T Minus 1 Week Til Home

Hello again! I have returned my laptop since my last post, hence the further delay in updating you all on my adventures! Since last post, I have finished some of my papers and continued to prepare for the model EU simulation. I only have one paper left, then I jump into finals tomorrow (Sat 9). I have a relatively kind finals schedule, but I’m spending all of my time studying and writing for now.

I think our model EU simulation is a really interesting and unique part of my program, so I figured I’d share some of what we’re doing for it. Like I mentioned last post, the program is split into two parties: Heads of State and foreign ministers. I am the Prime Minister for Greece, which has been very interesting so far. Each group discusses four topics within their council. In the Commission, or the meeting of the heads of state, we are addressing the freedom of movement concerns between the EU and the UK post-Brexit, the possible expansion of the competencies of Frontex, which is an EU organization that helps with border control in the wake of the refugee crisis, the possible reform of the Dublin Regulations, which are the rules regulating the acceptance and processing of immigrants seeking asylum, and the gender pay gap. Overall, Greece has some interesting positions on all the topics. As is to be expected, things about immigration are very important because Greece is both a location where many immigrants first arrived into the EU, and also because Greece is still struggling to recover form the debt crisis and thus is already struggling financially. On Brexit, Greece pretty much follows the party line and stands with the EU; ie, the UK needs to continue to uphold the rights of EU citizens living there even after the UK isn’t subject to the same laws. For the most part, we’ve done all the work we need for the simulation, but I’m still looking forward to sitting down and actually talking over every issue.

My final paper, which, to be honest, I’m currently procrastinating on, is for my finance class and is about the interbank market. What I’m learning is very technical, but basically the market is where banks trade currencies. It has been very negatively affected by the debt crisis, and I’ve enjoyed learning what exactly has happened to banks and what reforms have been put in place in the EU as a result.

Earlier in the week, I got the chance to walk through the Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market, here in Freiburg (pictured below with fellow Whittie, Mimi)

Mimi at the Weihnachtsmarkt

It was cold but beautiful and full of good food and fun crafts. I’m going to try to find the time to go back!

Here also, enjoy some German snow and traditional December food. I’ll try to update a few more times before I get back home!

Every Week After?

Sorry for another delay! My computer broke then I was traveling again. I only just got a replacement, which I need to return anyway.

Quick personal update: on top of my computer dying recently, my dog had to suddenly be put down a few weeks ago. It’s been really hard being here while my family did that. Also, finals are starting, so it’s a tough time for me right now.

I did, however, have an amazing time on the program’s last field study trip. I got the chance to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, Madrid, Spain, and Rome, Italy. All three places were gorgeous and warm, a nice change from the weather here in Freiburg, where, as of last night, it has started snowing! We had several meetings throughout the trip about immigration, environmental issues, and the debt crisis. Probably the most interesting tidbit that I learned was that in Italy, the mafia and organized crime in general play a large part in waste disposal. They illegally dump and turn a profit. It was very interested to hear how organized crime has developed to keep up with the modern age. While traveling, we also got plenty of free time. I spent a day on the beach in Portugal, explored museums in Madrid, and toured the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Vatican while in Italy.

Beach in Portugal

Palace in Madrid

The Colosseum in Rome

Me in front of the Trevi Fountain

We also had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner as a group. In Rome, the program set up a reservation for an American style dinner. It had turkey, cornbread, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and more! Both the food and the company was wonderful!

Since returning, I’ve dived back into school. Like I mentioned at the start of this post, finals are upon me, and so I’ve been writing papers left and right. The program has also started its preparation for the model EU Commission meeting we will be holding in a few weeks. Every student has been assigned an EU country and position within that country, either head of state or foreign minister, and we have been researching and discussing our countries’ positions on issues like equal rights and the immigration crisis. I’m representing Greece, and so issues like immigration are important for my country. It’s been very interesting navigating alliances and partnerships as we put together proposals on each topic. It’s a lot of work, but I’m excited to see how the final simulation goes.

In holiday-based news, the Christmas markets have started! This may be foreign to some readers, so let me give a brief explanation. Germany and other places in Europe have a tradition of setting up large, month-long fairs in their towns for the holidays. In them, you can get Glühwein, or hot, mulled wine, special, Christmas-related snacks like cookies and a better version of fruit cake, and you can pick up small gifts as well. I have yet to go, as I’m trying to get all my papers done first, but as soon as I have free time, you’ll find me bundled up with a delicious mug of hot wine in my hands. I’ll share pictures next post! Until then!

Weeks 8 + 9 (The Travels)

Following part one of my midterm season, I traveled over Fall break. I joined up with some friends from the program to travel to Vienna and Budapest. It was an amazing experience. We started in Vienna and stayed in a little hostel right next to the Museum Sector. We spent most of our time in the museums, exploring the modern art exhibitions as well as the massive Fine Arts palace. We also took the time to explore the Schönbrunn Palace, which was a summer residence for the monarchy. It was stunning, and the grounds were massive. There was even a zoo with many different animals, including a red panda, my favorite!

Myself and travel friends, Ted, Sarah L, Zach, me, Abbie, Sarah H, left to right

Schönbrunn Palace

While in Vienna, as it was the home place of Mozart (he moved from Salzburg when he was just a child), we needed to go see the Vienna Mozart Orchestra. We did that our first night there and made a big production of it. A group of us dressed up fancy, then went out for dinner, dessert, and then the performance. It was stupendous. We found a little Vietnamese place on our way to the concert hall and had a delicious dinner, before making our way to a traditional Viennese cafe. We all got coffee, or tea in my case, and tried desserts. I had a sampler of three cakes, and utterly stuffed myself to contentment. No matter where I go in Europe, I always eat well here.

My cake sampler

The music itself was stunning as well. The concert was mostly music by Mozart, and all the musicians were dressed like him, wigs and all! It added a wonderful levity to the evening. The orchestra was also accompanied by a soprano and her partner. They were both very talented and had beautiful voices. It was an amazing evening.

We next traveled to Budapest, which is most likely my favorite city from this semester, Paris being a close second. We got there mid afternoon, so once we dropped our stuff off at our AirBnB, we set off to grab an early dinner then explore the city. We needed up in this very interesting restuarant that made it obvious that Hungary once fell under Soviet control – it had that western-inspired 80s vibe that, in my experience here, is indicative of communist history. After eating, we went out and explored the city some. We walked on the Danube, then tried to cross the Chain Bridge. It started sleeting half way across, so we retreated, but the bridge is beautiful when lit up at night.

The next day, we traveled to the palace, which has been turned into the Budapest National Gallery. The art is almost all by Hungarian and Eastern European artists, and the collection is stunning. In fact, it houses my new favorite painting, pictured below.

Landscape near Tivoli with Wine Harvesters by Karoly Marko the Elder

Following the museum, we explored the Budapest Labyrinth, where the man who inspired the Dracula myths, Vlad the Impaler, was imprisoned for around a year before he was removed. It was historically a hellish place where prisoners were tortured brutally. As you can see here, I had a blast!

I like to think Vlad once sat there. I make it look better though.

The girls finished our stay in Budapest with a dusk cocktail cruise on the Danube River. All the buildings were lit up and shining in the dark. It took my breath away as we rode along the shore. We saw the Parliament building, the palace, and many churches. It was the perfect way to end our trip. Budapest was my favorite city because there was so much to explore there. There was also a quietness to the city that was very appealing to me. I feel like I could go back and live there for months and not feel satisfied. If nothing else, I intend to come back and check out the bath houses sometime.

The Budapest Parliament building lit up at night

For all that it might make me sound like an uncultured American to say this, the breadth of art, visual and otherwise, that’s so readily available in Europe is astounding. Every place I’ve visited while here, 7 countries so far, has had so much history and accompanying reminders of that history. I learn almost as much in the museums and other cultural sites as I do in the classroom. It’s not over yet, but I already know I will never forget my experiences in Europe, and they’ve left a lasting impact on me already.