Summer 2017 Exchange Trip to Germany Fulfills Expectations

Kelly Ritenour, staff writer

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This past summer, (summer 2017) I journeyed to Germany with a group of twelve other students from Hampton Roads. We spent ten days in the lovely city of Greifswald near the Baltic Sea, and four days in the iconic city of Berlin. We traveled with the help of Sister Cities, an exchange student program that takes a group of students to a partnered city for a brief exchange experience.

 

I was incredibly excited to travel for the exchange. The trip definitely lived up to my expectations and even surpassed them in some ways. Never did I think I’d fall so deeply in love with the city of Greifswald, nor develop such strong bonds with the people there. I met all kinds of students from various nations and came to the conclusion that despite all our differences in language, culture, or life experience, we all share the same passion and curiosity for life. 

Kelly Ritenour
The city of Greifswald.

Berlin was an extreme contrast to Greifswald. The large city was ever-moving and packed full of uniquely interesting people. I got to visit locations such as the East Side Gallery and the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. The Holocaust Memorial was breathtakingly large, capturing the attention of passersby. We learned the artist wanted something large and abstract to make people stop and think. After walking through the memorial and reaching the other side, each member of our group had a different interpretation of the abstract meaning of the memorial. Some said it represented the feeling of being trapped in an endless maze. Another commented that the similar concrete blocks represented the attempt to depersonalize the Jewish people, but the different heights of the blocks illustrated that no two humans are the same. 

 

The East Side Gallery is a section of the Berlin Wall decorated with beautiful art that has been turned into a historic sight. Most images were abstract or cartoonish. The meaning of each piece was never explained, only left for the mind to boggle. Art is something that speaks for itself using a visual language everyone can understand, which is what makes the East Side Gallery such a great experience for tourists. 

Kelly Ritenour
A piece of the Berlin Wall.

 

We also took day trips during our stay to places such as Ruegen, Binz, Hamburg, and Potsdam. It was mesmerizing to witness the cliffs of Ruegen from the ocean, and incredibly refreshing to dip our feet into the beach at Binz. Hamburg showed us Germany’s industrial and economic history, along with current political buildings and favored locations. In Potsdam we witnessed gorgeous architecture such as churches and castles, along with Frederick The Great’s vacation home located outside of the town.

Christina Willet
Emma Janney, Christiana Clark and I dipping our feet in the Baltic Sea.

Thanks to my journey, I have made so many new memories and met amazing people. I will never forget this lifechanging experience and hope to go again. 

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