“Oh, man I’m kind of nervous” were the first words I thought on the day of my flight to Bochum, Germany on April 4, 2018. How would I navigate around if I did not know the local language? How would I learn to cook if I spent my entire life being dependent on my parents, and especially my mother’s cooking? As I worried over these questions, I also worried about one of my luggages exceeding capacity since it was 54 lbs and worrying about my carry on being too large. I had to call the airline I would travel on, Aer Lingus, on whether this was acceptable, but they left me with an ambiguous yes answer.
On the way to the Philadelphia International Airport, I picked up my sister, a Drexel freshman, from Millenium Hall so that she could help my parents return home after dropping me off because they do not know how to use a GPS. At the airport, we discussed my worries and any remaining thoughts before I would leave to Germany for two and a half months. Fortunately, Aer Lingus accepted my luggage. When we neared the departure time, we went upstairs to the gate boarding area where I finally said goodbyes to my sister, mother, and dad. Admittedly, I did feel sad since I would be leaving them for two months but excited since I would finally be able to become independent.
Since this was my first time traveling by myself through an airport, I was nervous about what I should do. Nonetheless, I continued moving and met up with other students in the Drexel Bochum study abroad program at an airport bar. When the gate closing time came around, the flight which was scheduled to leave at 5:35 pm was delayed to 6:05 pm. When that time finally came, we were in the plane waiting until 6:50 pm and departed then. On the flight, I did not fall asleep but watched several movies: Prometheus and The Disaster Artist which were interesting. We were also bought some good food like beef pie and granola bars.
When we finally arrived, we had to rush to our connecting flight. On that flight, it took two hours to arrive to Dusseldorf International Airport. Then from there, we met our Bochum buddies, a mentor group, and learned about the different characteristics of German culture and then we were guided to the train stations and onto our apartments. One fascinating aspect of this culture is how the train systems, airports, highways, and general pedestrian walkways are so well integrated. This may suggest how pervasive the German government is throughout German life.
Now, as a first-generation college student, I am currently worrying about my food situation (Figure 1 shows my attempts to cook). This is because I am so used to eating my mother’s cooking without any disruption. Now instead, I must consider what I want to cook for each meal which is a bit stressful. I am hoping to meal prep my meals for three days, so I can avoid having to cook each day like my mom does at home. Fortunately, ingredients are readily available by our dorm, Grunewald, in Aldi, a German supermarket that is also in the US. I also found that there was another larger supermarket, called Rewe, in the unicenter where the university is located, that has a much more greater variety of items are available. However, many items like pots and pans were not available in my dorm when I first arrived so now I am looking all over for them.As a recommendation to any future study abroad students, I would suggest bringing pots and pans with you so that you do not have to worry about purchasing them while you’re here. In addition, if you cook food that involves more exotic spices that you would not find in traditionally large grocery stores like Aldi, look for places you will likely find spices like the Asia Shop or the Turkish grocery in the Uni-center. Additionally, consider purchasing foreign currency, like I purchased Euros, before you leave to the EU so that you’re prepared to buy items once you’re here.
Additionally, although I assumed WIFI was present all throughout Europe, it appears that some places do not have it like my suite and unfortunately, Ruhr Universität Bochum. I have had to borrow an Ethernet cable from my roommate and asked for permission to use the WIFI from his modem to access the internet. Obviously, I hope to purchase an ethernet cable so that I am not dependent on him, but it is frustrating that this technology is not readily accessible in this extremely advanced country. Eventually, I did buy my own router for 13 euros during my second week of stay here but it seemed like a frivolous waste of money when it should have been readily available.
As I continue moving through this exciting place (Figure 2 is how my situation currently looks), I hope to gain valuable skills such as becoming more independent and learning how to cook better. Furthermore, I hope to meet exciting individuals from all areas of the world to help myself become a much more informed and educated person. I will document my exploration of German and European culture in this blog, and encourage other first-generation and Drexel students to join a study abroad program and broaden their worldviews.