Nicholas Thomssen, a senior international business major, is interning at Labfolder, an electronic lab notebook software company in Berlin for six months beginning in July. As a part of the international business major, students can pursue an international internship. The Lincoln, Nebraska native studied abroad in Spain and knew he wanted to return to Europe. “I wanted to learn what it is like to live and work abroad,” he said. “I love meeting new people from different nationalities and am looking forward to gaining international work experience.”
12/20/2017 - Six Months in Hindsight
This is it. It’s my last week of my internship. On Friday I will leave my company for the last time, and the following Wednesday I will be getting on a plane to fly back to Lincoln and return home. It’s hard to think I have been in Berlin for six months now. I guess time flies quicker than you think. I may be sad to leave, but all in all I’m ready to come home.
I met many people from all over the world on this excursion of mine. I met friends from Ukraine, Iran, Somalia, Pakistan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Turkey and many more countries from all corners of the globe. That’s one of the biggest differences I saw here compared to back home. I met so many people from different nationalities and cultures than if I had stayed at home in Nebraska for these six months, and I think that’s a priceless thing in today’s world.
It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses though. There was some worry about me getting my visa on time, problems with the language barrier, and back in August I had a bad stomach flu causing me to lose over five pounds in less than a week. Even so, overcoming these obstacles is all a part of life, and they’ve made me feel determined and tenacious.
Yet, I’m ready to go home. I have been six months away, and I’m ready to return to classes and get back into the student mindset once again. I miss my friends and family, and I’m excited to see them all again.
After all this time, I can definitely say it was worth it to take this internship here. I have learned a lot about what working a real international job will be like after graduation, as well as getting a chance to live in a new country and travel around. If you ever have an opportunity to have an internship in another country, or at least a chance to study abroad, absolutely take it. No matter what, it is a good life investment and it will give you great memories for the rest of your life.
So, this is my last blog post for my time in Berlin. I hope you all have been inspired to travel the world yourself. Hopefully you’ll want to live abroad someday, whether doing study abroad or an internship. Either way, I wish you luck in your traveling endeavors, and I hope you will visit some of the cities I have talked about. One day I will return to Europe, but for now, I’m happy to go home to Nebraska.
12/12/2017 - Travel Tips
This will most likely be my penultimate blog entry of my time here in Berlin. I return to Lincoln in two weeks and am at the end of my time here. I wanted to spend this blog post talking about travel tips I would like to share with my readers about what I’ve learned while traveling and what they should heed when visiting Europe.
1. Don’t just go to the main cities in Europe that everyone and their mother go to. It seems as though every American who wants to galivant across Europe just wants to go to the most well-known cities and that’s it. London, Paris, Barcelona and Rome are all overly touristy because of this. Venture outside of that. Go to cities like Bilbao, Munich, Dublin, Glasgow or other less touristic places. You’ll get a much better cultural experience.
2. In my opinion, avoid city tours. To me, they’re just a waste of time and energy, especially if your guide rambles on about some random building that you don’t care much about. Discover the city at your own pace. Do your own research about where you want to visit. You’ll be much more satisfied with your experiences.
3. Use Couchsurfing’s hangout function to meet like-minded travelers. For those of you who don’t know, Couchsurfing is an app that allows you to have free accommodation in cities by staying with locals. While I prefer hostels to this, the app includes a function which you can meet other travelers like yourself. I’ve used this in every city I’ve visited, meeting people from all over the world. It’s perfect for solo travelers to meet and hang out with new people.
4. Exercise is key. This is something I learned the hard way in Spain (I gained 20 pounds), and it’s especially important if you’re living abroad multiple months. I would suggest going on a run every couple of days, as joining a gym for only a small amount of time is sometimes difficult.
5. Get the authentic cuisine of the city. Don’t just go to McDonald’s when you see it because it might be convenient. It’s usually extremely delicious and amazing. When I went to Mexico this summer with my family, I had actual Mexican food at a small restaurant near Tulum. It was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Authentic food is awesome no matter where you go.
6. Learn a few phrases in the local language. A little goes a long way. In Germany, saying things like “bitte” and “danke” (please and thank you) will mean a lot to the locals you encounter. Even if you fail at pronunciation, the attempt is usually appreciated.
7. A lot of things will be not at all what you’re used to. And that’s ok. Culture shock is a real thing that happens. Instead of fighting it, embrace it. There’s something great to be said about being able to fully integrate oneself into a new culture. Learning about a new culture is beautiful and amazing in its own right, and I love every minute of it.
I hope these tips will help you in your own travel. I hope I have motivated you over the past few months to take your own step out and travel your own adventure. For the next post, I’m going to reflect on my six months internship here in Berlin.
12/4/2017 - Cities in Review
With three weeks left and all my weekend trips to various cities finished, I wanted to write about the cities I’ve been to in Europe this time around. Also, I’m going to rank them in order by how much I liked them. Some cities I really loved, and some not so much, so it’s important to tell you my opinion on it.
1. Bilbao: I knew I wasn’t going to question whether I loved Bilbao or not when I went back for the second time in August. This time, everything I liked about the city was accentuated. The city is beautifully nestled in the mountains, and a quick metro ride from the beach. It’s a great place to learn Spanish as well (which is what I did when I studied abroad there two years ago). It is without a doubt my favorite city in Europe, and you should all visit there sometime.
2. Copenhagen: Copenhagen was the dark horse candidate in my book. I decided to go there on a whim. My answer to “Why?” was essentially “Why not?” as I really didn’t have a reason to go. With easy bike riding, nice people and an overall happy atmosphere, I was very much thrilled when I left. Be careful about everything being expensive, but it’s definitely a great city to visit.
3. Kiev: Again, Kiev was a dark horse. I had heard about problems with East Ukraine as well as still a bit uneasiness after the 2014 revolution. Kiev surprised me. The people are nice, everything is cheap and there was plenty of history to see. It’s a nice city to visit for people wanting to go somewhere different. Although it is slightly difficult for Americans as the different alphabet makes it harder to get around.
4. Munich: Not much I can fully say about Munich unfortunately. I loved what I saw when I was there, but I wasn’t there for very long as I was only there for Oktoberfest. This didn’t give me too much time to see the city. I want to go back eventually and learn more about the city.
5. Prague: Prague is a beautiful city with impressive architecture. It has decently cheap food and drink, and a fun atmosphere really helps it. However, Prague falls victim to over-the-top tourism. The streets are filled with tourists from all over the world, and tourist traps fill the streets. While Prague is a great city, the tourists almost ruin it. Almost.
6. Berlin: Since I’ve been living in Berlin, I might as well add it to the list. Unfortunately, after six months here, Berlin has fallen down my list. It is a fantastic city with great history; however, to me the novelty of it wore off, and I feel like I didn’t fit into this city’s culture as well. With this in mind, it falls to last place of all the cities I’ve visited this time in Europe, but I will remember it with reverence when I leave.
Next time I’ll talk about how the last six months have gone, as well as what I’ve learned about myself and traveling during this time.
11/27/2017 - Thanksgiving Weekend in Copenhagen
This past weekend I took a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, for what will most likely be my last weekend trip during my time here in Europe. I wasn’t sure what to expect as there really aren’t any stereotypes about what to do in the city for tourists, at least from my perspective. But, surprisingly the city was fun and amazing. It was a great last trip for my abroad tour.
I will have to say this was my least stressful trip of the five I’ve taken throughout Europe. Not to say my other ones have been overly troublesome, but this one was very relaxing overall. Most logistical things getting there (flights, airport to hostel, getting settled in) were easy to take care of, giving me more time and less worry to visit the city.
The easiest way to explore Copenhagen is on bike. I rented one all day from my hostel for 89kr (about $14) and rode around for hours. The city has easy to use bike lanes and most other bikers and drivers are friendly and easy-going. It’s exhilarating riding around that time, and you get to visit the sites around the city much quicker than simply walking.
Both Copenhagen and Denmark are consistently rated among the highest in the world when it comes to levels of happiness, and I definitely felt it going there. The locals are generally nice, caring and love to meet new people. A couple of times I got lost riding around the city, and I had to use a map at times. Multiple times I had Danish people come up to me asking if I needed help. As much as I would appreciate it, I also like to figure things out on my own and politely declined the help.
Be warned, however, Copenhagen is decently expensive. A fast food meal can easily cost around the equivalent of $12-15. Those unprepared can easily overspend. Despite this, Copenhagen is absolutely worth it to visit. All other trips I took I had a reason to go there, whereas I went to Copenhagen because I just felt like it. Even so, it broke any sort of expectations I had and without a doubt was a fantastic final trip for me.
With only one month left of my time here in Europe, I’m going to finish my blog over the next few entries by reflecting on my trip, giving advice, as well as my final thoughts and future travel plans.
11/12/2017 - The City of Golden Domes, Part 2
One of the best things about Kiev is that almost everything is very inexpensive. To use the subway for example, it just costs 20 cents per trip. I went out to eat most nights because of how cheap it is. One night I went to a nice restaurant and microbrewery next door to my hostel. The entire meal of three courses (soup, salad and entree) plus three drinks cost around $9. This was a really nice and classy restaurant at that, a place back home you could have that same meal and easily spend over $20.
I have to mention the name of the blog post because Kiev is very well known with its immaculate cathedrals with golden spires. They are gorgeous, and if you’re a fan of cathedral architecture, it’s a worthwhile trip to visit.
Not that those are the only things to see in Kiev. It has a unique history from its time under the Soviet Union, and there are many war memorials from World War II set up by the Soviets. One of those is the Motherland Monument, which is a massive steel statue set up to commemorate the war (with a Soviet crest on its shield). This 335-feet statue is even taller than America’s own Statue of Liberty, which tops out at 305 feet. It’s a reminder of a tumultuous history, on par with similar monuments in Berlin.
One of the most interesting things was that the main street of Kiev (which my hostel was on) was closed down on Saturday night by police for a half mile stretch. They do this so people can walk freely in the street, hang out with friends and enjoy the night. It’s a cool thing to see. Overall, Kiev just felt like a normal city. The Kievans do the same stuff we do as Americans and Western Europeans. Sure, it’s a bit different between cultures, but overall with Kiev’s push toward modernism alongside closer ties to the “West”, it’s becoming easier to visit.
If you’re ever backpacking through Europe, especially Eastern Europe, take a look at Kiev. With history, beautiful architecture and cheap prices, it is not soon to be missed. I have one more planned trip for my time in Europe, as I will be going to Copenhagen in two weeks. I’ll be talking more about that as time comes.
11/6/2017 - The City of Golden Domes, Part 1
Coming back to Europe for the second time, I knew I wanted to visit some lesser traveled cities. Everyone goes to places like London, Paris and Barcelona when it comes to Europe. Even me, as I have been to both London and Barcelona, and stopped over in Paris on my way back to Nebraska. I decided to go to a city lesser known and traveled to by the average American: Kiev, Ukraine.
Ukraine has been mired in bad press over the past few years. With protests and a revolution in 2014, the Russian annexation of Crimea and a civil war on the eastern border, Kiev can be seen as unsafe by some. I wanted to prove differently.
I will attempt to sum up as best as I can of what has happened politically in Ukraine especially around 2014, but some things I may have to over simplify. Basically, they had elections in 2010 in which a man by the name of Viktor Yanukovych became president. This election was deemed a fair election by unbiased international organizations. This becomes important.
In late 2013, Yanukovych rejected deals to strengthen ties with the European Union, and instead become closer to Russia. Many Ukrainians extremely disliked this, so protests were held in Maidan Square (the main square of Kiev) in response to this. During the protests, which were relatively peaceful, shots were fired by government troops loyal to Yanukovych, killing and injuring many. Backlash ensued and the protests strengthened, causing Yanukovych to flee Kiev.
During the chaos, a civil war broke out in the east, and Russia invaded Crimea. Both are still big issues today, three years later. Even so, things are improving for Ukraine, as well as Kiev. When I visited, Kiev seemed like a normal European city with shops, restaurants, malls, museums, bars and offices. My hostel was a mere five minutes or less walking to Maidan Square, and today it’s a normal city square with monuments and open spaces. People go there to hang out, talk and enjoy the day, like any other normal city.
That’s the best I can explain in a travel blog, but I encourage you to read more about the recent history surrounding the protests. Now, I want to shift toward my travels there. I arrived on a Thursday afternoon. It was a shock immediately as I mostly saw only Cyrillic letters wherever. This made it more difficult (but not impossible) to find my way around town. Once I got settled into my hostel, I went walking around the main square, eventually going out for food with some other people from my hostel.
That was mostly my first day there, and I felt proud being able to get to my hostel from the airport utilizing few English words and the Ukrainian words being in a different alphabet. In my next post, I’ll go more into my time in Kiev, as well as why you should visit.
10/26/2017 - An Average Week
It’s time I admit something about living abroad. Yes, it is an awesome experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, no matter where we live, we get into daily and weekly routines that become habitual over time. That can be a good thing as it means you’re adapting to the cultural and lifestyle of the country.
Now four months abroad, I can say living here mostly feels normal now, even though I’m scheduled to go back to America in two months. So what does normal feel like? I wanted to talk about what an average week for me is like and show you how I go about most of my time while I’m here in Berlin.
Since I’m working a 40-hour week, that’s what covers most of my week from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I have to work the extra hour from 5 to 6 because for most German companies, they consider an hour taken away around lunch time for the employees to eat lunch. On Mondays and Fridays, the interns (including me) have to go buy lunch from the supermarket and prepare it for the rest of the employees. I don’t mind it too much, considering the interns don’t have to pay for those lunches.
Usually, I will go after work for a few miles run around my neighborhood. I’ll soon have to switch to morning runs. The sun goes down around 5:30 p.m. now, and that’s even before daylight savings hits in a few days. After that, I usually eat supper, followed by hanging out with my roommates or just watch some Netflix.
Friday is more fun. For the last hour of work, my company allows us to have a beer with fellow co-workers. We usually just hang out or play ping-pong until 6 p.m. comes around. After that, I head home, eat and possibly go out for the night with a few friends.
Saturday is my lazy day. If I’m not traveling for the weekend, I usually sleep in before going for a run sometime in the afternoon. Mostly I like to rest, play with my roommate’s dog, or just watch some movies. Sometimes I’ll go out for the afternoon and find something fun to do, but it depends on the week. I’ll go out that night, meet up with some friends and enjoy the weekend.
Sunday is most likely my favorite day. In the mid afternoon, I head to Tempelhof Field, which is a giant park in southern Berlin that used to be an airport. I meet a bunch of friends and acquaintances there from all over the world. We all get together and play soccer for a few hours. It’s a great time, and I’ve met a lot of good people there over the past months. I’ve even met a guy from Nebraska there, which was cool to see that even thousands of miles away Nebraskans can find each other. After that, I mostly get ready for the next week to start on Monday.
That is how most of my weeks have gone over the past month or so. I change things up every so often with trips around Europe. My next blog post will cover one of those trips I made to a city which few Americans visit when they travel in Europe. Should be a fun time!
10/14/2017 - Oktoberfest for All, Part 2
I spent four days at Oktoberfest. When I left that Sunday, I was quite exhausted yet content about the whole time there. It was one of the main trips I had planned on doing ever since I knew I was going to be living in Germany in December of 2016. And, all said and done, with how much money I had spent, it was absolutely worth it to go there.
I had made a mistake, however. I booked a flight out of Munich back to Berlin at 7 a.m. on that Sunday. Unfortunately, I was unable to check out of my campground until 8 a.m. Since it would be impossible to make my flight, I made a slight change. I, instead, went to the central bus station in Munich and bought a ticket for a seven-hour bus ride home. Much longer than the flight I will admit, but it was still an easy way to get back to Berlin.
I didn’t mind the bus ride too much. I got to enjoy the German countryside while listening to music and relaxing. But, it got me thinking. I reflected on my time at Oktoberfest, as well as my entire three and a half months lived in Germany. I learned multiple things about the world, travel, myself and life in general. That’s what travel does to a person. It allows you to learn about all four of those things so much more than staying in the same city for life.
Like I said in my previous post, I met an old couple from Iowa. From them I learned that you never should stop traveling. They were right around 70 years old, yet they started traveling only recently, crossing items off of their bucket list such as going to Oktoberfest. It’s never too late to start. You only need to take that first trip, and you’ll never want to go back.
In addition, I learned it is important for me, as an American, to hang out and meet other people that are not American. Not to say bad about the U.S. and other Americans, but I’ve found many great friends while living in Spain and now Germany. When I went to Oktoberfest, there was an almost hilarious amount of other Americans there. As much as I thought that was pretty great, I do really love meeting people from other countries and other continents. Hence again why I love traveling and meeting people from all over the world.
Lastly, I fully decided on my next big travel trip and adventure. Now, this is not some weekend trip traveling around Europe like I’ve been doing since I arrived in Germany. This is a big step in my life, much like studying abroad in Spain, and now doing this internship in Berlin. I will return to Nebraska in December, and I will hit the ground running on finishing my degree. Once I graduate, I’m going to travel to Australia. Now, I really don’t know if I want to backpack through the country for a few months, or if I just want to get a job there and move there. Right now I’m leaning toward the latter as I always had planned to live abroad when I graduated, and Australia seems like a great place to go.
Now being back in Berlin I’m getting back into the habit of living here. I did enjoy my time at Oktoberfest. I hope to, someday, return to Oktoberfest again.
10/4/2017 - Oktoberfest for All, Part 1
I’m going to get two things out of the way right now. Yes, a lot of Oktoberfest is about beer. There’s no getting around it, but there’s a lot more to the festival than just beer. Also, Oktoberfest can be quite touristy. I know when I started this blog I said I hated the usual tourist stuff while traveling, but Ocktoberfest is different.
I decided to camp for Oktoberfest. With hostels, hotels and airbnbs being quite expensive, it seemed like the best option. Plus, the company that rented the campsite catered to young travelers like myself. I left Berlin at 8 a.m. on Wednesday and arrived in Munich just an hour later. I wasn’t really worried about going alone. I knew I would meet people at the campsite and at Oktoberfest itself. My friend who went two years ago raved about how great it was there.
I decided not to buy the traditional lederhosen as it was a bit expensive and I wanted to save my money. A lot of guys did buy it, as well as girls buying the traditional dirndl dresses. Looking back on it, it is part of the fun to dress up in the traditional Bavarian dress, and I should’ve done it, Next time, I’ll do it. That’s the first thing that makes Oktoberfest more than just beer – the fun of dressing up in the Bavarian clothing.
The first couple days went very well. I went to Oktoberfest each day, meeting new people along the way. My best friend I met at the campsite, even if it was only for a few days, was Raymond from the Philippines. We literally met at the bus stop outside the campsite as we waited for the bus. We hung out until Saturday when he had to leave. He was only staying a few days at Oktoberfest as he was backpacking around Europe at the time.
He wasn’t the only new friend I made. I met Aidan from Australia, Kata from Germany (she was from Cologne not from Munich so she was a traveler as well), and Peggy and David, a 70-year-old couple from Iowa who came to Oktoberfest as part of a bucket list trip. That’s the next thing about why Oktoberfest is great: the amount of new friends you meet are ridiculous, and everyone has a fun time meeting new people.
When I got to Saturday, however, I knew I was in a pickle. My flight left the next day at 7:15 a.m. The problem was I couldn’t even check out of my campsite until 8 a.m., and even if I had checked out the night before, there was still the problem of getting to the airport at 4 a.m. So, I made a decision to buy a seven-hour bus ticket back to Berlin, leaving instead at 11:30 a.m.
Riding the bus home after four days at Oktoberfest, I felt quite content with the trip I had taken there. If I had the opportunity, I would absolutely go back again. It was a fun time, and it was definitely worth it. Next time I will talk more about my trip to Oktoberfest and what I learned as well.
9/19/2017 - At the Halfway Point
I have been here in Berlin for close to three months now, and I have basically hit the halfway mark of my internship. I wanted to reflect so far about what I have learned while being here in Europe. How has this fun yet rollercoaster ride these three months changed my mind about travelling and living abroad?
First of all, the thought of being only halfway through is good and bad in my mind. It is great because I still have so much time to create new experiences here in Germany that will be memories I cherish for a lifetime. It is also almost scary that I have been for seemingly months, yet I still have that same amount of time to go before returning home.
I am right in the middle of my internship now, and it is setting in how the 40-hour work week can sometimes be monotonous. I am still learning a lot about marketing, and I do like the people I am working with. Yet, it is important to know that sometimes life can be boring whether we want it to be or not. It is also a reminder that you must find a job that you are passionate about if you want to find more fulfillment and less boredom with your career.
Traveling solo is really fun and exciting. Although it can be sometimes scary, overcoming that fear is always worth it. When I lived in Spain, every trip I took to other cities was with other people in my same program. Now that I have been here in Germany, I have taken two big trips alone, Prague and Bilbao, and I plan to visit Munich solo for Oktoberfest next week (tune into the next blog post about it). Traveling solo is a great thrill, and I want to take two or three more trips after I go to Munich. I have not quite decided where to go yet, but I would like to have the chance to go to Budapest, Bucharest, Tallinn, Dublin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Kiev, Riga, Warsaw, Krakow, Edinburgh, Vienna or Helsinki. There are so many different places you can go. My conundrum is to decide where to go with my budget and time restrictions.
I still have a long way to go in my internship and time living in Germany, but I am starting to get used to living here. I am better prepared to handle any culture shocks I am not used to, as I am growing accustomed to them in Germany. Either way I really enjoy living abroad and most likely want to do it when I graduate from Nebraska in the next couple years.
9/10/2017 - Return to Bilbao Part 3
This will be my last post talking about Bilbao. I wanted to spend this one talking about what I learned going back there for the first time, and also why you should all go visit this city.
I love Bilbao. It is one of my favorite cities in Europe that I’ve visited. Yes, it is also one of my favorite cities where I have lived, beating out both Berlin and Lincoln. Living there jump-started my passion for traveling and seeing the world, a passion I was looking for at the time. I had gone through my entire freshman year at Nebraska before going to Bilbao in the fall sophomore year. I still did not know what I wanted to do yet in life.
Granted, I still had my whole life ahead of me and was still young, so I didn’t need to find my calling in life yet. When I had lived in Bilbao and returned, I felt accomplished in what I had done. And in that moment, I knew I wanted to return. Not just to Bilbao, I wanted to return to traveling. It was in that moment, my passion for traveling was born. That is what the city represents for me, and returning there reminded me of the nostalgia I felt. Even as I write this, in a few days I will be watching the main soccer teams of Berlin and Bilbao face each other in Berlin at the Olympiastadion.
I want to share why everyone should visit the city of Bilbao, and the whole of Basque Country as well. First of all, Bilbao is a beautiful city. After its industrial crisis, the city was reborn as a more artistic city with beautiful parks and murals. Also, the topography is beautiful as Bilbao is built in a valley in the mountains.
Bilbao and its surrounding mountains make it perfect for hiking. You can hike from the town of Plentzia up to the lighthouse of Gorliz, getting a beautiful view over the Bay of Biscay, or you can hike as I did from Bakio to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. For those more daring, you can pick up the Camino de Santiago at Bilbao, hiking along the Bay of Biscay toward St. James Cathedral.
For foodies, Bilbao and Basque Country are well known for their impressive gastronomy, especially in the city of San Sebastian to the west of Bilbao. It is one of the centers of Basque culture and cuisine, and should be visited as well as Bilbao.
Alas, it may be sometime before I return to Bilbao for a third time, as there are many other cities and countries I would like to visit first. But, I still am glad I was able to tell you all about why I love this city.
9/3/2017 - Return to Bilbao Part 2
I arrived in Bilbao on August 25, during the days of a festival called Aste Nagusia (great week or main week in English). I heard about this festival when I went to Bilbao a couple years ago to study abroad; however, I arrived too late to actually participate in the festivities. A large celebration of their culture and heritage, Aste Nagusia is like what happens in the U.S. for July 4, but the celebrations last for an entire nine days.
?After checking into my hostel, I immediately headed to the city center to visit all the places I remembered when I studied there. Feeling nostalgic of great times in Bilbao, I visited places like the Guggenheim Museum, Old Town, Zubizuri bridge and the University of Deusto where I studied. I enjoyed taking a good trip down memory lane.
?That evening, I met up with a few acquaintances who I had not seen since I left the city almost two years ago. Together, we enjoyed the various festivities of Aste Nagusia including multiple live music venues. The evening culminated close to midnight with a massive ten-minute fireworks display from a hill next to the Old Town.
?The next day was more of the same. Yet this time, I had more energy (I had to leave my apartment in Berlin at 4 a.m. on the day before to make my flight and had no rest until the night). That night was also the last night of Aste Nagusia, as the festivities would end the next day. I returned to the Old Town with the same friends before thousands of people filled the streets for the final fireworks show of the week. The amazing show lasted over fifteen minutes and ended the whole festival. It was an awesome sight to see.
?On Monday, I woke up early to visit a site in Basque Country called San Juan De Gaztelugatxe, a church built on an island just off the coast. It is quite an impressive piece of history as well as a beautiful monument. “Game of Thrones” filmed some scenes there. I took a bus from Bilbao for 2.50 euros to the small neighboring town of Bakio. From there it was a rough 4-5 mile hike up and down a mountain to get to there. It was tiring, but absolutely worth it as it gave me perspective about how the church was built over one thousand years ago and is still standing, including the stairs and bridge connecting it to the mainland.
?When I had gotten my fill of the sights and beauty, I hiked back to Bakio and caught the bus back to Bilbao. It was unfortunately the last highlight of my trip as I checked out the next morning and caught my flight back to Berlin early afternoon. I do miss Bilbao, but I am happy I got to visit there again before I leave Europe. For my next blog post, I want to share with you why you should visit Bilbao as well as some perspective of what the city means for me.
8/30/2017 - Return to Bilbao Part 1
Two years ago I had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain in the city of Bilbao. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. When I had this current opportunity in Berlin, I knew I wanted to return to Bilbao for the first time since 2015. Out of all the trips I wanted to take throughout Europe, I would go back to Bilbao no matter what.
Because there is so much I love about Bilbao and there is a lot I want to share with you about it, I plan to write a couple blog posts about it. Also, I want to give information about why people should visit Bilbao as well as the surrounding area. To start off, I think it is important to understand some crucial background information on the area and its culture.
Bilbao is in Basque Country. It developed quite differently than the rest of Spain. The language, culture and people are complete different from other parts of Spain. The Basque language, known as Euskera, is completely isolated, having no direct language cousins anywhere near it. For example, the phrase, “What are you doing?” translated to Basque (by Google translate) is “Zertan Zabiltza?” That is nothing like nearby European languages like Spanish, Portuguese, English, German, French, etc. Also, people from Basque Country are not Spaniards. They are Basques or Euskaldunak in the Basque language. The people want to make a distinction between their culture and the rest of Spain.
Spain fought a civil war in the 1930s in which Fascist dictator Francisco Franco was victorious and took control of Spain. He heavily suppressed Basque language and culture. One way it survived his rule is through quasi-secret clubs called txokos (pronounced cho-kos) in which Basque men came together to cook Basque food, speak Basque, sing Basque songs, etc.
When Franco died and Spain returned to democracy in the 1970s, things at first did not get better. A Basque terrorist group called Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (meaning Basque Liberty and Homeland) committed attacks such as bombings targeting Spanish government officials, where others were killed by collateral damage. Also, in the 1980s, Bilbao, which had been a heavily industrial city, experienced a severe economic and industrial crisis as industry collapsed in the city.
However, so much has improved since that time. Bilbao built the Guggenheim Museum which helped revive the city’s tourism efforts. Now, Bilbao is in great shape economically and culturally. The Euskadi Ta Askatasuna have ceased all violent action. It has never been a better time to visit Bilbao. In my next post, I will go over what I did this time in Bilbao and how it felt to return after nearly two years.
8/21/2017 - Two Months in Review
After two months at my internship in Germany, it feels like time is going by extremely fast. I learned much about the culture in Berlin, as well as what it means to work a normal 40-hour week like an adult. While being scary, my experience has made it well worth the move to another city on a whim even if you don’t know anybody there. It forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, but in the end, it is definitely worth it.
I also learned hardships inevitably come and learned to deal with them and grow from the experiences. For example, I was sick with a stomach flu most of last week. It sucked. I missed a few days of work, and it wasn’t a fun time. However, I dealt with it by going to a doctor, and now I’m feeling much better. No one can control when hardships come while living abroad, but learning how to handle them allowed me to grow as a person more than I thought possible.
One of the most important things I experienced was finding friends in the most unexpected places. There are people who I am friends with that I would have never thought I would be friends with, especially among my coworkers. I found there are people who I get along with well, and I never expected it. I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.
All things considered, it has been a good first two months. I especially look forward to this upcoming week. I will return to Bilbao, Spain, the city I studied abroad in two years ago. I am very excited to see my old friends as well as all the places I remember. I cannot wait and plan to write about it next week.
8/4/2017 – A Weekend in Prague
One of the allures of Europe is the large amounts of different cultures and nationalities in a very close proximity. That is why a lot of students visiting Europe from the United States like myself love visiting as many different cities as they can. Case in point, this past weekend I spent three days in Prague, checking another new city off my list of cities to visit. It was my first trip outside of Berlin since I arrived in Europe five weeks ago.
The weekend did not start great, unfortunately, as my flight was delayed out of Berlin. We were waiting over an hour about luggage still in the terminal and a lack of communication as our plane did not have one of the vehicles required to push back the plane from where it was parked. But, soon I was off and on my way to Prague.
I spent the next few days walking around the city, seeing its beautiful and legendary gothic architecture, from the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn to Charles Bridge. It’s easy (and fun) to get lost among its narrow streets and winding alleys in its Old Town. I swear I walked almost fifteen miles in total over the weekend. One of the best sights in the city is from the Prague Metronome, a giant functional metronome at top of a hill overlooking the city. The views are absolutely stunning as you gaze out over the entirety of the old town, laid out in front of you.
Alas, not everything is great in Prague. The city has mostly sold its soul to tourism. The beautiful streets and squares are packed with thousands of bumbling tourists, all cramming together to all take pictures, city tours and selfies. Instead of a quiet and rustic experience, you are greeted with large crowds of foreign peoples trying to move through the streets. One of the best (and cheapest) places to get authentic Czech food in the city is located conveniently next to a Hooters bar and grill, which really goes to show the almost painful extent of how tourism overtook the city.
But, it is not all bad. English has become very popular in the city, making it easy for Americans to travel to the city and visit. In a lot of stands across the city, they are selling a sweet food called trdelnik
(I still have no idea how to pronounce it). It is basically a hollowed out cylindrical donut covered in cinnamon sugar on the outside. The best way is to have it served with nutella on the inside surface, with ice cream filling the hollow in the middle. It is incredibly delicious and is very refreshing on a hot summer day.
All things considered, Prague is still a fantastic city with a great history. If you can deal with the large crowds of tourists, the city is truly a beautiful place with fantastic architecture. Even so, at the end of the weekend, I had to return to Berlin and return to my work life. But, I won’t forget the city of Prague.
7/27/2017 – Food, Glorious Food
Germany is quite often synonymous with its cuisine. Pretzels, beer, bratwurst, mustard and sauerkraut are just a few of the many types of food to be found in Germany.
Berlin offers more diversity as it attracts people from all around the world. Over the past three-and-a-half weeks in Berlin, I have tried many different foods from across the world in one city. From Turkish food to Vietnamese food, you don’t have to go far for foods from all over the world.
Popular in German culture, the doner kebab is beef or chicken meat in a bread pocket with chili and garlic sauce and also some lettuce, tomato and onion. It is delicious and filling. The doner kebab was rumored to be invented in Berlin by Turkish immigrants following World War II. No matter its true origin, it is tasty and good food, and at around 3.50 euros ($4.11), it is a cheap meal. The kebab is found all over Europe yet surprisingly not in the U.S. I think it would sell extremely well there, and everyone would love it.
Another special food in Berlin is their most well-known street food, currywurst. This food is made by taking a normal German sausage and cutting it up into smaller pieces, drenching it in curry ketchup, and then putting curry powder on top. It is so delicious, and easy to find everywhere.
Of course, you cannot talk about German food without talking about bratwurst. You will find stands selling them all across the city. With a price under the equivalent of $2, you can’t go wrong for a cheap and easy snack.
The last food I will mention are pretzels. There are small bakery stands set up everywhere, even in most metro stations, selling freshly baked bread, pretzels and coffee. I remember back in the U.S. some sporting events would sell pretzels. But those were the cheap, frozen pretzels some guy would throw into the microwave, dust it with salt and then hand it to you with fake nacho cheese. But these are real German pretzels, and when you get one fresh out of the oven, they are extremely good.
Wherever you go in Berlin, you will find delicious food for cheap. Whether for a small snack or a filling meal, you cannot go wrong exploring the city to see exactly what it has to offer.
7/17/2017 – Let’s Get to Work
This internship is my first real life experience in a regular “nine to five” office job. As a college student, I’m not really used to that much! I’m starting to get the hang of it. There is still a lot I do not know about the jobs I need to do, but I am only an intern, and my supervisor took me aside one day and told me that it’s ok if I don’t know everything. That is why I’m here, to learn and to grow.
When interns are depicted in movies or TV shows, you see them doing coffee runs for employees, doing pitiful monotonous work and being looked down upon by employees. A pleasant shock to me, I am not really treated as the “stereotypical intern.” The most I’ve had to do with that is on Mondays and Fridays, our company does team lunches, where the interns have to go get lunch for the rest of the company. However, the interns do not have to pay for the lunches. I am happy to do that work to save money rather than spending on my own lunch.
There is not just one thing I do every day, and the day does not usually have a set schedule of things that I do. So, there is not a typical day I could talk about. Today, for example, my supervisor was on vacation, but he had given me a list to do. I created a client list and checked with our sales software to see if they were in the system. Then, I went to go get team lunch. After lunch, I did research into search engine optimization to improve the language of our blog posts, then I researched types of clients we want to market to in order to get an idea of how to write articles to appeal to them. Lastly, I started a rough draft of a blog post about laboratory management.
I think I have to get used to the 40-hour weeks that working in an office job brings, but I have time. I am here for six months, so I will have to see how well I adapt to more of a working adult life.
7/6/2017 - The First Week
I have arrived safely in Berlin after 19 hours of flying, in which I did not sleep at all during the long flight over the Atlantic. I have currently been here for about four to five days as I write this, and I have been doing my best to get used to the city.
When I arrived in Berlin last Wednesday, I got hit with a momentous amount of jet lag. When you travel, each of us have to deal with jet lag in one way or another. The best way to conquer it is as soon as you arrive at your destination, get on the schedule immediately of the place where you are. This means eating meals when it is the appropriate time, and most importantly, do not take a nap as soon as you arrive. Do your best to stay up and continue on through the day until it is the actual time to go to bed. This will help in returning your sleep schedule to a normal balance.
Over the past few days, I have wandered around the city of Berlin, seeing the sights and getting the overall lay of the land. I started out visiting the more touristy areas of Berlin like the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz and the Fernsehturm, as well as the remains of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. Since I had this time before my internship started, I wanted to be a “stereotypical tourist,” and also spending some time getting used to the subway system.
Honestly, the first few days are mostly about settling into a city. If you are going to be living there for a while, such as a full semester if you’re choosing to study abroad, you have time to enjoy the sites. Too many people have a long travel checklist. They frantically race from place to place trying to see all that the city has to offer, and yet they don’t enjoy what they see. Take your time. You do not have to see everything the first day.
This week, I have enjoyed the little moments of life. I use an app called Couchsurfing. There’s a feature where you can meet up with fellow travelers from all around the world who are also using the app. I met up with a few guys from Iceland, France and Turkey, and we went to a restaurant and watched a big soccer game between Germany and Chile. In that moment, I realized we need to hold onto and cherish moments like these. Life is more fun when you can enjoy the smaller things.
6/26/2017 - An Introduction of Sorts
I’ve thought for a while as to how I want to write this blog. I had seen several friends do study abroad programs where they each wrote a blog about their great experiences they had while traveling the world. When I studied abroad in fall 2015 in Spain, I decided not to keep a blog. Then, I got an internship in Germany, and I was offered to write a blog for the College of Business sharing my experience with an international internship. What made me want to do this? I want people to know about my travel experiences, so they themselves are inspired in a way that makes them want to go abroad as well.
Over the next six months, I look forward to motivating you as the reader to travel and live abroad to enhance your life. I will talk about what I’ve done, but also talk about tips for those looking to travel, as well as how I got here.
Today is the day before my flight leaves out of Omaha, and even though I’m writing about how great traveling is, I can’t help feel nervous and scared. Yet, it is a good nervous feeling and a good scary feeling. It is like the feeling you get before going on a roller coaster or the feeling you get when you finally get enough courage to ask your crush out on a date. It is a feeling of excitement mixed with anxiousness, and the reward is scores above the risk.
For those who have not studied abroad yet, I encourage you to visit the Education Abroad office at Nebraska, do research online and ask friends that have done it before (Keep reading this blog, of course, because I will share my own tips). For those who have already studied abroad, I want to talk about now how I got an internship outside of the country because that can seem like a daunting task.
After I returned from my study abroad program in Spain, I knew I wanted to go back as soon as possible. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The easiest way would be to do another study abroad program for another semester, but that did not really seem right for me. The next logical option was to find an internship either back in Spain or another country in Europe. It would not only give me international experience, but internship experience as well, adding some more character to my résumé.
So, I went to the Business Career Center in fall 2016, and an advisor gave me some good websites to use to apply through. For the first month, it was tough going. I had yet to have gotten a positive response from any company.
Then, in late October, I got a response. A company called Labfolder out of Berlin, Germany, had liked my résumé and decided to give me an interview over Skype. The interview went well, so they followed it up with a second interview and a writing test. On the day after my birthday in mid-December, I got a call from the HR Manager saying they would like to formally offer me the position. I was ecstatic. I would be returning to Europe slightly less than two years after I had left.
For those who wish to have an internship somewhere abroad, I have some tips for you in your search. First, send out a lot of résumés to many different companies in many different places. You never know which ones might respond. Along those same lines, do not be afraid to send a résumé to a company where you may not fit all of the criteria necessary. Lastly, be willing to accept a position that doesn’t fit exactly what you were thinking. Be willing to try something new, and be ready for anything.