This post is a combined one of trips and experiences along the beautiful Rhine River Valley in Germany: Marksburg Castle in Braubach, a historic fortress in Koblenz (Ehrenbreitstein), and the impressive monument in Rudesheim (Neiderwald). I will also share some reflections about living in Vallendar, a small town along the Rhine River, and studying abroad at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management’s Vallendar campus. It’s always hard to say goodbye, but I’m glad to have this post to share my experiences.
WHU had a trip for exchange students to Marksburg Castle, about a half hour drive from Vallendar. The castle was a stone medieval castle and had a maintained herbal garden, more on the poisonous side for the protection of the castle. The view of the Rhine River from the castle formed an U-shape as it curved. We were also lucky because we had clear skies and no rain on the day we visited.
On the way to Koblenz, I passed Ehrenbreitstein fortress many times before finally visiting it in February. The fortress was a pleasant surprise with gorgeous views of Koblenz and the Rhine River. If you look closely, Koblenz’s Deutsches Ecke (the huge horse statue) is visible from the fortress. As the name suggests, the statue is literally on the corner where Moselle and Rhine rivers meet. We didn’t have to walk up steps to get to the fortress because it had an elevator similar to a slow roller coaster to reach it. There were very few people there because of the time of the year, so we had the fortress to ourselves.
My last trip along the Rhine River was in Rüdesheim am Rhine, Germany with family. It was a cold, clear day in March. We took a boat to Bingen, which some locals were using just as transportation. The round-trip ride lasted less than two hours. We saw so many castle remains, hills, and even a centuries old toll booth for boats. In front of the boat station in Rüdesheim, we saw the 15th century Eagle Tower. The famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had stayed there when he visited Rüdesheim.
Just as it was special to visit areas along the Rhine River, it was amazing to live in Vallendar! (Pictured below) I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We lived in a crowded northeast neighborhood only twenty minutes from downtown Philly. Living in Vallendar, a small town, was a contrast. I had down time and began reading and cooking more. The town was incredibly peaceful and scenic. Locals really valued the Rhine River and the towns alongside it felt like “Rhine River towns.” The WHU studio apartment I was staying in was very spacious and furnished with views of the Rhine from the balcony.
I had been working and attending Drexel part-time until studying abroad during my last quarter. During those 2 years, I always felt spread thin and wished to be a full-time student. So while studying abroad, I was glad to be a full-time student and travel.
There was an adjustment period for studying outside of my home university. Some differences existed in the course structure and grading at WHU, but the material was the same. For all 3 of my study abroad courses at least 70% of the grade depended on one group project or exam. While at home, courses often encompassed weekly assignments, exams, a group project, and participation.
Another bonus: I became very comfortable with traveling alone and learned to enjoy it. The best part about studying abroad was being able to travel; there was no holding back. Every weekend was impossible as a graduate student, so I tried to travel every other weekend instead and day or afternoon trips as well. I consistently kept a travel diary which was so much fun to do.