Growing up, my family didn’t take many trips, so traveling abroad wasn’t on my bucket list. In high school, a group of students took a trip to London and Paris. While I wanted to go on this trip, it wasn’t in the cards for me. During my first semester at Ohio State Newark, I was exposed to a different culture that helped me be more open to new opportunities like an education abroad trip. However, I didn’t know where I wanted to go!
During the fall semester of 2015, I was encouraged to apply for the spring break trip to Berlin, Germany. I had never thought about visiting Berlin, but with German ancestry, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with my heritage. I filled out my application, got a letter of recommendation and eagerly waited to hear back. I had several other friends who applied for the same study abroad trip, and we couldn’t wait to find out if we were accepted. The day finally came, and we were thrilled to know we would soon be traveling across the pond to Berlin.
As a college student, my biggest fear was that it was going to cost way too much. However, by subsidizing the fees, Ohio State Newark made this trip extremely affordable! At a fraction of the cost, I was able to have a meaningful experience in Germany.
As an English major, I was extremely excited about all the books we read to prepare for the trip! I loved learning about the history of Berlin. Stephanie Brown, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of English, and Stephan Evans, senior lecturer in comparative studies and German were so helpful and pushed us to learn as much as we could. One of my classmates (and best friend) and I paired up for our project and decided to study the influence of foreign architecture on Potsdam, Germany (about 40 minutes outside Berlin).
A Trip Across the Pond
The first half of the semester went by quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to head to Germany. I was one of the only people who had never flown, so I was a bit apprehensive. Not only did Dr. Brown and Professor Evans reassure me, but so did my classmates. Once we were in the air, I was ready to go!
After an overnight flight, we landed in Berlin and had a full day ahead of us. We checked into Hotel Rotdorn after a bumpy bus ride to drop off our luggage. Once we started walking around the city, I couldn’t believe I was actually in a different county. I was in awe of how the city was so different but so similar to my hometown at the same time.
Adjusting to a new time zone and learning our way around Berlin made our first day very eventful. We did a tour of the city, exchanged our money for German currency, ate a delicious dinner and went to bed. Professor Evans was our guide. He made sure we were comfortable with the area and gave us tips for being in the city. The biggest piece of advice that I was given, and that I tell everyone traveling abroad, is to wear good walking shoes! The most I walked in a day was over 12 miles, and I was exhausted!
During the trip, we visited several museums and monuments, including the Topography of Terror, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Building, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Stasi Jail, the Jewish Museum and many other stops in between.
I learned more about the history of Germany in seven days than I thought was possible. Once you are immersed in the culture, you feel the need to learn as much as you can while you’re experiencing it firsthand.
One big difference I noticed between our group of students from Ohio State Newark and the locals was how “normal” the history seemed to them. While touring Sachsenhausen, there were several other groups of students taking tours as well. To us, being in a concentration camp was emotional and scary. We immediately felt sorrow fall over us when we walked through the gates. However, the German students touring acted as normal kids would. We felt the need to respect this area because it was taboo for us to be visiting. German students grew up surrounded by this dark history, and it all felt “normal” to them.
This experience taught me that we shouldn’t take world history for granted! I had always been interested in the Holocaust, but it wasn’t until I experienced it in person that I truly understood its impact. Visiting a concentration camp gave me a greater respect for those who lost their lives during World War II.
Heading to the Sanssouci Palace
Another notable part of the trip was our research day in Potsdam. For the first time since our arrival, we were alone and had to put our navigational skills to the test. The farther we got from Berlin, we encountered more of a language barrier. Though we got to Potsdam safely, we learned the importance of alternate ways of communication.
A group of us took a tour of the beautiful Sanssouci Palace; we couldn’t help but take photos of the stunning architecture. After the tour, my research partner and I continued to walk around the Sanssouci Park to check out the other buildings, including the Neue Palace, Chinese Teahouse, Roman Bathhouse and more.
It was so interesting to see the different foreign influences on the buildings within the Sanssouci Park! They were extremely beautiful, and if anyone travels to Germany I always recommend they visit the town of Potsdam. At the end of the day, we travelled back to Berlin to find out what our other classmates did during their research day. Everyone’s projects were so creative, and each group had a different story to tell. Germany is rich with history, and I wish we would have had more time to explore.
As we neared the end of our trip, we were trying to soak in as much culture as we could. We visited several restaurants, shops and we even watched a soccer game at the Olympic Stadium (you know, where Jesse Owens ran in the Olympics). It was such a fun-filled trip that no one wanted it to end.
Although this seven-day trip flew by quickly, it taught me that you can’t replace experiences. I had never anticipated that I would leave the United States, but this trip made me realize there is so much in the world to explore. As an alumna I hope to use my experience abroad when traveling across the country (and potentially to different countries) throughout my career.
I would go back and repeat this trip over and over again. I’m extremely thankful for the guidance of Dr. Brown and Professor Evans and the support of my classmates. If you ever have a chance to take a trip abroad, whether it be through Ohio State Newark or on your own, don’t think twice about it!
-Lauren Snyder, Ohio State Newark alumna
Lauren graduated from The Ohio State University in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in English. Shortly after, she began her career at RevLocal as a Digital Content Specialist focusing on blogging and social media for clients. She transitioned to RevLocal’s Corporate Marketing Team as the Content Marketing Coordinator to focus on all internal and external content for the company.