Ruddick, Rachel

Name: Rachel
Location of Study: Germany
Program of Study:
Sponsors: Joe Loughrey

30 thoughts on “Ruddick, Rachel

  1. I arrived in Freiburg on Monday, but my adventures began even before that. Since I decided to go to Europe a week early, I had the awesome opportunity to explore Paris (where I flew into) and Berlin (just a short flight away). So I felt more than ready to arrive at the Goethe Institut, having gotten over my jet lag pretty quickly (le décalage horaire in French) and getting used to using German already in Berlin. I am lucky to have a friend each in Berlin and Paris who served as wonderful guides for me and gave me an insider’s perspective on each city, rather than just feeling like another American tourist. Paris was beautiful, especially at night, and we just don’t have architecture that compares in America. In Berlin, I was struck by how huge the city is. It’s a city FULL of history, and I would need a year or more to really explore it. I found it fascinating how the new and the old are found side-by-side in Berlin. One of my favorite sites was seeing Potsdamer Platz, a place whose history can be traced back to the late 1600s, but turned desolate when the wall split it in two, only to be built up after 1990 into a magnificent focal point of Berlin. Remnants of Berlin’s history are found everywhere: every building has a story, bricks were laid where the wall had stood, small golden plaques can be found on the ground where Jews had been deported (I found these in Freiburg as well), monuments were everywhere, and often you could read about historical events on boards alongside the sidewalk. Lastly, I also discovered the fun of going grocery shopping in Germany, because I can learn new words while discovering typical food Germans eat. It became a useful skill for me in Freiburg, since I prepare most of my own food here at the Institut (and the kitchen has shown to be a great place to meet other students!). Often for breakfast I enjoy Marmelade, Frischkäse, (a spreadable cheese), or Salami on hearty bread, a delicious alternative to the cereal I would probably be eating at home.

    But more on Freiburg, since here is the focus of my trip. Arrival day was probably the slowest, but since then the time is flying. I love meeting people from other countries, especially since we usually need to use German as the common language. And it’s not every night you can sit in a room of people and alternate singing national anthems: we had representatives from Greece, France, Italy, Japan, and Thailand each sing their anthem. Embarrassingly, I didn’t feel confident not slipping up on ours, but I showed some patriotism with “God Bless America” instead. I also am enjoying getting to know the people in my class. We’re at the Institut four and a half hours of the day, which is the right amount of learning that gives me the rest of the day to explore. Once our class even went to a Biergarten after class, which was a great chance to informally spend more time with each other and the teacher. Since this week I haven’t had much homework, I’ve been able to walk around the streets of Freiburg a lot. I love the houses that date back to the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, and the tiny waterways called Bächle that run alongside many of the streets, a Freiburg tradition since the Mittelalter (Middle Ages). You can see little girls pulling a boat along or dogs stopping for a refreshing drink in the water. I also enjoy seeing all the vendors at the daily market, in the shadow of Freiburg’s awe-inspiring Münster. To top the week off, we had a birthday party celebration in the student housing of the Freiburg university here. It was a great chance to meet local Germans, instead of only other German students. I was able to have a long conversation in German, something I’d like to figure out how to do more often. I even heard some southern dialect!

  2. Week 2:
    My focus for this week—now that I feel settled in and have met some people already—has been to get as involved as possible here and try to feel like I’m actually a German living in Freiburg. We started out the week with Mass at the Münster, where I felt like a peasant for a bit, but it was a pretty cool experience. Although I must say I’m glad Masses at home don’t last that long and we don’t have to sing in Latin. Oh we also went to Strasbourg (just over the French border) over the weekend. Freiburg’s location is conveniently close to other countries, which allows us to travel internationally on the weekends. On Tuesday I saw a play in Freiburg, a comedy called “Ach, was! Loriot!” It was very well done and really exciting to be able to understand most of what was going on. It was pretty funny, although by the end I was pretty tired from concentrating so hard on the language. In terms of my progress in German, I’m happy to say I feel comfortable holding conversations in German with others, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to do so. Then on Wednesday I joined a group of students to play soccer. We spent a long time looking for a park that had an open field, since the Germans here use the parks a lot more than we do apparently. The Germans that we played against clearly had more soccer skills, but they were fun to watch and learn from. The beautiful landscape and weather outside has made me more active, and I was even inspired to go running in the morning before class. Nothing like some fresh air in the morning running alongside the river with mountains and the Schwarzwald in the background! My next attempt at misching (oops, yes, here comes the Denglish—“mixing”) with the locals was to join up with the rugby team. I met some players over the weekend who invited me to come out to practice, which I did on Thursday. I followed some half-heard directions until I saw people I recognized on the train. There are two other girls from the US, so a lot more English was spoken than I was expecting. But practice was still run in German and it was an awesome experience for me, since I still have a lot to learn about rugby, as well as Germany. I’ve been even learning a bit about music as well. Nothing like trying to learn musical chords and harmonies in German from a French friend who learned all the terms in French, while I’m trying to translate into the English terms I am familiar with. Everyday holds a new surprise of what I can learn next, and I only wish I could stay here all summer!

  3. Week 3:
    The weekend was full. After finding out how cheap a group of people can travel on regional trains, a few of us decided to visit Basel and Heidelberg in on day, a bit spur of the moment. We discovered how ridiculously expensive Switzerland is. Then we reached the castle in Heidelberg just in time to watch the sun set. The castle was a neat place to imagine life there years ago. Sunday was also a day for historical reflection, but at a more depressing place. We visited the concentration camp Natzweiler in the Alsace region of France. You could walk around the museum and a few of the old buildings, as well as a gas chamber nearby. Such a terrible place. Afterwards we visited another old church in the Vogesen mountains of France.

    Then it was another full week of school. Our teachers switched, and I really like the new one. This week has been pretty focused on the test I need to take on Saturday. This official German exam will test me on reading comprehension, listening comprehension, writing, and speaking. They make quite a big deal about it here, but the library has plenty of practice books and resources. So preparing for the test was a lot of the focus for this week. We also explored an area of town I wasn’t familiar during class on Friday. After researching the buildings first online to find out they were all rental units, we explored it on our own with the task of asking people questions until we felt comfortable enough to present to another group on what we found. This allowed us to delve into the history of a smaller area of Freiburg and we learned about how the area came to be what it was. My favorite part was going into a unique antique shop and talking to the man behind the counter there. He told us patiently about the history of the area and how there used to be a Giesserei, a workshop where metal castings are produced, where his store now stands.

  4. Week 4:
    I passed my B2 test! After taking three of the four parts on Saturday, my friend Kevin and I found the perfect way to relax by hiking up the Schlossberg mountain just a 15 minute walk away. After we found the right peak with the tower on it, we could see the whole city of Freiburg. It was a beautiful panorama, and I sure am gonna miss this town when I leave this weekend. But I went on one final traveling trip before the end of class. A cheap bus ride brought us to Zürich, where we had a picnic lunch. Then I was off to Austria, to a town called Bregenz near the border of Germany. It’s not every day one can visit three countries in one day! I really enjoyed my time in Austria, although it was short. The Rotary student I was visiting was there for a year and was a great source to tell me about differences in the dialects. So besides doing a beautiful morning hike, I loved listening to the Austrians speak German. It has a totally different sound, and they seem to chop of the ends of words a little more. I had some Austrian cuisine as well, tasting a delicious dessert and a certain type of soda that was really popular there. Also got a chance to see the floating stage, whose set was being built for The Magic Flute. It’s this crazy place where every two years they build a huge set on a stage that is actually floating on the Bodensee, or Lake Constance. The audience sits on the shoreline. Then I had to return to Germany with a mixture of trains and a bus. Things are wrapping up, and it’s almost time to go home. On our last day of class we went on a field trip with another class, the Thai group. We met in the morning to spend the day in Staufen, a short train ride away. Legend has it that Dr. Faustus made his pact with the devil in this town. We explored the Berg, a relatively small old castle on a hill that was very cool and had neat views of the town. There were vineyards all around, so after a lunch of Schweineschnitzel we went as a class to a Weinprobe, or a wine tasting. Quite a full day! Sadly it was also the day to say goodbye to my classmates. Getting to know them was one of my favorite parts of being here, since I learned about Spain, China, Japan, and Italy, to name some countries they were from. Then, although my time at Freiburg was pretty much over, I had the opportunity to visit my mom’s cousin’s family that lived about three hours away. By now I’ve gotten a lot of experience using the public transportation in Germany. I was able to stay the night with them before I needed to take my train back to Paris to fly back home. They have a daughter just a little younger than me, and I got to meet her friend, which was a lot of fun. We played an old, typical German game called Stadt, Land, Fluss as well as watched a movie in German. So I felt like I made great progress in my German speaking and listening! Then they gave me fresh Marmelade, sweet syrup that you add to mineral water, and a little book in German. I carried those items with me—along with many fond memories—on my return trip home. A huge thank you again to my sponsor Joe Loughrey for funding a large portion of my trip. I had an amazing experience this summer and really appreciate the gift.

  5. My “readjustment”:
    Well I believe this last entry is supposed to be about how I’m integrating myself back into life in the United States. However, I only spent a week at home before flying off again to Santiago, Chile where I am studying abroad until December. Just had enough time to celebrate American culture though with the Fourth of July! I embraced as much USA patriotism as I could (as well as time with my family) in the week before Ieaving. So now it’s a readjustment, but this time to another culture. I do feel my Germany trip has helped prepare me for being here in Chile. I gained confidence and experience in traveling independently, making friends with new people, navigating public transportation, and finding ways to get involved. I need to do all of those things again, although I’m receiving a bunch of help from the other ND (and Marquette) students and the host families I lived with/am living with. It was a bit of a struggle in the beginning adjusting to Spanish, since often German words would pop in my head first when I told my brain to speak a foreign language. I don’t want to lose that German though while I’m here, so one of the first things on my to do list is to find a German bakery near my house! Santiago has a plethora of immigrants, including many Germans, so I just need to do a little more searching and hopefully find someone with whom to practice the language.

    Additionally, I think my time in Europe has given me another frame of reference in order to explore Chilean culture. I’ve had to hold back from saying “When I was in Germany…” to the other students, but I can’t help thinking about my experiences then in relation to my experiences now. While on our way here there was a delay at the train station, but I didn’t think that was the time to talk about the efficient train system in Germany and that if there were a delay longer than 30 minutes, you could get part of your ticket money back. I also chose not to mention how environmentally conscious and “green” Germany is when we took a funicular up a hill yesterday to see a bird’s eye view of Santiago, including the thick layer of smog covering the city. I didn’t want to ruin the moment. Or when we went to a wine tasting the first week in Linares, I didn’t brag that I’d already gone to one two weeks ago. But geez, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be doing these things! As I type this now, I can see the view out my window of the Andes mountains in front of a pink sky as the sun sets. Students, take advantage of any opportunity to study abroad! Being away from home can be uncomfortable at times, but the rewards are endless. I’m looking forward to exploring yet another way of life and more perspectives on the world and the people living in it. There’s so much to learn!