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Epiphany in Germany (VSU student travels to the Rhine)

Many college students decide to travel abroad during the summer months. Jesse Freudenhammer decided to explore Germany through the Study Abroad program. I took the liberty of interviewing him over lunch and the answers to my questions were quite enlightening.

James: What made you want to study in Germany?

Jesse: I wanted to visit a country that matters to me. My minor is German and also my family is originally from Germany, so I enjoy learning about the homeland of my father and grandfather.

James: How was the experience different from what you expected?

Jesse: Big things stand out of course, but I was always in a large group of Americans wherever I went on the study abroad program. Something was lost in translation when you are embedded with fellow Americans. Almost like a cookie cutter tourist.

James: Did the group affect the way you perceived anything else about Germany?

Jesse: Personally, after spending four years in the Marine Corps and coming to college after my experiences overseas in Iraq; being stuck with a bunch of young college “kids” was really annoying. I was stuck playing babysitter or group leader more than I liked. I mean if you are looking for a drunken vacation, don’t waste others’ times on a study abroad. It’s kind of a no brainer but common sense isn’t that common then.

James: What do you mean by that? Any specific advice or moments that you remember?

Jesse: I mean when you are an underage kid having the ability to buy booze, I guess they all lose their mind. Especially when you are overseas and most of the opinion of Americans isn’t highly regarded, it doesn’t help that most Germans think Americans are fat, stupid and dramatic. They should plan their adventure better rather than get trashed at every moment of everyday.

James: Wow! Blunt and honest, but I guess they need it. What else did you do in Germany other than study?

Jesse: Well, I saw my extended family in between that and my trip to Wacken was epic!

James: Wacken?

Jesse: The biggest open air metal festival in the world! Think of Bonnaroo but less hippies and drugs; just beer, loud music, and too many women for the scene. It was strange, most of the time here in the States, girls avoid the metal scene but in Germany the ratio was about even. Four days of camping, listening to badass music, and drinking quality beer. Nothing gets much more fun.

James: Any brilliant moments of clarity while you were traveling?

Jesse: The study abroad program doesn’t really teach or show the local culture as much as I wanted. When I was at the festival I had to rely on my German language skills. Instead of being catered by everyone. I had to adapt to their world instead of the other way around. Makes you appreciate things differently.

James: Any last thoughts?

Jesse: I remember walking through the famous red light district in Hamburg with two prostitutes talking, and two cops also chatting nearby with couples walking hand in hand. Most people had beers or drinks in their hand. The whole scene was pretty weird since here in Georgia there would be drama and cops everywhere. We could learn a few things from the Old World.

James: I bet we could…

Jesse Freudenhammer is a junior majoring in History and minoring in German. Before college he was a Recon Marine from 2003-2007.

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