I spent the weekend in Heidelberg with my two life-long girlfriends who flew in from Spain and Greece, where they are teaching English. It was so fun to spend time with them in my old hood :p
Happy happy happy am I
This summer has undoubtedly been the most violent, tumultuous periods of time in the world that I can remember in my life. It seems like every day there’s a new shooting, bombing, or terrorist attack of some kind (if not multiple). Many of these incidences are centered in Europe, and now in Germany in particular, and it breaks my heart to watch them unfold. Reading the news has become even more depressing than usual, and often leaves me posing the exasperated question, “What is this world coming to?!”
This weekend I returned to Heidelberg, the city where I studied abroad for eight months my sophomore year of college. It is such a magical town, a town that fills me with incomparable joy every time I step across its boarders. I still can’t believe I was privileged enough to call this place home. The sheer beauty of Heidelberg is enough to take my breath away. As I strolled the charming cobble stone streets munching on a sweet from my favorite local bakery, my body was flooded with an overwhelming sense of peace. I realized that even if I were to be killed by a terrorist attack today (which is a real possibility), I would be satisfied. I have been able to experience more in my short 21 years on this earth than many people are able to in their entire lives. I am richly blessed, and all I have to do is look around to know it.
As Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” I don’t know the future, but I do know it is my duty to appreciate the present. As Christians we are set free from the crippling fear of death, for Christ says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The darkness and devastation in our world are real, and should not be overlooked, but take comfort in the fact that we can have abundant life despite the present darkness.
Thanks again Heidelberg, for teaching me exactly what I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it. You never cease to amaze me. Until next time little city!
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.
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.
Question of the Day
Have you ever studied abroad? If you could choose anywhere on the map, where would it be and why?
Even now, three months later, I remember the day like it was yesterday. I lugged my suitcase down the stairs, said my goodbyes, and boarded the bus. I stared out the window as Heidelberg grew smaller and smaller in the distance, eventually fading from view all together. My year of studying abroad in Heidelberg was officially over, and I didn’t know if or when I would ever return. But instead of feeling sadness, a sense of peace washed over me in that moment. I didn’t cry because this chapter in my life was over, but rather I smiled because it was written in the first place. I felt overwhelmingly grateful for the chance I’d been given, and was glad it had ended on such a high note. I realized I may never live in this city again, but I can always visit and add new memories to the old. And that’s exactly what I did this past weekend!
Since I was given the opportunity to stay in northern Germany this summer as an Au Pair, I knew I had to return to Heidelberg for a day or two. So I hoped on the train Thursday afternoon and made it to Heidelberg by early evening. As I approached the main station, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Would it look the same? Would I have fun traveling alone? I’m pleased to report I thoroughly enjoyed this new experience/version of Heidelberg in every way.
My German teacher from the school year kindly offered to host me for the weekend, and we had the best time talking in both English and German! Two of my classmates who also decided to stay for internships this summer came over for dinner, and we swapped ‘Awkward American in Germany’ stories. The next day I walked around my old stomping grounds, visiting a few favorite spots and bought more
unnecessary souvenirs I can’t fit in my suitcase. I just can’t get enough of this town. As I wandered the streets I’ve walked a thousand times before, I noticed new and wonderful details. It is impossible to be bored in this place.
Below are a few pictures from the weekend if you’d like to see.
I know one thing for sure after this revisit: Ich habe mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren! (I lost my heart in Heidelberg). Or, in the words of Buddy the Elf, “I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!” Have a great week friends, I miss you already.