If you haven’t done so already, learn a little bit about me on the “Meet the Gators” page by clicking here. I have been in Europe for 17 days now and it is incredible how much I have already learned; about Germany, about Europe, about polymers and history and wind turbines, about travelling and about people, about the language, and about myself.
I have realized that in terms of helpfulness, my posts will probably only be useful to those looking to visit or study in Osnabrück specifically, because everywhere you go in the world is going to be a different experience and the perception of that experience will vary from person to person.
So, as I mentioned I have been in Europe for 17 days, and this is my first post. Am I in trouble? I don’t know yet. But you must know that I did not prepare properly for this adventure. This is where you get to learn a little from my mistakes:
What I wish I brought to Germany …
These are some things to bring and steps to take before you study abroad; some of them are Onsabrück specific and some will be useful for travelling anywhere; some of them may be obvious, but I will get to why I wasn’t prepared soon.
- A travel adapter. Order these on amazon before you leave the U.S. because they do not have Wal-Mart or Target in Europe. You can get one for your phone and your laptop separately or a super adapter that works with all kinds of electronics. Most likely you will only need a adapter, but click here for some good information on travelling with electronics. And it never hurts to have a backup.
- An international plan. First, the Germans use the term “handy” in reference to their cellphones. Anyway, doing research on an international will be worth the time spent. I heard that Verizon had bad international plans so I assumed getting a German sim card would be best. I have been living on wi-fi that is not comparable to that in the States. Also, T-Mobile is a German company; so, if you come here with T-Mobile you basically get the same deal as you have in the States. Seriously, do your research!
- A hat, a scarf and gloves. Yes, you can buy hats, scarves and gloves in Germany, but if you come to northern Germany in early May and you have class in a day or two, grocery shopping and getting settled are usually priority over clothes shopping. It has already begun to warm up here, but biking to class in what Floridians would call snow is not fun without these essential garments.
- A translator. My recommendation is download DuoLingo, or a similar app, and start learning the language as soon as you know where you’re going to travel. In Germany, the students are taught English in 3rd grade so you can survive here without knowing a word of German, but you will feel a lot smarter and cooler if you can understand the conversation between your “tutor” and the program coordinator or order a meal in a foreign language. I also brought Rick Steves’ German phrase book and dictionary (he has one for almost every language) which is pocket size and I carry it with me everywhere.
A few other things that will be useful: an umbrella, a backpack, a notebook and pencils, a water bottle and a thermos. Personally, I managed to not pack any pencils, and I have not not been able to find any mechanical pencils or pencil sharpeners so I have been stuck writing in pen.
There are also some things that you probably do not need to bring on your trip abroad, like your drivers license! Okay, I’m joking a little. It is a good idea to have identification on you, but you most likely won’t be driving and you definitely will not be carded for buying alcohol. I think this has been a pleasantly odd experience for the freshmen in my program.
Which leads to the explanation for my absence thus far. May is an especially important time in Germany and in most of Europe; you may recognize this in the American May Day where our children wrap ribbons around a pole on May 1, a tradition that was brought to America by early European settlers. It is the time in Germany that popularized the stereotypical image of the tree on top of the maypole with a wreath covered in streamers. And, it is the time in Osnabrück that is celebrated by an 11-day festival called Maiwoche with live music, fair rides, food, beer and merchant vendors spanning the streets of the old town.
So, in general, beer is cheaper than water in Germany. The water system here is very complicated and the beer-making is very good. Look out for a “crazy things you want to know about Germany” post nearing the end of my program, once I know all the crazy tidbits about German culture. And finally, if you are scared of what might happen when you leave the States or if you’ll be prepared enough once you get to where you’re going, DO NOT let that hold you back! It will be worth it, I promise.
Auf Wiedersehen von Osnabrück!