This has been one of the most amazing times, and greatest of opportunities, of my life. I have absolutely loved my time spent abroad studying Germany and the European Union.
I had the great fortune to be able to travel to lots of different cities and countries this semester – sometimes with my study program and sometimes on my own. I spent so much time making all these great memories and the rest of my time cramming for school…. And sometimes, I didn’t get the chance to blog about it all.
SO! My plan for after I get to the US of A: finish blogging and fill in the gaps. There’s still a lot about study abroad and my experiences that I can’t wait to share with you guys! Stay tuned for….
It’s been finals week here in Freiburg, and I officially finished my last one today! It feels great to be done with all the exams, but my study abroad program still has one more big academic event….
The Model European Union Summit, 2011.
This weekend, all the students on my program are suiting up and stepping into character to represent EU member states in a simulation summit. We’re divided into two groups: Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers. And we’re all discussing hot topics facing Europe today, just like in the real EU.
I’m the foreign minister for Lithuania…
…and I’ll be talking about European Neighborhood Policy, European Enlargement, the new European External Action Service (EEAS), and Common Asylum/Refugee Policy.
Most of my time will be spent in this room:
It’ll be around 13 to 14 hours of debate, discussion, and compromise. The goal is to draft some legislation addressing those EU topics, but mostly we’re here to learn about the involved, complicated, and difficult process of meeting the needs of all European states.
Recycling in Germany can be precise. It took a while for me to get the hang of it, during which time I started collecting recyclables in my room….
The situation soon got desperate, and it was time to figure out German recycling. It’s especially important here in Freiburg, known for being one of the prominent ‘green’ European cities.
There’s lots of recycling bins outside the dorm. You’ve got your white glass, your brown glass, your green glass, and on the left is the bin for clothes/shoes/fabrics….
Then there’s another set of bins for your paper (Grüne Tonne, or “green bin”), plastics/metals (Gelber Sack, or “yellow bag”), and a catch-all for organic wastes and things that don’t fit in the other bins (Restmülltonne, or “waste bin”).
But the coolest thing about recycling in Germany: returning your bottles where you buy them. Turn your empty bottles back in to the cafes/markets/cafeteria where you bought them, and you’ll get your deposit back! (It’s been around .15-.25 euro cents everywhere I’ve gone).
I get a lot of bottles from the Penny-Markt near my dorm, and they have return machines to scan them….
…and you get a receipt in return to pay towards your next purchase!
The German recycling system is pretty complicated, but all the sorting and the deposit method for bottles really encourages the green initiative – Germany has one of the highest recycling rates in Europe and the world (Eurostat).
The weather is so nice this week in Freiburg! It’s inspiring me to take more walks. Although I usually hop on the tram in the mornings, I like to do the 30 minute walk back to my dorm after classes. I love the sights and smells of springtime Germany in the evening. : )
I’ve talked before about getting around Germany, where the train is definitely my go-to mode of transport. But sometimes I also get the chance to take buses on the autobahn, or German highway.
The interesting thing about the autobahn in the area where I live: no official, federal speed limit! Generally, the advice is to stay under 75 or 80 mph, but it’s a funny feeling never seeing a speed limit sign on the interstate.
Cool fact I learned: Germany has the third longest interstate in the world.
I love riding through the German countryside. And here in Baden–Württemberg, there are always mountains along the horizon in the distance. J’adore. : )
It’s starting to look a lot like springtime around Freiburg. And with the warmer weather, restaurants and cafes are officially using all their outdoor tables. The streets are packed with people enjoying these sunny days. : )
PS – You can find the rest of the ‘Compare and Contrast’ series here.
Every day (except Sunday), Freiburg has a fabulous open-air market in the Münsterplatz, or the plaza around the Freiburger Münster, our big cathedral.
I looove visiting the market! They always have fresh fruits and vegetables….
And lots of fresh flowers….
But my favorite part is the myriad of wurst stands! Germany is home to so many different kinds of sausage, and the open-air markets are great places to try some. This photo shows one that the owner told me was a Freiburg specialty:
No two days are ever exactly the same at the market! I love the variety, the freshness, and the authentic German experience!
Here’s a few photos from this week! Around Freiburg….
And one of my favorite things about an average week — gelato!
Inside Mensa Drei, home of some great currywurst + intense hot sauces, and a fave among our study abroad group:
Sunset on the countryside around Schauinsland after our field trip….
And lastly, a sidewalk cafe – Starbucks style! I usually end up here about once a week – they’re one of the few places in Freiburg with free wifi.
I’m having a super busy weekend — this morning, I crossed the French border to spend the day in the town of Colmar, and tomorrow I’ll be hiking in Germany’s Black Forest near Titisee. I can’t wait to share more about it soon! : )