Incorporating Immigrants

A well-known topic of international discussion is the influx of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East into the European Union. As some countries try to close themselves off, Germany has notoriously opened their borders to hundreds of thousands during these past few years alone. Many German citizens and officials cite the unsustainability of their burgeoning economy, when coupled with their aging population, as an incentive to incorporate foreigners into the German populace.

While this may be the end goal, immigrants cannot rejuvenate German society while they remain dependent on welfare and without access to the labor market. As a result, German leadership is working to integrate them into the workforce. This process that was described in the photo exhibit “Germany: Integrating Immigrants” that the German Embassy displayed on campus this semester. The exhibition was part of German Campus Week, organized by several on-campus departments and organizations, including the OU German Club.

I was impressed by the diversity and depth of programs in place to help immigrants in all aspects of life. There were language and culture classes, of course, including German history and the current legal system. Immigrants who had been trained as teachers in their home countries could apply for a qualification program at the University of Potsdam which included a year of intensive German and training with German students and instructors. The program was immediately popular, attracting 700 applications for 45 spots during its first year in 2016. A school in Munich for unaccompanied minor immigrants has several psychologists working with the young refugees to help the often traumatized youth prepare for an independent life in a foreign country. In Berlin, rabbis and imams cycle around the city on tandem bicycles to counter Islamophobia and religious discrimination.

Germany as a whole seems dedicated to incorporating the large immigrant population into German society and the rest of the world should take note.

Germany is so much.

I’ve been here for a little more than a week and I feel as though I could ramble on for ages. My first impression of Stuttgart was from above as my plane made its approach in the dark. I couldn’t see much, some lights of course, but not that and very few rose up from the ground. I could have almost mistaken it for a sprawling suburb. This impression carried over into the next day as I hurried after my host family in a sleep-deprived haze while they tried to introduce me to their hometown. Honestly, it wasn’t until several days later when I was given my transit pass and had to navigate the city on my own that I began to comprehend my surroundings. Stuttgart does not have the size and grandeur of New York or Paris or London or Berlin. Nor does it have the quaint medieval architecture that sprawls in various forms through Europe. Stuttgart was severely damaged during the war and as a result, its modern buildings lining the streets reflect the city’s place in Germany and in Europe as the seat of automotive manufacturing. If you look at the Porsche logo you will see in the center a black horse on a yellow background. And just above that, lightly etched: Stuttgart. Stuttgart was built in a valley and once used to raise horses, to prevent enemies from observing the proceedings. Now, Stuttgart fittingly produces horsepower, housing the headquarters of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz flanked by plants for Audi, Bosch, and other car and car part manufacturers. The automotive industry was honestly the first thing I understood here. From the cars on the streets to the logos on jackets and the names on buildings, it was easy to understand the automotive companies provide life to southwest Germany. Rather unfortunate that the first thing I understood wasn’t the transit system or the way restaurants work, but to be fair there is so much to absorb that I scarcely knew where to begin. Which, if you’re wondering, is why I’m writing about cars and not castles. I’ll save the later for next time. ?

Germany: A Story in Which I Become a Princess, Visit a Concentration Camp, and Eat Too Much Food

Wow. So much has happened in the past month that my brain is having a hard time comprehending it all. I’ll try organizing my thoughts and memories into a series of posts, each covering a different aspect of my trip. This first one will cover the first two days, which were spent in Munich and Hohenschwangau, Germany.

We left Tulsa and flew to D.C., then from D.C. to Munich: about 11 hours of travel altogether. We arrived in Munich in the morning, so immediately after landing, we ate breakfast at McDonald’s (nutella, a croissant, and a cappucino: delicious), checked into our flat, and hopped into the car for a road trip to Neuschwanstein Castle in Hohenschwangau.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We stopped in a tiny town on the way to grab a schnitzel sandwich and stretch our legs, so I snapped a few pictures of it. The name of the sandwich shop was Weilhain, but embarrassingly, I don’t remember the name of the town!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Neuschwanstein is located at the top of a tall hill, so we took a long hike up to the top. The walk was difficult, as the hill was very steep, but incredibly beautiful. We arrived at the top breathless, partly from the hike, but mostly because the castle was breathtaking. It was like we’d stepped out of the 21st century back several hundred years into a fairytale or a story book. The castle looks like one you’d see in a movie: hundreds of windows and dozens of towers which overlook a waterfall that drops into a lake surrounded on all sides by tall trees.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetIMG_0143Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
We spent about an hour at the castle before heading down the hill (I stopped and bought some banana crunch ice cream to eat on the long journey :). I fell asleep on the car ride home, and woke up once we arrived back in Munich. We wandered around the older part of the city for a while, looking for a place to eat dinner, before deciding to eat at Schubeck’s Orlando. I ordered Nüremberg sausages with puréed potatoes and chili sauerkraut in an effort to be adventurous and loved every bite. Afterwards, we returned to the flat to sleep for the night.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with t1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe next morning, we popped into a bakery for some streudel and apfelschorle (a drink made of sparkling water and apple juice) before going to the town of Dachau, home of the first concentration camp built during World War II. There, history came to life in a very sobering way. It was hard to comprehend the horrors that happened within the walls of such a normal-looking place. There I understood for maybe the first time that the Holocaust was real: it was not only in history books that such things happened. People, real people, with families and homes and lives, were tortured and killed. I think sometimes we forget that people in the past were no different from us and that history is not just a story. 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
After touring Dachau, we drove back to Munich to eat lunch at a Biergarten, or pub, called Hofbräahaus. I ordered the beer roast with sauerkraut and potatoes and a nonalcoholic beer, just so I could have the complete German experience. The food, yet again, was delicious, but there was no time to linger because we had a plane to catch.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Every single aspect of my short time in Germany was amazing. The people were friendly, the architecture was gorgeous, the food was incredible, even the McDonald’s was a really neat experience. I hope to return to Germany someday (hopefully for longer than two days) and reacquaint myself with each aspect of its remarkable culture.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my adventure in Germany! The next post, which should be up sometime within the next few days, will be about Mozambique and the time I spent there, so be on the lookout!

- Emilee