Today is my last day in Germany. I left Marburg this morning with a few friends from the Sommer Universität program, and the whole way to Frankfurt we talked about how odd we find it that the program is actually over. It’s strange really; we all knew that the program runs for four weeks, but over the course of the last month we seem to have lost track of how time had actually been passing.
It’s not a hard thing, to lose track of time in Marburg. Many have described the Universitätstadt as a perfect fairy-tale town hidden away in the hills of Hessen, an apt description that captures the city’s relaxed atmosphere. Exploring the old, historical city, wandering along its winding, cobbled streets really gave me the sense of being lost in a traditional German town. However, the International Sommer Universität program was about much more than just getting to know Marburg. During the last four weeks, not only have I studied and spoken more German than ever before, but I have also learned much about the European Union, its role in the world and how Germany, the largest and probably most important member of the Union, influences Europe and the rest of the world. I am particularly pleased about participating in the ISU program this year because, as a beginning graduate student in International Political Economy with a focus on Europe, the scope of my seminars this summer have helped prepare me for classes to come. I feel that getting a better scope of the European Union and its policies has helped me to open up my mind more to international organizations and the kind of attitude of cooperation required to work with them.
Aside from getting to know more about the European Union and Marburg, the ISU program also included several cultural excursions on the weekends. These outings included hiking through the hills and forests of Hessen and dancing with traditional German folk dancers, taking a tour of a salt mine 800 meters under the earth, exploring Point Alpha, an observation point for both American and Soviet forces before reunification and taking a ferry ride up the Rhein river. These experiences provided a great opportunity to get in touch with German gemütlichkeit, the warm, welcoming, friendly spirit of Deutschland.
The ability not only to get to know Germany by living here, but also by exploring its history and culture, has helped me gain a greater appreciation for new cultures and viewpoints on life. Also, being away from family and friends and everything that I have become so reliant on and comfortable with has given me a greater appreciation for everything I have in my life. As much as I know I am going to miss Germany and the people I have met and gotten to know in my month at the ISU program, I am ready to come back home and get back to my life, but incorporating all that I’ve learned here.