Tuesday, April 5, 2011


This week we went on a week long trip to London with my program. I was excited to go to London to see all of the museums, famous sights and to experience the nightlife that the city had to offer.

I was also looking forward to being able to speak English and be able to communicate with the locals. I might as well have been in a country that spoke a different language because British english is nothing like American english. For the most part Londoners spoke extremely fast and the words they use were very uncommon to what I was used to. Nonetheless I was still able to communicate with people, it was just a little harder to understand them.

The city itself was beautiful. I swear it must have been at least three times larger than Berlin. The streets were lined with buildings that were visually pleasing as well. One of the first tours I did was Shakespeare's Globe Theater. While it was not the original, it was rebuilt to fit the image of the original.

Our program kept us busy with something almost everyday which was nice because it made us travel around to see the city. On two separate days we got to see beautiful Oxford as well as the Windsor Castle. On the first day we took a boat tour on the River Thames. At night we went out to pubs and clubs around the city. London definitely has a great nightlife, and there is always something going on. One night we saw a parkour/free-running tournament hosted by Red Bull.

I definitely am excited to get back to Berlin though, the city I still call home.. For my next post I will be in Amsterdam, I hope you're looking forward to it!

Monday, March 21, 2011


For the second half of the trip we woke up early and took the train to Leipzig. Although in Germany, Liepzig has a lot of influence from Eastern Europe and it definitely shows through the architecture of the buildings. Our first stop was Nikoliakirche (or St. Nicholas Church). It is nationally famous for the "Monday Demonstration" which was a peaceful revolt against Communist rule. Civilians would gather at the church for a peaceful march throughout the city holding candles. The chandoleir in the middle of the church is representative of the candles held during the revolt which symbolized peace.

Our next stop was Thomaskirche, the final resting place of famous composer Sebastian Bach. The church was reconstructed numerous times inside and out. One of the most popular pieces that was reconstructed was the "Romantic Organ" into the "Bach Organ" because the old organ was considered unsuitable for Back's music. I was able to go inside the church during a service, but was unable to take any pictures. It was cool to see a church service conducted in German (and hear all of the songs in German as well).

One of our last stops was the Stassi museum. It was originally the Soviet headquarters and eventually turned into a museum filled with old photos, equipment and office rooms that were preserved. The most interesting thing about this museum was the second section they had where most of the Soviet archives were still kept.

People who were around during that era could actually come to this museum to check if their names were on file in the archives. This museum definitely brought to life just how much control and intel the Soviets had because we were able to see all of the photos and intel they collected over the years.

Shortly after we headed back to beautiful Berlin and I now this week I am in London for a week-long field trip with my program. We are given a lot of opportunities to see Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Oxford University and all of the main attractions in London so I will have a lot to talk about (pictures included) in my next entry.

Bis Dann!


This past weekend I went on a trip to Dresden and Liepzig, Germany with my CIEE program. Both cities are in eastern Germany and had a lot more Soviet influence than Berlin. Our first stop was for the trip was Dresden. All of the students had to prepare a short presentation on a designated spot. My favorite two places were Frauenkirche and the Volkswagon factory.

Frauenkirche is a church that was originally destroyed due to bombing during WWII. It has since been restored (for the most part) and we had the opportunity to climb all the way up to the top of its tower. Despite the cold weather and rain, the view was incredible and we had a 360 degree view of the entire city.

At night we went to the VW Factory. This is one of Volkswagen's main factories where they hand assemble a popular luxery car in Europe called the Phaeton. Unfortuneatly we werent allowed to take pictures, but I found some online for your viewing pleasure!

The factory does not actually make parts, but rather just assembles the cars. There are three assembly floors that are complete with automatic robot/cars that deliver the parts for each specific car on time as it goes through the assembly line. Another cool thing was that the floor could wirelessly charge all of the workers tools (similar to how you can now charge your iPhone wirelessly nowadays).

What is interesting about the Phaeton is that it is highly customizable and the company focuses on meeting all of the customers needs. For example, a customer can come in and fully customize their car (which can take hours). Once the car finish production (the current waiting list is 5 months) the customer can come in and pick up their car in a private room with a private ceramony in which the keys are handed over to the owner.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Barcelona y Madrid

Sorry for the delay... I've been so busy between traveling and school that I hardly even have time to myself. Anyways... Midterms were finally over and the long awaited spring break had arrived. I had enough of the cold weather in Berlin and decided to meet up with fellow students from Merrimack in Spain. I got into Barcelona friday morning and was greeted by the sun as I walked off the plane. When we got into the city we dropped our bags off and headed straight to the beach for some sangria. After my first glass of sangria I came to the conclusion that no other country could make sangria like Spain. On Sunday we went to the FC Barcelona game against Athletic Club. Barcelona has some of the best fans in the world and it was pretty evident during the game in which 83,000 fans were in the stadium.

At the beginning of the next week I traveled back to Madrid and stayed there for a week. Madrid is very beautiful and the warm weather also followed me there. My friends lived next to Retiro park, which is one of the biggest parks in Madrid that has a giant pond in the middle in which you can rent boats and paddle around. My favorite part about Madrid was being able to see all of my friends, including my best friend Emily who goes to school in Texas... small world that she is studying in Madrid this semester. I definitely had to get used to Ciesta's, which is when everyone rests and naps from anytime between 1 and 7. It made it a little frustrating when I needed to get things done during the day, however.

As the days slowly dwindled away until I returned to school I had to come to the realization that I would need to get back into the groove of going to school everday and doing homework... which definitely made for an abrupt ending to my break. My semester is almost over its almost too sad to think about. Again sorry for the delay, stay tuned because this weekend I will be going to Liepzig and Dresden!


Thursday, February 10, 2011


This week has been pretty straightforward as far as classes and the new home-life go. Myself and the other students found another grocery store that has a lot of different types of food (including American brands!) that can satisfy anyone’s taste buds. The only downfall is that it is slightly more expensive. Speaking of grocery stores, peanut butter is not at all as popular in Germany as it is in the states. The only container I can get is a tiny jar which only lasts for a few days (assuming you eat PB&J everyday). It’s definitely one thing that’s going on my wishlist from home.
The highlight of my week has been going to Copenhagen, Denmark. It was originally only a few students going but the group quickly grew to 16 in total. We woke up at 4:00 in the morning so we could get to the airport in time for our flight. It only took an hour to get there and we had sunny weather all weekend (something that appears to be a luxury in Eastern Europe until spring officially arrives).

Copenhagen must be one of the nicest cities in Europe. Everyone there was extremely nice and helpful. On a few separate occasions a Danish would walk up to us and ask if we needed help with directions while we were on our way to the Carlsberg brewery, which houses the largest beer bottle collection in the world!

We also managed to check out the royal palace and the oldest working observatory in Europe (which also gives you a 360-birds eye view of the entire city). The most notable place in Copenhagen was Christiania, an anarchists commune that officially separated in 1989 when supervision of the area was passed on from the state of Copenhagen. Christiania has many different laws and a much different way of life than what is normally expected. My friends and I arrived early in the morning when things were just opening up on the main street. We walked all around into the back of the community where things are more residential. The mornings are peaceful here because there are no cars or loud machinery to ruin the silence.

Back to Berlin!

Getting into the groove...

Things have finally slowed down enough so that I can start making my apartment feel more homey. Its amazing how much better your room works with a clean kitchen.

There is so much to do in Berlin it makes it easy to go out every night and find a new place to go. We found an Australian bar/hostel that has virtually any sport you want to watch on at least one of their many TV’s. Practically everyone there speaks English, which can be extremely convenient and makes it easy to meet other travelers. It is however bittersweet that my favorite watering-hole hinders me from learning better German.

Speaking of German… we started classes this week. Each class meets once a week for 3 hours, and then we have various “field trips” in which we get to see something in Berlin that is related to our respective topics. It’s definitely a good way to make seeing all of the city mandatory. My German class is very challenging. My teacher makes class a lot of fun, but the one part that makes everything so challenging is that class is taught in German. Granted it is to help us recognized the different sounds of the language, it makes it hard to understand what is going on a lot.

This week we also got to know a little know more about our surrounding. Potsdamer plotz is popularly known for the Sony center. A massaive center for business, restaurants and entertainment… think Patriot Place minus the football stadium. Over all of this was a tent that gets lit up at night with various colors.

Another area is closer to the center of Berlin and very easy to get to. There are a lot of expensive American-style bars, as well as some very original artwork. There is an artists’ squat in which artists historically used for free a long time ago, but now only pay one euro a month to the current landlord. Here I saw original works of art of any kind, you name it. My favorite works of art was in a dark room with blacklights, and the artist painted with neon paint and used twisted metal wires.

Our program tour took us up a house that was half gone from the war. It was never repaired just renovated where the building was open to the rest of the artist squat. There we met a former-lawyer/now-artist who has done various projects from children’s books to a powerful and meaningful drawing about the Bielski brothers (from the movie Defiance). It was great to hear about how he connected their story into his artwork.

Next weekend is Copenhagen!
Guten nacht,

Finally There

The first few days of arriving were both fun and chaotic. The first day consisted of stuffing students’ suitcases into a mercedez-benz taxi (which is the norm here) and heading off to the hotel. Not being used to the ice, we shuffled across the street into our hotel for the night.

The next few days could only be described as “control chaos”. With moving into our apartments, unpacking and buying German groceries. The first day of school was equally as hectic as we all scrambled around in one giant big loud group trying to figure out the bus system to school and how to get to the cafĂ©. The Freie Univeristy was not your average campus back in the states. It was much more spread out and more integrated into the surrounding area. It would take me a few extra days to figure out how to navigate my way around.

On the weekend we hopped around a few bars and checked out a club. The music scene is unbelievable in this city. There are hundreds and hundreds of clubs and that are very into the DJ culture. Its definitely good to be in the know of music here because it usually dictates which club will be the most popular on the weekends.