A little learning along the way

31 Jan

Before anyone starts thinking last weeks trip to Berlin and Prague was all fun and games, let me tell you what we did when we in the IES EU program weren’t meandering around the city late at night.


We went to Berlin and Prague after our first week of “Intensive Phase” classes.  My initial (and misguided) assumption was that it was going to be a week of helping us integrate.  It was more like the intellectual version of Navy SEAL Hell Week.  After the week long crash course on the in’s and out’s of the EU, my IES family and I took off to Berlin.  We spent our time there learning about life before and after November 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. We visited a former Stasi prison which I won’t even insult history by trying to describe it in 20 words here; it was horrific.  Tuesday we met with two former citizens of East Germany to ask them questions about the deprivation and injustice they faced living in the GDR.  We were also able to see the Reichstag building, the home of the European Parliament. Unfortunately, because of the near fatal disease I contracted (aka cold), I wasn’t able to see everything I would’ve liked to in Berlin, but the meetings hosted by IES were still great.  I did however get to see the hotel where Michael Jackson famously held his infant over the side of the railing.  I’m sure some of you will find that way more interesting than the European Parliament building, understandably of course.


In Prague, we learned all about the Communist era before the Czech Republic entered into the EU.  We met with the Chief International Editor of Prague’s financial newspaper (which I literally couldn’t even try to pronounce) and a professor at the Institute for International Relations to discuss Czech’s transition into a market economy and their EU membership.  The meetings in Prague are what hit me the most.  It was incredible to get my head outside of America’s issues and problems and hear about countries who have suffered and struggled–in my opinion–so much more than us to be where they are.


They’ve faced so much corruption, mistrust, and injustice, it made all of our problems in the US seem so meager.  You may complain about the way Obama is leading our country.  Can you imagine the government having a tape recorder underneath the floorboards in every room of your house, recording every private conversation you have?  And that sweet little old lady living across the hall is working for the government doing everything she can to find something to inform on your for.  One crack about the leaders of your country and you’d spend 15 years in a 5 by 5 room with a wooden plank as a bed and bucket as a toilet for being a “threat to your nation”.  How would you feel going to a headquarters today in 2011, telling them your name, and receiving a cart-full of every single letter, phone call, and conversation from 6 years of your life typed up on pieces of paper  and your daily actions narrated by someone you’ve never met in your life (See the movie “The Live of Others”, its incredible). We can moan and complain about our government, but as the story goes, there is always much worse.  We are lucky to have the right to be negative if we want to be.  I guess this means I learned something.  …. hate it when they do that.

As soon as I got up today, back safely in Freiburg, I had a horrible feeling of homesickness.  I don’t miss my house or my apartment at Purdue, I just plain missed America.  As it got worse, my friend Blake and I got into a conversation about the Eurozone crisis and the recent protesting in Egypt.  I don’t know how, but in some warped way, it totally destroyed my want to go home.  I’m in the Eurozone.  It’s not some distant, irrelevant problem.  I’m here and it affects me.  Thats kind of cool.  It also probably helped we were sitting in Burger King having this conversation.

Here’s the link to see my pictures from Berlin and Prague.


Sorry for the length and lack of humiliating stories in this post.  Any students that are interested in studying abroad in the EU or anywhere else and you would like me to write about or take pictures of something specific, just let me know!


One Response to “A little learning along the way”

  1. Doris Block February 2, 2011 at 3:52 am #

    you should be a writer really enjoy your “comments” does kinda bring many things into prepective get out of our boxes guess you are probaly missing “the big snow” we just have some wind tonight a little rain during the day maybe a little snow tonight Love you GD

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