“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.  

Observe the Nuances of Language Use in your Host Culture

Original Posting: March 22, 2019

On of the best parts of taking a language course in Germany is having the perspective of native speakers on the nuances of their own language. Many of the complexities I have observed as I learn the language relate directly to important social aspects of German culture. I want to note that while German has a reputation for sounding harsh, I have seldom found this to be the case. I think our perception of German language has a lot to do with media portrayal following the World Wars and less with the way everyday Germans speak.

One of the trickiest aspects of German language to master is the gender of nouns. Like many languages, each noun is assigned either a masculine, feminine, or neuter article – in German, der, die, and das. Unfortunately, there are no clear rules or patterns regarding which nouns receive which article and one must rely on memorization. The only real exception to this is when indicating the gender of a person. For example, a professor is either “der Professor” or “die Professorin”. If the people are plural, technically the masculine plural form is used. So the professors would be “die Professoren”. In the recent years, however, there has been a demand to make the language more gender fair. The need for linguistic change is not something we have to address in the US in the same capacity as I have observed here. Now, it is politically correct to address a group of professors, for instance, as “liebe Professoren und Professorinen (dear male professors and female professors).”

Another interesting language complexity is the use of another conjugation for formal conversation. If I don’t personally know someone, with the exception of my peers, I should address them with the formal case and conjugation of the verb. This is also common in many countries, but very dear to Germans. I have to be careful as a language learner when I address people to make sure not to accidentally cause offense. Here it is the safest case to use the formal case and if the other person feels it would be appropriate to speak informally, they will tell you directly.

Observe the Nature of Educational Environments in your Host Culture

Original Posting: March 7, 2019

I attended my first real course of the semester yesterday, and so have a much better picture of what and how a university campus functions in Germany. Some things are so different from the way that the system works in the United States. The most difficult process has been working out how to receive credit for courses that will equate back to OU. There is no unified system like Banner for the university here. Instead, each faculty authorizes credit within the department. Students receive certificates of completion from each course to prove their attendance and grades. As an exchange student, I must collect these forms and have the Study Abroad faculty create a transcript. The system is quite cumbersome for an international student, but I understand it is efficient for students studying within a faculty. Another significant difference is in class structure. Most classes distribute final grades solely from the final exam. There is still some classwork due but is only requirement to be admitted to the exam and has no effect on final grades. I’ve yet to see how this will work in practice, but it seems that there will be less time commitments during the bulk of the semester. After all the bureaucratic differences between university systems, finally stepping into my mathematics course was comfortingly familiar. I’ve found that Mathematics provides a sort of international community, where methodology, expressions, programming languages, and even little quirks are shared. It was a fun reminder that for all the differences, the academic world is increasingly international.

I have been living in Heidelberg for almost two weeks now, and my pre-semester language course has just begun. Most students who are still on campus are either international students or working on their thesis or practicum courses, which are due after the winter semester in Germany. With that being said, I have learned a lot about the university and general education system without being fully integrated into it yet.

In Germany, the system operates quite differently from the United States. In high school, there are different levels of educational institutions that students must test to place into. The top tier of high school, called Gymnasium, feeds into the University. Other schools feed into more technical programs that grant a special certificate. In the past twenty years, the government has modified their system to be more internationally compatible which seems to have made things a little more confusing. For example, in different German states, the high school equivalent goes to either the twelfth or thirteenth grade. They’ve also changed the university system to granting Bachelor and Masters degrees, which are structured differently from the previous system. This has also presented its own dilemmas, as some companies consider trade school certificates and bachelor degrees to be similar and aren’t as willing to hire bachelor students. For this reason, many students opt to continue straight into their Masters after earning their undergraduate degree. This is made all the easier since attending the University is inexpensive (compared to the US) and there are discounts and benefits in Germany that make it affordable to attend school for longer.

At the Universität Heidelberg, the most common degrees I have encountered are Physics, Law, Medicine, and forms of Language study. Heidelberg boasts top programs in these fields and there seems to be a well-established research community here. This is not surprising, as the University itself was founded in the 13oos and has a rich academic history. Because the University is so old, it has been integrated into the city much differently than any university campus in the States. There are University buildings intermixed through the entire city and often also serve as tourist attractions and museums. Like the location of the University itself, it seems that University life is also integrated into the city. Any extra-curriculars are found all over the city and many are separate from the University.

In the same way that the University is accessible to the public in Heidelberg, so is the idea of public education. As I previously mentioned, education is almost free for students and is made quite accessible.  Aside from the University, there are also several institutes in Heidelberg that offer night classes open to anyone who wants to expand their knowledge for very low cost. From my perspective, it seems that education in Germany is like that the States in many aspects, but more integrated into everyday life.

Methods of Transportation in your Host Culture

Original Posting – March 14, 2019

Of all the posts I’ve written, this is the one that most begs a revisit, especially after my experiences traveling this past weekend. I wrote last time that the German transportation system was quite efficient. The longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve realized just how wrong I was. The Straßenbahn (light rail) system is generally on time, but as traffic has increased around the city, the buses here are becoming more and more reliably late. The biggest transgression against Germany efficiency (which is both a real concept and a source of pride in German culture) is Deutsche Bahn, the train company. A few anecdotes to illustrate my point: on the way to Bonn last week, our train pulled into the wrong platform – unbeknownst to anyone. Everyone missed their train and was allowed to take another route for free, which was hence double-booked. We stood in the aisle for the duration of the trip – 2.5 hours. On the way back, our train arrived without a problem and we were sure to reserve seats ahead of time. About halfway through the journey, however, the conductor spoke over the intercom and announced (awkwardly) that we wouldn’t stop at two of the scheduled stops. I never found out why, and people going to the skipped stops had to commute for an extra hour. Even with less stops, we somehow still managed to be 40 minutes late. This trip was extremely unlucky, but I’ve come to expect that my train will likely be 15 minutes late and to always buy the “flexprice” ticket (allows you to take other trains on the same day to your location) whenever possible. That’s not to say that the transportation system is bad – I am so dependent on and appreciative of the German public transportation. But I also have realized that its reputation isn’t what it’s cracked out to be. And within a culture that prizes punctuality and efficiency, it stands out all the more.  

Coming from the United States, I already had the notion that Germans were punctual and that they prided themselves on the punctuality of their public transportation. To some extents, this has been true for my stay here. However, this manifests itself a little differently than I expected.

Like the rest of Europe, Germany has much more and better transportation than anything I have found in the United States. It helps that the country is so compact – Germany is a little bigger than New Mexico but contains around 80.6 million inhabitants. It is broken up into honeycomb-shaped sections, each with their own regional trainlines that connect across the country with larger, high-speed trains. This means that travel is incredibly simple and reliable across Germany. All cities have a central Hauptbahnhof, or central station that also doubles as the base for the city bus and light rail systems.

Like I expected, all trains and buses are frequent and well documented. Many major bus and train lines run on regular intervals, either 10 minutes or one hour apart. I have yet to see a late bus in my city. In fact, I have actually seen the bus leave without waiting for people still at the stop. Needless to say, this shocked me a little bit. Between loops, the drivers get a 5-10 minute “smoking break,” which helps them make up time and remain punctual. Even so, it is often not practical to take the bus if the weather is nice, since it is much more direct to bike or walk. For this reason, many locals opt to bike everywhere.

Surprisingly, trains are often not as punctual as I expected. I have had a 5-10 minute delay a few times that I have traveled between cities. Since no one can control weather conditions and other external factors, it simply can’t be helped. To me, a small delay is really no big deal, but I have often heard local Germans complain about having to wait for the trains. Part of German culture values time and can’t stand to have it wasted – especially when there is a schedule that isn’t being followed. Every time I take public transportation, I am reminded of the practical and efficient “German way,” which I find both amusing and enduring.

Norway and the Sami People

Original Posting – Feb. 20, 2019

In the few days I have spent in Norway, I have been living with a Norwegian family. I have loved the unique opportunity of joining them in their daily routines and observing a little bit of what is important to people in Norwegian culture. Yesterday, I spent the morning at a museum learning about the history of the arctic circle. Something that has particularly caught my attention was the ethnic and political history of the Sami people, and indigenous Nordic people group that live in the northern part of Scandinavia. In museums, shops, and photographs, examples of Sami culture are depicted for the benefit of tourists to the arctic. Tourism aside, there are still Sami people who adhere their traditional lifestyle within the country. In some ways, their history has similarities to the people of North America.

As best as I can understand it, the Sami people were traditionally nomads who followed the reindeer herds. In Norway, they were assimilated into the general population with varying success. Like in the United States, the Norwegian government required all Sami people to go to schools to learn to become more “Norwegian” and to give up their own heritage in the process. Over time, the Sami people became a marginalized race with a dying culture. In addition, when the Germans left occupied northern Norway, they burned most of the existing towns to prevent the Soviet military from gaining resources from the area. This displaced a large portion of the traditional Sami people.

Some of this displacement, assimilation, and marginalization is reminiscent of the struggles our own country has faced. In the past century, however, some Sami people are restoring their cultural identity and building a new culture in the modern world. Political activism is becoming more prevalent and there are unions to protect the rights of the Sami people. Today they have spoken out to preserve the natural ecology and beauty of northern Norway. Sami art, music, and culture are growing and elaborating on the past. I was told that there are even a few elementary schools in the city I am staying that teach both the Sami language and Norwegian.

I have always been interested in the culture of the Native Americans that I have grown up around, which is likely why the Sami people struck my attention. Like a description of any group of people, this is a rough generalization with many facts missing. I wonder if my perception might be different than that of the Sami people who may feel they have a long way to go before equality is reached.  Nonetheless, I found it beautiful to see the way that a once marginalized people group is taking steps forward to embrace and develop their culture. It was interesting to see that the similar struggles that we have in America exist elsewhere.

The Use of Public Spaces in my Host Culture

Original Posting – Feb. 28, 2019

When I wrote before on this topic, I described the Neckarwiese and the attached trail, which I now know is called the Neckarweg. I still find myself along the Neckar quite frequently and there are always others out enjoying the weather and view as well. The dynamic has changed slightly with the arrival of beautiful weather and the beginning of the semester. Now, there are considerably more college students in Heidelberg, who also use the Neckar park as a place to meet friends and spend free time. Since the semester has began in the past two weeks, there are more bikers and joggers at any given time. Every weekend (weather permitting), there is some sort of BBQ or picnic planned. There are now restaurant boats and boat rental shops lining the Neckar too. I was here for a month before the semester began and was curious to see whether this space was something that college students also appreciated and utilized. I think it’s safe to say that the Neckar park and trail are a main attraction for young and old, student and locals alike. As the weather continues to improve, I expect that I will find more and more reasons to frequent the Neckar river. I think living near the Neckar will be one of the things I miss most when it is time to return home.

In the one week that I have lived in Heidelberg, the place I have most often frequented is the Neckarwiese. This is a park that sits on the bank of the Neckar river and extends outward as a biking and walking trail through the whole city. The Neckar divides the city in half, which makes it almost impossible to spend an entire day in the city and not find yourself on the Neckarwiese. At the main part of the park, there is a long grassy bank, separate biking and walking paths, a fountain, picnic tables, and benches. As it extends north and south, it becomes a narrow path encased by trees with a steep grassy bank leading to the river.

As I’ve already mentioned, the path along the river is frequently used for commuters going from A to B. It is also nearly always frequented with joggers and people walking their dogs, like any park in the US. Unlike the US, the German locals will seek out this place intentionally to spend their spare time on lunchbreaks, after work, and on the weekends. During lunchtime, there are many people spread out along the river eating their lunch and soaking up the sunshine. After work, groups of people walk along the trail and catch up on each other’s days. The most popular time to be at the park, however, is on Sundays. I’m convinced that some people get up in the morning to go for a walk and don’t come home until it’s time for dinner. In Germany, almost every store is closed on Sundays and the people go out to “be in nature.” Young and old wind up along the bank of the Neckar.

Admittedly, it is one of the first nice weeks of weather Heidelberg has had since winter. And I’ve never lived next to a river to compare. Still, the Neckarwiese really is one of the hubs of activity in the city. From what I’ve read of German culture, this is pretty typical of German culture and their love of nature. A local German told me, “we have a saying here: There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” I love that the locals, regardless of age or walk of life, seem to enjoy the beauty of the river and scenery around them and have made it a part of their daily routines. I have yet to see anyone along the Neckar glued to their phone, and only a handful with their phone even in sight. It seems to me that nature provides an escape from the daily grind. This is one aspect of German culture that I can’t wait to add to my daily routine!

Wandering in Heidelberg

A typical day in Heidelberg mostly consists of studying, classes, and running errands. The semester officially begun on April 15th. I’m attending a course on Numerical Analysis of ODEs (in English) and an intensive German course – both of which are challenging and very fun! The students have arrived and so every part of Heidelberg is significantly busier and more alive with people. Even with classes, I have a lot more free time on my hands than I have ever had while studying in the States. At first there were lots of new things to see and traveling to do. After a while, travel gets exhausting.


When there weren’t so many students and tourists, I enjoyed roaming and window-shopping on the Hauptstraβe. I still enjoy spending time on the main street, but with the steady influx of people during the day, it’s a little much for me. So recently in my free time I do what I am doing today – I wander the outskirts and walking trails of the city. Example: two weeks ago, I wanted to go for a run on the trail around Heiligenberg (the mountain across the Neckar from the castle. I rode my bike up to the base of the hill to find a trailhead, which I knew existed but couldn’t find on a map. In the end, I found the trail but also discovered Handschuscheim, a residential district of Heidelberg that has a more authentic charm. Here, real life continues away from the invasion of casual tourists. There’s an old moated castle, Tiefburg, and beautiful old church in the middle, surrounded by winding streets, houses, and my new favorite Bäckerei – which brings me to where I am now, sitting in a busy Bäckerei sipping Kaffe and nibbling on a Zimtschneckennudel (cinnamon roll). The best part? No English. No easy way out, which forces me to learn and practice more of what I am learning.

Heiligenberg trail

Sometimes when I wander, I find little treasures like this Bäckerei, a nice picnic spot in the woods, farmers market and flea market stands, a secluded park bench with an amazing view, or interesting people. Other times, I find dead ends, end up with muddy shoes, buy an overpriced coffee that was no good, get lost in the supermarket, miserably fail to overcome the language barrier, or take the wrong bus in the opposite direction. I used to (and mostly still do) hate doing things without a plan. But if studying abroad has taught me anything, it’s that the little, spontaneous adventures are the best part of traveling. Here’s to many more rambles in Heidelberg and beyond!

Heidelberg castle gardens
flea market on campus