This week marks the first week of the Summer semester in Braunschweig (Brunswick, Germany). This means I’m actually more than half way done with my study abroad. I have learned so much, and hope to learn more in the coming months.
Because this past week was the first of the semester, I now reflect on my semester break. While quite a few of my friends and acquaintances traveled home for extended periods of time, I have mostly stayed in Braunschweig during this period. Sure, I took the train and explored for a weekend, and have taken a few day trips, but I still could have travelled more— After all, I had 6 weeks off. So, besides financial reasons, why did I not travel more in this free-time?
Well, I came to Germany to live in Braunschweig. I did not come to Germany to live on the rails. I firmly believe its better to go “a mile deep and an inch wide,” rather than “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
In our current age of Wikipedia, I can simply look up things about cities and buildings. Pictures are everywhere. Naturally, looking online is not as breathtaking as actually going and seeing these things. In all truth, though- I’m tired of looking at old buildings.
The things you can’t get on Wikipedia, is the culture. You can’t talk with Wikipedia. You can’t eat the food pictured on Wikipedia. You can’t experience the other persons point of view, as explained on Wikipedia. You can’t make cross-cultural friendships on Wikipedia.
Each of these things you don’t get on a vacation (Well, maybe the food, but even then, as food is seasonal).
I came to Braunschweig to live here. To make friendships, drink great beer (it is Germany, after all), to live as a German. To be in their shoes.
Once one lives in a city, one starts to understand the deeper intentions, the deeper history. Not just facts about old buildings, but rather why. Why were the buildings built, and why are they still maintained? Why is our castle also a shopping mall? These “Whys” are not simply the physical utilitarian purpose of the buildings at one certain time, but the cultural attitude toward them and their existence. One starts to look less at the building, and the culture defining it, and the people behind the culture.
People. That’s what’s missing on Wikipedia.
So vacation? Well, it’s nice for a week. But me? I would rather live somewhere. Not watch the people, but be apart of the crowd.
This is my “Goal” in Braunschweig. And everyday I think “I can’t believe this is actually happening”