share the content with your Facebook network.
  3. Share that you’ve published new content in an Instagram or Facebook story.
  4. Put the link to your Pinterest profile (or pin) in all of your social media profiles.
  5. Join a collaborative group board on Pinterest to share your pins with a community of users with interests relating to your content.

Have you ever thought of advertising on Pinterest? Why or why not? Would you consider doing so after reading this post? Feel free to comment or send me a suggestion at

The post Pinterest: How I Increased My Engagement by 4000% in One Week appeared first on ALLISON DOOLEY.

The Noun Class System of the Bantu Languages: Part II

As this was my final semester of my undergraduate studies, I completed the capstone for the Linguistics major. For my capstone paper, I chose to undertake a data-based analysis of noun class semantics in Bantu languages. This post and the previous one summarize my research on this topic.

After completing my literature review of relevant research on Bantu noun classes, my next step was to design a methodology for my own data analysis. There are 556 documented Bantu languages divided into 7 subgroups of varying sizes. However, most analysis of Bantu noun class semantics thus far has been conducted on a very narrow sample of these languages, primarily focusing on widely-spoken languages like Swahili. In pursuit of a more representative analysis, I chose 1-2 languages from each subgroup for a total of 12 languages.. In the map below, the Bantu language region is shown in light brown; the dots on the map, which are separate from the legend, indicate the locations in which each of the languages in my sample are spoken. Same-color dots represent languages in the same subgroup.

Edited. Map source: Wikipedia,

After noting and comparing the semantic themes that appeared in the noun classes and singular/plural noun class pairings in each of the sample languages, here are the ones that were most common:

Class pairing/ monoclass Semantic themes
1/2 Humans, animates
1a/2 Animates, miscellaneous
3/4 Plants, trees, body parts, small animals, nature terms
5/6 Natural sets, body parts, nature terms, nouns derived from verbs, descriptors, miscellaneous
7/8 Small things, body parts, miscellaneous
9/6 Miscellaneous
9/10 Animates, plants, miscellaneous
11/10 Long/thin things, miscellaneous
12/13 Diminutive
2 Animates
6 Liquids, uncountables, bulk items/collections
9 Diseases, abstract nouns
14 Abstract nouns
15 Nouns derived from verbs
16 Locatives
17 Locatives
18 Locatives

After determining this possible semantic scheme for the noun class system of Proto-Bantu, I used my research from the literature review and my background linguistic knowledge to speculate as to the probable reasons for the development of this system in modern Bantu languages. The four reasons I defined were:

  1. Influence from other languages: Many Bantu languages are influenced by each other, by other African languages, and/or by colonial European languages, such as French.
  2. Collapsed semantic categories: When speakers lose a strong semantic distinction between two things, one of those things can move into the other’s noun class. A noun class shift for grammatical reasons could also incite semantic change. For example, in the language Pagibete, animals have moved into the human noun class, indicating that the distinction between animate and inanimate is more important than that between animal and human.
  3. Connotative manipulation: In some Bantu languages, nouns can be moved between categories to adjust their meaning. Nearly every language in my sample had a noun class to inflect a pejorative meaning, for example.
  4. Arbitrary nature of language: Sometimes, language changes without semantic, grammatical, or cultural reason. This could well be the case for Bantu noun classes.

I had never done linguistic data analysis on this scale before, and it was fascinating to learn the ins and outs of so many languages and look for patterns. Furthermore, I enjoyed the tidbits of cultural information I learned in studying these languages’ vocabularies, language samples, and semantics. While I am convinced that a Bantu language would be incredibly difficult for a native English speaker to learn, I now am more motivated to try!


The Noun Class System of the Bantu Languages: Part I

As this was my final semester of my undergraduate studies, I completed the capstone for the Linguistics major. For my capstone paper, I chose to undertake a data-based analysis of noun class semantics in Bantu languages. This post and the following one will summarize my research on this topic.

The Bantu languages, spoken across the southern half of Africa, comprise a subgroup of the Niger-Congo language family. The area in which Bantu languages are spoken is shown in beige on the map below.

Image source: Wikipedia,

Bantu languages are hypothesized to have descended from one mother language, Proto-Bantu. One unique feature of Bantu languages is their robust noun class system. You are probably familiar with the feminine/masculine gender system in Romance languages. The concept of noun classes is similar, except while Romance languages have 2-3 genders, Bantu languages can have up to 23 noun classes! Further, these noun classes are not only expressed on nouns and adjectives, but also on verbs, prepositions, and more. 

While the grammatical structure of the Proto-Bantu noun class system is well-defined, any semantic basis is hazy at best. There are two main theories regarding the development of noun class systems: one, proposed by Malcolm Guthrie in 1967, argues for semantically arbitrary noun classes determined only by grammatical and morphological criteria. The other, proposed by Denny and Creider in 1976, presents a possible semantic hierarchy for Bantu noun classes.

Why is this important? For one thing, understanding the noun class system of Proto-Bantu can give us clues to how Bantu languages, and their associated ethnic groups, have migrated, merged, and diverged over time. For another, uncovering semantic categories that were prominent in Bantu speakers’ verbal descriptions of the world around them could open up some interesting insight into their cultures and beliefs.

While I don’t address this social analysis in my research, it would be a fascinating follow-up to my work for an anthropologist to undertake. In my next post, I will explain how I looked at modern Bantu languages to develop hypotheses about Proto-Bantu noun class semantics.



In my morphology class this semester, I did a project on Amharic, a language I’ve wanted to learn more about for a long time.

Amharic is a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia; it is a primary language in the off-white area of Ethiopia on the map to the left. This language is notoriously complex in terms of its morphology and grammar, as each word has a root that can appear to change significantly in different grammatical situations.

Image source: The Language Gulper

In my project, I investigated the relationship between case-marking (which indicates whether a noun is a subject, direct object, indirect object, etc.) and valence-modifying operations (things like causative – ‘I make you eat potatoes’, passive – ‘potatoes were eaten by you’, etc.). Amharic has a nominative-accusative case-marking system, like English – meaning it distinguishes between subject and object. However, it has a marker that goes directly on the noun to indicate nominative or accusative case, which English does not have.

It took me eleven pages of data and discussion to complete my analysis, but the essence of my conclusion is this: only nouns functioning as an accusative argument are marked in causative and passive operations, and only one of these may be marked in a sentence. When a decision has to be made about which accusative argument to mark, Amharic prefers to mark nouns indicating the goal or source of a verb to those indicating the theme of the verb.

It was very interesting to investigate these operations in a morphological and grammatical system that much more complex than English’s is. However, my favorite thing I learned was a related crumb of information I stumbled upon. In Amharic, the causative can be layered onto the passive (which is not possible in English, but would take the translated form, rather inelegantly, of something like: ‘I made the potatoes be eaten by you’). The following examples show how these layered operations in Amharic result in logical and beautiful shifts in meaning:

(a) awwək-ə
      ‘disturb’ (Leslau 1995:503)
(b) t-awwək-ə
      ‘be disturbed’ (Leslau 1995:503)
(c) as-t-awwək-ə
      ‘cause to be disturbed’ (Leslau 1995:503)

Amharic language source:
Leslau, W., & Thomas Leiper Kane Collection (Library of Congress. Hebraic           Section). (1995). Reference grammar of Amharic. Wiesbaden, Germany:           Harrassowitz.


“Final” Reflective Paper

Below is my final assignment for the course; a reflection on my time abroad thus far, posted on May 9, 2019

The beginning of May marks two and a half months that I have spent living in Europe and close to two months in Heidelberg, Germany. At this “midway point” in my study abroad journey, I am settled into daily life in this different culture. I can navigate the train systems, find my way around without having to use Google translate, understand common cultural norms and expectations, and have a daily routine that reflects the German University system. If I were going back to the US tomorrow, my time in Germany would have been worth it. As I reflect on this first half of the summer semester, I have already noticed three common themes in my experiences in Heidelberg that I hope will impact my life, long after I have returned to the United States.

Before studying abroad, I knew to expect culture shock as I transitioned to living in Germany. I expected to find the German culture itself to be challenging to get used to, but I have found the opposite to be true. The structure, punctuality, directness, and general values in Germany, sometimes called “der Deutsche Weg,” has been one of my favorite parts of German culture. It has provided me with a clear set of guidelines on what to expect and how to process my experiences. One culture shock I didn’t expect was the language barrier. I knew that I would struggle to speak German at first and would often have to revert to English. Prior to arriving in Europe, I felt comfortable with this notion since English is spoken by most of the younger generation in central Europe. When I arrived, however, I was very self-conscious of the fact that my presence would force the people I interacted with to speak in my language, rather than their mother-tongue. There are two natural responses to cross-cultural conflict and culture shock: fight or flight. I quickly realized that my gut-reaction is flight – to avoid potentially uncomfortable or awkward situations altogether. To overcome this, I have had to be intentional in seeking out conversations and interactions with people in my host culture. Though I may have reservations beforehand, I have never regretted these encounters, be they in English or German. Lastly, I have observed that being immersed in a different culture means that I am far more easily exhausted from my daily routine, because I’m constantly translating in my head and must be more aware of my surroundings. Taking time to rest, connect with a friend or family from home, and to do something familiar have been important parts of settling into a different culture.

Another theme that has been reoccurring during my time abroad has been hospitality. I expected German culture, and European culture in general, to be cold and more reserved, making it harder to make lasting friendships over a semester in Heidelberg. This has not been the case. In my travels, I have been welcomed into several homes for a weekend or a nice meal. I have met families and students that have selflessly included me into their daily lives and let me get a glimpse of true German culture. Even on the University campus, student organizations go out of their way to be welcoming and to build community for international students. Small talk rarely occurs in Germany, which means that I must be proactive to meet new people. However, the friendships I have made here have been genuine and generous, especially because of their intentionality. I have been touched and surprised by these acts of hospitality. However small, they have made large impacts on me and my time in Germany.

The first city I flew into before coming to Heidelberg was Barcelona, Spain for a conference. There, I learned about a method of sight-seeing called the “living gallery.” Essentially, the point is that each city has its own history, architecture, attractions, and everyday life and people that make it unique. In my experience, viewing a city as a “living gallery,” has made me more attentive and enriched my perspective of the places I have visited on short trips, like Tromsø, Vienna, and Bonn. In my long-term stay in Heidelberg, this “living gallery” perspective has taught me to take a step back and observe the culture that I am immersed in with a new perspective. My posts for the IAS 2790 course are the result of these observations – as I have learned more about German culture, history, language, norms, activities, and ideals, I have been able to build a better and more accurate picture of my host city. These observations go beyond the Heidelberg that the 11.9 million yearly visitors will get to experience.

By attending the “Authoring Your Study Abroad” course, I was able to set aside time to reflect on how much I have already learned from week to week. I now have a small collection of my experiences and observations of my host culture, which I appreciate. I was also able to be in connection with students from across the globe, who shared their unique perspectives on their host cultures. I found these stories encouraged me to look deeper and to discover more about my own host country and culture.

Though I am only half-way through my semester in Germany, I can already begin to imagine how my time here will influence me once I return to the United States and OU. I expect that I will be more willing to try new experiences, more prone to spontaneity and curiosity, more interested in other cultures and traditions, and more appreciative of the little things that I love about my home culture. I know I will miss some of the structure and efficiency of the Deutsche Weg. I hope to incorporate what I have experienced of hospitality and intentionality in relationships into my community. I will also miss the ease of travel, multi-lingual and cultural community of the European world. Yet, with all that I will miss in Germany, I am also going to be incredibly thankful for systems and social expectations with which I am both familiar and comfortable.

Observe the local sporting culture and compare with athletics in the US and at OU

Original Posting: April 25, 2019

The biggest difference between German sporting culture and that in the US that I have observed is, while the US places an emphasis on watching sports, there is more of an emphasis here on doing sports. Like the rest of Europe, Fußball and primarily the Bundesliga (the national German league) is very popular. When there are games on a Sunday, the student cafeterias (Mensas) will play them on a large screen for students to watch. My understanding is that the Bundesliga can be pretty predictable – Bayern Munich almost always wins – but it is also made personal since the clubs come from individual cities or regions throughout Germany. There are rivalries between neighboring cities and regions. In this regard, German Fußball culture isn’t really that different from football the US. One interesting difference is that clubs are at least 51% owned by the fan base, who vote to make decisions for the club that reflect the wishes of the fans themselves.

When it comes to actively participating in sports, I have observed some bigger differences in my time here. I have a brochure of all the summer semester sports offered through the University sitting on my desk. It has eight leaflets filled with paid and free activities, from ten different types of martial arts to salsa, windsurfing, and everything in between. Nearly everyone in who attends the University takes part in “Uni-Sports” in one way or another. My apartment sits right on the corner of the sports complex and I can always see a stead stream of students heading to and from courses. Even after the sun goes down, I frequently hear hockey players practicing across the street.

This isn’t just a part of college culture in Germany either. Germany is known for their clubs – there are clubs for everything, from knitting to Nordic walking. Clubs must be registered with the state government (likely so they can legally manage funds) organize events for every interest. Most of these clubs are sport or athletic clubs of some form. It’s very common for an adult in Germany to be a part of a handful of different clubs, regardless of age. Not only is it a way to be active, but it also serves as a social environment and weekly structure.

Observe the Role of Food in your Host Culture.

Original Posting: April 11, 2019

Once again, as the semester has officially begun and I have been able to spend time with more German students, I have more to add to my observations – this time, regarding food. University life in Heidelberg is very different from that of OU, especially because there isn’t the same centralized campus that gives OU its community atmosphere. Since buildings are spread out all over the city, I have found the heart of the social side of the university is in the Mensas, or student cafeterias. Around 1pm every day, the Mensas are packed with students from every study and area of Heidelberg. Student eating is relatively cheap and almost everyone opts to have at least a few meals a week here.

In German cities, it is very common for people to eat out for lunch – nearly every day. Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal of the day, which means that there is a longer lunch break than is typical in the States. As I mentioned previously, traditional German dishes are less popular. Still, you can always find typical Swabian meals in the Mensa including knödel, kartoffelsalat, or other potato dish, schupfnudeln and sauerkraut, spätzle, schnitzel of some sort, and seasonal vegetables. Right now, it is spargel (white asparagus) season, which means that nearly every menu in the city has some sort of asparagus dish – all of them delicious. Seasonal produce is a kind of obsession in Germany – for two months, all you see are asparagus and rhubarb. Then it will be on to other things.

Traditionally, German food is exactly what you might expect – lots of sausages and other meats, cheeses, potatoes and bread. With that being said, some of the most interesting attitudes towards food in German culture have nothing to do with these “staple foods.” One of the first things I noticed after grocery shopping in Germany is the prioritization of whole and fresh foods. Every local grocery offers a “bio” or organic option of nearly all fresh foods and many packaged goods. In an attempt to make fresh produce available to everyone, the prices of these bio foods are usually only slightly more expensive than the regular variety. I believe that the German government provides subsidies to organic farmers and aids in keeping the costs of food down. Here they value fresh and healthy goods, which also means that processed foods sold in supermarkets are often without the laundry list of preservatives you might find in the same product in the US.

I have noticed that German culture values nature and health in ways that impact everyday life, like having 4 recycling bins, fresh daily markets, and organic and local options in grocery stores. Though it may seem funny for a country famous for schnitzel and bratwurst, vegetarianism and veganism are rapidly growing movements on college campuses. Many restaurants and university cafeterias in the city offer vegan and vegetarian versions of nearly every traditional German dish. The German dinner tradition Abendbrot has also adjusted to this trend. Translated “evening bread” or dinner, Abendbrot is a light meal consisting of bread paired with spreads, cheeses, meats, and vegetables. It is used commonly as an inexpensive meal when gathering with friends, as each person brings one component of the meal. Now, instead of cured meats and cheese, many Abendbrot spreads include bio vegetarian spreads as a replacement.

Another German food tradition is a weekly Sunday event. Germany slows down on Sundays, as most businesses are required to be closed. This includes grocery stores, offices, and all but a few restaurants. For this reason, the local Aldi is typically packed with unprepared college students Saturday evening. Then, on Sunday, families take the time to hike, go for walks, and visit relatives. Part of this is the traditional, “Kaffee and Kuchen,” where the family visits Grandma’s house for afternoon coffee and cake. It’s a leisurely way of intentionally spending time together over good food, another essential in German food traditions. I have found Abendbrot, Kaffee and Kuchen, and many other food traditions to be used in German culture as a way of pausing from work to spend time with family and friends.

Observe the Role of Politics in your Host Culture

Original Posting: March 28, 2019

So far, I have found the political ideology and climate in Germany to be exactly what I would expect. I do want to add the caveat that my interactions with German students has and will continue to be limited until the semester officially begins. I hope to update this post later with a more informed knowledge-base. With that being said, I was in the country for less than 72 hours before I was first asked my political views and what I thought of Trump. I was forewarned that German culture expects you to know your political views and be able to discuss them. So far, this seems to be correct.

The current German political system is quite interesting, as it is comprised of several different parties that must form a coalition across party boundaries in order to gain enough support to rise to power. Even with my rudimentary knowledge on the system, I could write all day about the nuances of this system and the ways that the people and parties interact. For anyone interested, one interesting topic in German politics is the rise of the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) – a far-right party that has some vague reminiscence to Trump’s rise to power. Another is the distinct cultural identity of Bavarian Germany, resulting in a separate so-called “sister-party”, CSU that shares much of the same political stances as the other Germany party, CDU. Finally, I have found the role of Germany in the EU to be an interesting topic. Germany seems to have benefitted substantially from the Euro and other EU policy and maintains influential role in policy decisions, which not every European country can claim.

I find it interesting but not surprising that Germans seem to stay actively involved in politics. Though not officially confirmed, I theorize that German history in the past 150 years serves as a reminder of the importance of a checked government. One way this manifest differently than in the US is the high value on freedom of speech. German censorship laws are far less here, if they exist at all. University lectures are always free and open to the public. Reading the news or listening to the radio are part of daily life, as are political clubs and organizations. Every resident of Germany must pay a monthly tax to fund public radio and television, even if one never utilizes this service. Since I have been here, this stress on the importance of free speech has been the main way that I have seen politics (past and present) influence German culture and the daily lives of people in my city.