iPhone Photos from Life Lately

33990076_10211495493364304_2748167324363128832_nHello friends, how are you? I’ve been having fun traipsing around Europe with my little brother and our childhood friend who is conveniently studying abroad in Germany this summer. It feels so nice to be able to let loose completely and be around people who’ve known you your whole life. There’s nothing like it. After I spend time with them, I always stop and think why did that feel so different?

Because being known is everything. It is so important and I’ve missed that feeling a bit this year. You don’t realize how much your body and soul needs to be known until you’re placed in a new environment. I’m so glad to share these summer months with them. Below are a few photos from life lately. Enjoy!33745830_10211495460163474_4496772574990041088_nThe neighborhood of Kreuzberg was my favorite spot in Berlin. So funky. So punk. So cool.33778507_10211495461003495_3373443476657012736_nEuro brother in Frankfurt.33924036_10211495461883517_1836779894126673920_nBowling. Reader, I was HORRIBLE. Consistently horrible all ten rounds. My pride is still recovering.33826522_10211495462843541_4306190182983401472_n
At the Heidelberg castle.

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Well, enough said.33847724_10211495459803465_7319151032942985216_nHiking to the petting zoo with a class from school. The bus didn’t show up so it turned into a rather long adventure, but at least the scenery was pretty ;p

Have a good one!

A Weekend in Belgium!

fullsizeoutput_54c9.jpgHey friends! How are you? I spent the weekend exploring Belgium for the first time. And believe me, I ate my fare share of waffles, french fries and chocolate. I was blown away by how beautiful Belgium is. The architecture is so whimsical and unique. Everywhere I turned there was a stunning cathedral or canal or courthouse. We went to Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp. I hadn’t heard that much about Ghent, but honestly it was one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. Every street is filled with adorable shops. The whole country smells like sugary waffle dough! Below are a few photos if you’d like to see.fullsizeoutput_54c8.jpgWe were lucky to get a few hours of glorious sunshine.fullsizeoutput_54bf.jpgfullsizeoutput_54c0.jpgfullsizeoutput_54c1.jpgThe main town square. Everyone rode bikes 🙂fullsizeoutput_54c2.jpgJust like Venice except less touristy and much cheaper!fullsizeoutput_54c3.jpgYou know I blew most of my budget on these bad boys 🙂fullsizeoutput_54c4.jpgfullsizeoutput_54ca.jpgfullsizeoutput_54cb.jpgThe view from the top of the castle!fullsizeoutput_54cc.jpgNext we went to the small, medieval town of Bruges, which blew my mind. Every street oozes with charm!fullsizeoutput_54cd.jpgfullsizeoutput_54ce.jpgfullsizeoutput_54cf.jpgfullsizeoutput_54d1.jpgfullsizeoutput_54d2.jpgfullsizeoutput_54d3.jpgfullsizeoutput_54d4.jpgOne last story. We were taking the train to Brussels, where we would switch stations and then take a bus home. I left my camera on the train. I was devastated when I realized about 20 minutes later as we walked to the other station. It is one of the only physical objects I own that really means something special to me. It is my hobby and creative outlet and I can’t afford another one right now. So I decided to go to the travel center at the station we were leaving from. Mind you, this was a different station than the one my train arrived into. And I asked just in case. The lady disappeared into the back and reappeared five minutes later WITH MY CAMERA. I almost cried. It was a modern day miracle. I thank God for the person who reported it and turned it in. It’s like God was saying, “Nope, I’m not going to let this happen to you today, Micah, because I know how much you love photography!”

Miracles do happen, people!!! I still smile every time I look at my camera now 🙂

Heidelberg Through Another’s Eyes

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Ladies and gentlemen, I am beyond excited to introduce my dear friend and fellow blogger Jessica from Further Up and Further In to you to day! Jessica is currently studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany through the same Pepperdine program I participated in last school year. She kindly agreed to do an interview about her experience thus far, and I’m trying my best not to turn green with envy. So, without further ado, let’s put our hands together and welcome the funny, beautiful and insightful Miss Jessica!

1. Hi Jess, introduce yourself to the amazing Passports and Paintbrushes readers!
Hi Micah! And hello lovely readers. I’m Jessica, a nineteen year old studying abroad for the year in Heidelberg, Germany. Me in a nutshell: little adventures, German pastries, and any piece of fiction I can get my hands on.
2. How did you decide that Heidelberg, Germany was the right place for you to study abroad?
I think I’ve always known the Pepperdine Germany Program was for me. Being the ninth member of my family to call this city of brown and red my home, Heidelberg may very well be in my bones. Not only is it the perfect jumping off point to other European countries on the weekend, but the city is safe, homey, and positively enchanting.
3. What was your first impression of Heidelberg?
My first impression of Heidelberg was the spirit of Disneyland instilled in a city. The European influence of storybook culture is written down its cobblestone pathways and the flowerpots hanging from each windowsill. Heidelberg is famously the City of Romance, and I fell in love with it at first sight.
4. What are a few cultural differences have you noticed between Germans and Americans thus far?
Well. The differences are certainly everywhere. The streets have a hushed feel to them– the restaurants too, for that matter. People draw deeper into themselves, their thoughts and their purposes. You’ll never hear unbridled laughter break out at the next table over. Transparency is a German ideal, but I’ve learned not to confuse that with expressiveness. If you enter the town with the wrong mindset, you’ll draw the conclusion that the Germans are a cold people. I’ve had to make necessary adjustments.
5. What’s been the hardest part about this experience? The most rewarding part?
The hardest part of the experience is juggling time. There are fifty seven friends to invest in here: which ones do I go out with today? There are only so many weekends to travel: where is a priority to me? There are five classes to balance: which takes precedent right now? And when, and where, do I get some quiet time to myself at the end of each day? It sounds harder than it is, but still, the stress always finds a way in.
The reward is certainly worth it all; this may very well be the greatest month of my life thus far. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what’s best about it, but I’ll focus on the self discovery I’m experiencing in this foreign place. I’ve been ripped away from my hometown, my country, my family, my previous friendships, my language, even key parts of my religion. It makes a girl think. What’s my identity in this micro-ecosystem of fifty seven other American students? What’s my identity in this foreign place, as a regular fish out of water? I’m learning things about myself through the changes; the facets of myself that transcend country and culture; the values that don’t waver when cut away from family and church; the passions that still take precedent when time is a commodity. It’s a growing experience. Journeys, of course, do not always occur by foot and train.
6. Describe your dream trip while abroad!
My dream trip? Honestly, anywhere in Europe is a dream. It’s not the place as much as the people, pace, and activities done there. Flexible and fun friends, a balance of go-getting and relaxation, and a strand of simple adventures is a magical formula. But, if I have to name a couple places: the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, Santorini in Greece, and Prague in the Czech Republic.
7. Advice for others thinking about studying abroad?
My advice for those thinking about studying abroad: stop thinking. Sometimes you have to jump, and this is one of those times. Trust me, the plunge into this bewildering new world will take your breath away.12065649_994208257298182_503413629337318281_n.jpg
Isn’t she a gem?! I loved her words, “Journeys, of course, do not always occur by foot and train.” Heidelberg is lucky to have her, even though I wish she were here with me. Why doesn’t teleportation exist yet? Her reflections remind me of my wonderful eleven months abroad, and all the lessons I learned through the challenging yet rewarding process. We wish you all the best on your crazy adventures Jess, and we will be sure to check back in in the future.11998939_1003413256367995_8222839048226043113_n.jpg
Question of the Day
Have you ever studied abroad? If you could choose anywhere on the map, where would it be and why?

P.s. Photos from here, here and here.

The Return

Happy Friday friends! Last night I attended an event called The Return here at Pepperdine, where alumni of the different International Programs set up booths to answer the Freshman’s questions and get them excited about applying to go abroad. My Heidelberg group showed up in full force (and Leiderhosen and Dirndles) to convince the world that Germany really is the best program. Above is a video they showed and below are a few photos from the night. Enjoy!11949366_10207341834331670_961381084620797586_n.jpg
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P.s. I’m taking a little break from my Friday Obsessions series, but you can read past posts here.

5 Culture Shocks I’ve Experienced So Far

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1. Bed sheets- The beds in Germany don’t have thin sheets- just a fitted mattress cover and a Decke, or comforter. I stared at my bed at home like What am I supposed to do with this thin little blanket thing? 
2. Driving everywhere– First of all, I think I might have forgotten how to drive after three months of exclusively bike riding! I used to ride my bike or walk everywhere in Hildesheim, no matter the distance. Here, we drive five minutes around the corner to the post office no matter the distance.
3. Louder voice volume- This is a stereotypical part of American culture, but it honestly is true in my experience! People’s average voice volume is louder than in Germany, and as a naturally soft spoken person, I’ve had to crank up the volume a bit to be heard!
4. Being able to understand everyone- In Germany, I could turn off my brain and completely tune out from a conversation if I didn’t feel like trying to understand. But now, I can’t help but understand, so I hear everything everyone is saying! I was sitting in a restaurant the other day and thinking why am I getting so distracted by the people next to me’s conversation?! Then I realized it’s because they were speaking in English!
5. Politics- I watched the GOP debate last night, and felt overwhelmed by culture shock! The political atmosphere here is totally different than in Germany. Not better or worse, just different. This is the first election I can vote in (scary for America, I know) so I tried my best to pay attention. P.s. if Donald Trump is president, I might just move back to Germany… :p

Also, a few photos from the other night at the beach. Love me some SoCal sunsets!
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Have you ever experienced Reverse Culture Shock? If so, what is an example?

Aufwiedersehen Deutschland

IMG_7725Aufwiedersehen.

Translation: Until we see each other again. Today is the day I say goodbye to my home for the past eleven months. As sad as I am to say goodbye to this place, I am infinitely more sad to say goodbye to the people who have made my experience here so worth while.

When I said goodbye to Heidelberg three months ago, I was not horribly sad, because I knew I would return to Germany in a few short weeks for my internship here in Hildesheim. I had a return ticket, a promise that my German adventure would continue, all be it in a slightly different form. But this time, I have no return ticket. Who knows when I’ll be back- a few months? Years? Decades? I don’t know what the larger future holds, but I do know I’ll California for the next two years until I graduate college. So unless someone invents teleportation, this is goodbye for the immediate future. But I am headed to another country I love, filled with more people who deeply care for me. I can’t wait to see my family and friends again! And I will carry the lessons I’ve learned here with me for the rest of my life.

Germany has taught me more about myself in eleven months than school has taught me in fourteen years. I’ve learned how truly competent, capable, and confident I am. I’ve pushed myself further outside my comfort zone than I thought possible. My eyes have been opened to new perspectives, cultures, and ways of life. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that people are good, no matter where they live. We all have hopes, fears, struggles, successes. We are all just trying to make it in this crazy world, and we must help each other along the way. The friends I’ve made here are the real deal. I will cherish them always.

I can already tell my life has been divided into two distinct parts: Before Germany and After Germany. So thank you Germany. You will always hold a piece of me heart dear country. Aufwiedersehen!

P.s. Enjoy these photos from my week at church camp! IMG_8073IMG_8078IMG_8075 ^This angel is basically my German little sister 🙂IMG_8070IMG_8039IMG_8027IMG_7952IMG_7909IMG_7905IMG_7903IMG_8065 ^Could she be any cuter? No, the answer is no.IMG_7824IMG_7791IMG_7763IMG_7718IMG_7710IMG_7704IMG_7696IMG_7781 ^What a bunch of clowns.IMG_8053 ^I’m obsessed.  IMG_7663^I was more excited about the zip-line than the kids were…

IMG_7668IMG_7677P.s. Just because I’m heading back state side, doesn’t mean this blog is going anywhere! I will keep writing about my adventures and experiences back in good ol’ California. You can’t get rid of me that easily :p

Lessons Learned From Living Out Of A Suitcase

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I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the past eleven months. Sure, I unpacked my things into my closet, but I only have 50 lbs. of material possessions to my name. I’ve never been a minimalist by any means, in fact, I love shopping and collecting special things here and there. So when I had to narrow down my wardrobe into a tiny suitcase in preparation for my year abroad, I was surprised by just how much stuff I had collected over the years. How on earth would I choose what stays and what goes? I felt as though I needed everything, that I just couldn’t live without those sparkly purple pumps or that extra purse! But slowly, I’ve come to love having a smaller wardrobe and fewer possessions, and am actually dreading facing my closet at home in California. I like being able to pack up and take off without a second thought! So, here are three things I’ve concluded about my year living out of a suitcase that might inspire you to pare down a bit as well:
1. Stuff can weigh you down- I often end up stressing about how to fit everything in my suitcase, when if I was honest with myself, I know I won’t wear half the stuff anyways. I used to pack three outfits for a one day trip- so unnecessary. Now I try and only bring the essentials. I ask myself “Can I live without this?” before packing anything, and the answer is usually yes.
2. The less decisions, the better- Having too many clothes to choose from in the morning can lead to decision fatigue. We already have to make so many tiny decisions every day, might as well simplify your life and only have two shirts to decide between instead of seven. I promise, you will feel less overwhelmed and less stressed overall.
3. Be selective- This post is not to say stuff is bad. I LOVE stuff! It reminds us of people, places, or times in our lives. It is functional and beautiful. But wouldn’t you rather have less stuff that really means something to you than more stuff that is just taking up space? Be selective in what you purchase, so it holds value for years to come.
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Hope you enjoyed this little post friends!
Question of the day
Do you struggle with over-packing? Or is it easy for you to pare down?

Five Little Differences Between Germany and America

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Ok, so there are obviously more than five differences between Germany and America. More like 12 million, really. If there weren’t, they’d be the same country….but I digress. Anyhow, today I thought I’d share five little things I’ve noticed recently about Germany that I certainly won’t encounter when I fly home to California in ten days. (TEN DAYS?! WHAT THE HECK!)
Ready? Here we go.
1. No middle names- Many German people do not have middle names. It’s just not really as much of a thing. Some definitely do, but none of the kids I’m Au Pairing have one! Simpler, don’t you think?
2. No air conditioning or fans- Oh man, this one is a real toughie for us Americans. Coming from Southern California, my home doesn’t have air conditioning either, but the temperature is always mild and we have lots of fans for those days it peaks above 75! Here, hardly any homes or public spaces have air conditioning even though it can get really hot, and many don’t have fans. I asked why that was, and they said they believe it messes with your sinuses and gives you a stiff neck.
3. Lunch is the largest meal of the day- I totally love this custom. Germans usually eat a smaller breakfast, a big fancy lunch, and then a small ‘snack’ in the evening called Abendbrot, consisting mainly of bread with various toppings. I really like gathering in the middle of the day and having more time to digest before bed.
4. Kaffee und Kuchen- Coffee and cake is an afternoon tradition in German life. Not every day, but many days they take a break from their work and sit around to enjoy a little sweetness! This is especially big on Sunday afternoons.
5. The wedding Ring is worn on the right hand- When I first arrived, I thought no one was married, because I didn’t see any rings on the left hand. Finally someone cleared up the mystery: They wear it on their right ring finger!

Question of the Day
Can you think of a few little cultural customs that set your country apart? I’d love to hear.