Donnerstag, 31. März 2016

Day 36: The end of our journey - what´s left?

Let´s review our excursion 

Fabian Willms - April 24, 2016




The tires of the airplane touch the runway gently. A collective sigh of all passengers and a view out the window confirm it. Back on German ground, back at home. Or is it? While enduring the tedious airport routine (show passport, running through the detectors, waiting for the luggage) we figured out something important: In addition to the endless fatigue there is another feeling that crawls under our skins: the non-realization of the current circumstances. Of course we´re all looking forward to see our friends and family, of course we are all aware that we are back in Germany. Or? Well, at least physically. Mentally, nobody really realizes, that the journey has come to an end. I think I speak for the group by saying: the last 2 weeks seemed much longer than they actually were. And yet the time in America was over far to soon. A paradox of feelings confusing us for that moment, keeping us from thinking strait. So, write a review now? Better not, better digest the trip thoroughly. If we spent enough time on German ground, we can think back on our trip objectively. With these words I´ll now fall into sleep for a long time, due to the long travel, crammed program and this evil time change. See you in a few days. * Yawn *


After this, probably much too detailed entry, and enough elapsed time to think; Let us look back together at the time in Virginia and answer these questions: "What remains" What experience have we accumulated, positive or negative? What expectations were confirmed? Which not? And is the participation in such a project group the effort worth anyway? (Spoiler alert: in any case it is worth the trip!)


For most of us this trip was the opportunity of our lives, to breathe American air for the first time. The excitement was accordingly high and we wondered what expectations of the American culture will turn out to be true. Some stereotypes are based on a drop of truth thou, and to discover the American fast food culture was no greater surprise for us. But there is a big difference between reading or watching about a culture and “experiencing” about same culture.


Only after a few days we realized, that the Americans have to face immensely high food costs. Cooking seems to be a luxury around here. So our understanding of the fast-food affinity of the locals grew rapidly . Everyday our group was looking for something edible and we often ended up eating at a restaurant or fast food establishment. But we did not spend our money there with the thought: "Oh , we are in America, so let us life like kings while remaining here!". (Okay, maybe occasionally we thought that.) We all are nothing but poor students, who need to scratch their remaining cash together. The fact is: to cook for yourself is just as expensive as going out for food. And so the daily decisions were made pretty easily.


You want an example of " unexpectedly " and " negative " when it comes to American culture ? I think I speak on behalf of our group when I say : The first deep gulp of American tap water has left a lasting impression, and so the term " chlorine water " quickly became famous among our group and was a metaphor for everything unexpectedly bad.


The last paragraph is of course in no way prove that stereotypes generally agree. But we figured that this stereotype in particular turned out to be true. What was more surprising were situations and habits we as a group have not heard of before. For instance, and for all of us probably the most influential: The seemingly endless open and friendly manner of the Americans. We as representatives of the German culture tend to pay more attention to privacy-acceptance and courtesy (at least according to my experiences). So the typical American approach was something to get used to. Choosing the direct approach usually is the best way to meet new people. The people are hospitable, nice, and it should not take a long time to get warm with them. In every shop you are greeted as if you are a regular customer. To discover this was a pleasant surprise .



Which (cultural) difference has surprised you in the US the most?


“The openness and the general joyfulness in conversations that could experienced at every turn.”
Eric Schmieder


"The friendly nature of the people. Everybody offers their help, even if you do not explicitly ask for it. People come right up to you. You always get a friendly "hello , how are you ?”. This surprised me very positively."
Madlen Leuffert


“The diet in particular was the biggest difference I have perceived. Food consumed from day to day is very rich in calories. There are more fast-food-restaurants here then back at home.“
Anja Huth




With the context of cultural differences, it was inevitable that sometthing worth reminding would happen every day. Now the schedule was packed too. We traveled around the state, motivated to participate in every event and meeting we could get; true to the motto: "We can rest back in Germany". With all the variety of experiences each member of the group has his own "highlight of the trip." Some favorites that stand out from the crowd are the trip to the island group of the "Outer Banks" and the almost family-like grill afternoon with Prof. Herzogs acquaintances. To give us forgetful students the opportunity to capture all those precious moments for eternity, we got some diligent photographers who took enough pictures. We can proudly brag about having a nice group picture for every day we spent in America, of which the most were published in this blog.



What was the best experience on this trip? What will be remembered even after 10 years?


"The best experience of the trip was to be invited by the friends of Mr. Herzog. We could really see how Americans live and these to welcomed us like they knew us for years."
Julia Einmal


"There were several great experiences during our journey, mainly due to our awesome travel group. However, since that was not the question: The fourth day was the most beautiful. Cape Charles, Shanty seafood and the personal guidetour at the ODU are a few reasons why."
Fabian Binde


"Difficult to say, because there was not THE experience for me. It was my first time in the United States, turning the entire trip to ONE experience."
Mike Kaulertz



Unlike most tourists, we got the rare and unique opportunity to look behind the "tourist veil". That means: Our host, the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, allowed us an insight into the typical life of an American student. Guided tours on the campus and the possibility to participate in seminars and lectures.


As a student at Stendal University I naturally have little experience with large campuses, but it must be said, how disproportionately large and lively this universities seems to be. I started to be a little jealous at the sight of the extensive range of organized leisure activities, unique and interesting course names or the food options. To be a student here seems more than just "professional" or "training". It is a mental state, giving the associated a sense of social prestige. In some aspects, a quite enviable concept. But of course not in all.



What experience would you like to transmit in your German studies? Which not?


"Music at the College every week and a symbol / mascot with which one can identify. I would not transmit so much superfluous pomp like at the Noble – Uni."
Tara Buchmann


"I really liked the technical equipment. For example, I would like to have a the broker – room just like theirs in our university. I do not know if I would struggle at such a huge university. Size is not always an advantage and the delivered content here does not seem to differ much from our classes."
Tobias Neuling


“The combination of high academic quality, free spirit and communication is something we will have a hard time copying here in Germany. But at least adding some of that spirit here would be nice. And I also would like to have a more funded and better equipped university where the appreciation for research and teaching achievements is recognized and the work would be less interrupted by the trouble and expense caused by bureaucracy.
I would not exchange the entirely private funding of the higher education system, with its economic constraints for the students. And of course not our social system, our cultural offer and even less our political structure."
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael A. Herzog


To be in familiar surroundings again for some time got me thinking about all the experiences, memories and friends we made during the excursion. Such unique experiences for which one squeezes himself in narrow airplane seat for 10 hours, for which one endures the everlasting process of airport-bureaucracy, and for which you save your money over several months. For the "being here"-feeling, for the "stick a patch over your foot blisters at the end of the day and rejoice anyway", for the "experience". Without question: The days in America were strenuous. But we were offered a chance, crossing the Atlantic and experiencing the United States, with all the characteristics of the inhabitants. Each student who likes to collect new experiences, is cosmopolitan and ready to implement methods of other cultures for themselves owe it to themselves to take part of this or similar excursions any time soon.




With what arguments would you convince a fellow student to participate in the next excursion?


“Collect new experiences in an interesting country!”
Georg Schmidt


"You have to experience it yourselves! Sure it costs money, but you get to know a crazy culture and see great landscape-scenery."
Mike Kahnert


"The world is not in our books, computers or movies. It is out there, waiting for us!"
Tobias Neuling


"Sure you can also organize a trip to the US by yourself, but as a normal tourist you do not get such a deep insight into the work and university world. The differences are quite noticeable and as anb outsider you wont get access to institutions like Virginia Tech or Fairfax county. So I would recommend the trip with Prof. Herzog at any time.” 
 Anja Huth


Now towards the end I have not much left to say except: Thank you ! Thanks to the organizers, to the supporters, to all the people who actively and passively made this trip possible, and supported us with help or advice. Thanks to all the parents, friends, thanks to the professors, to our hosts, and, this one comes just from me: Thanks to our excursion group . The group dynamic was wonderful and I would like to travel with you guys once again one day.



What did you like most about the organization or the program and what not ?


"What I liked: The varied daily grind and the group activities.
What not: The jam-packed schedule; sometimes we had too little time per site."
Stefan Ruzicka

"The perfect combination of learning, fun and adventure. I particularly liked to explore the American way of life, to socialize, to perceive the mentality of the people, and learning about American history and Virginia.”
Madlen Leuffert


"Everything ran smoothly and we could experience a lot. I would have liked more time with American students. We rarely had the opportunity to communicate, which I thought was a pity."
Mike Kahnert


"I think the trans-disciplinary connection of engineers with business managers succeeded especially. The support from my colleague Prof. Hantscher from the Department “IWID” was very pleasant and has brought new aspects to the program. Our trip really offered many opportunities to connect and I'm excited to see how our follow-up project will turn out. Incidentally, I was particularly interested to see how the students would pass their free-time on that one weekend, and I am very pleased with the engagement and team spirit this group has been implemented in a foreign country. Of course at the end I was more than happy to see the group harmonizing well. The program and work-flow were accepted fast and every member of the group faced the challenges. For me it was in many ways a memorable and exciting trip, for which I want to thank again all the people, who made this possible."
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael A. Herzog 



By Fabian Willms




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