After two grueling days of travel, having to take a 4 hour train from Essen to Berlin and then an 8 hour flight back with hours in between, I finally arrived home on July 7th around noon. The month I spent in Germany felt like it lasted for 5 days and some change, it flew by so quickly, yet from my exhaustion during the whole enterprise it felt like I would never leave. Looking back on my experiences, I loved Berlin, from it’s quiet streets, cute stores, and parks on every block, the city reminded me of a suburban neighborhood in some places and a rich cultural city in others. I can see why my uncle lived there for 15 years and why he adored the place so much, it’s really a city with something for everyone.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time in Essen as well. I loved learning about how the German government has dealt with and used old industrial sites as parks and museums. They provide a service and educate German citizens about the history of the area. The whole area surrounding Essen and Dusseldorf is enveloped in history and change. From the use of coal to green energy, from industrial to the service industry, from a production focus to a conservation focus, Western Germany is changing in almost every way possible and being a witness to this change and process was truly amazing.
One example of this process of change was when we attended a presentation about the Emscher river. The Emscher river is an old river that was converted to an open sewer hundreds of years ago for the transportation of industrial and human waste. What the German government is trying to do now is to move this sewer underground and dispose of the waste cleanly and efficiently. It’s exciting to imagine how much the land will change in 20, 30, or 40 years into the future.
For my personal reflections, I was skeptical about how much I would learn and change over this trip but I have to admit that the amount is tremendous. I learned about different customs and ways to look at things, about different foods and drinks, about different ways to travel. I feel as if I’ve grown as a person and become more self-aware and self-sufficient because travelling somewhere that is so different from what you’re used to WILL change you. It’ll make you question how you do things and if what you do is right. Makes you wonder, why don’t we do that back at home? For example, why do we need plastic bags at the grocery store? Germany doesn’t. Being in Germany gave me a fresh perspective on how to look at things and I feel as if my narrow world view has been wholly expanded for the better.