Haedyn Smith is a junior German major from Antioch, IL. She spent Fall 2014 in Germany.
What were you expecting before you went to Germany?
I don’t really know; it was kind of a dream state that I was in. I had this idea of a traditional German city, but Berlin was nothing like that, it’s totally not a traditional German city.
What was it like when you got to Germany?
It’s both similar to here and also totally different. It’s also really interesting to see the differences between the former East and West Germany, both in Berlin and throughout the country. I spent a lot of time in eastern Germany, going to Dresden and Nuremburg.
Berlin is a thing to itself, though, very different even from other big cities. It’s a city full of artists, so you see graffiti everywhere. You also get to leave your area and see the other, really different neighborhoods; you can definitely tell when you leave one area of Berlin and enter a different one.
I was there for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and they lit 15 kilometers of lights through Berlin along where the wall used to stand, and it was really interesting to see that. They have tried to renovate parts of the city, but it’s still very obvious which parts were western Berlin and which were eastern.
What do you think is a big difference between Germany and the US?
The public transportation is so good there, and everyone walks a lot more than in America. I’ve never walked as much as I did in those three months.
Also, Germans are so much more environmentally friendly than we are. Packaging in Germany is much thinner than in the US, and of course you always have to buy shopping bags if you haven’t brought your own. That’s catching on here as well, but we are still way more wasteful.
A big similarity?
Definitely the consumerism. Maybe it’s just in Berlin, but people seem really into shopping.
Tahnee Marquardt is a junior linguistics and psychology major from Winsen an der Aller, DE.
What were you expecting before you came to the US? What was it like when you did come to the US?
I had seen all the high school/college movies and thought those cannot be true; then I got here and realized that those movies did not make up college life at all, but simply exaggerated it. I have had my fun with that realization ever since.
I also expected people to be very friendly and outgoing in the United States, and that is definitely true. It is very easy to talk to people here and make new “friends.” I expected everything to be bigger – the houses, the cars, the streets, the people, the animals, and that also largely proved to be true. Although, I do have to disagree with the stereotype of the big, “fat American;” maybe it is Lawrence, but I have not yet experienced the US as an overall fat country, but as a country with extremes. There seem to be many such extremes in the US – in politics, in health, in mentality. Before I got here, I could not imagine how one society can be such a hotchpotch of opinions, lifestyles and backgrounds.
Is there anything specific to the Midwest that you weren’t expecting?
I am on the swim team and once in a while, we will have a meet near one of our swimmers’ parents’ house. Whenever that happens, their parents will take us in—a team of 30-something hungry swimmers—and feed us delicious food until we burst (which takes a while after a swim meet), without expecting money or reimbursement. Or parents of friends of mine from the Midwest will invite me to spend Thanksgiving or even Christmas with them, room and board included. There seems to be a whole different mentality in the Midwest regarding taking care of people, helping each other out and doing good.
What do you think is one big difference between Germany and the US?
First, people are nicer but also less up-front; while that is usually not a bad thing at all, it sometimes gets to me because I think there is nothing wrong with being honest with each other so I try to keep doing that and not change my ways too much. Second, Germany is way more bureaucratic than the US and I often enjoy not having to apply to get an application form to apply for the actual application, so to speak.
A big similarity?
Germany and the US share a general culture. The overall similarities are colored by the subtle differences as opposed to the other way around. At least for my generation, I would say that one big similarity between Germany and the US is activism, the outright need to explore the world and curiosity.