Category Archives: Student Essays

Stranger is Not Danger

Stranger is not danger

By Najd Alagl, ELP Student, Summer 2021

“Miss, Miss are you okay?” shrieked a stranger.

I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me. I was staring at his face, thinking “Are you talking in understandable language or did something messed up just happen?” In that moment, I wasn’t sure of anything. I mumbled, “I’m fine.”

In one of Toronto’s summer mornings, on the intersection between two streets whose names I can’t even mention without wobbling, I was going to my school. I got off the car as my husband saying, “See you later. Take care.” I dragged myself out of the car as if I was thirty-six weeks pregnant, which I was, then I smiled and waved.

I was on my swollen feet, trying to picture myself hopping on the clouds like a silly cartoon. It was a perfect day with a light drizzle, and a lot of puffy clouds. Finally, as the red light turned to green, I started marching my thoughts. I turned my music on and tried to rid my pale face and wear a full-of-life one. I could feel the fragrance of freshly grounded coffee, the fragrance that forces humaniity to line up for hours to enjoy it for minutes. People were bolting around as if life was depending on them. But what if life was really depending on us? I shook my head to stop my mind from drifting away.

I was wandering around, rolling my eyes, contemplating the purpose of life. Suddenly a woman tapped on my shoulder. She was saying something, but I couldn’t hear it, not only because of her crazy mad face which I was distracted by, but also because of my loud music. In a second, I raised my hand to pull out one of my headphones. I smiled, thinking she was one of many girls who were going to the same school or some tourist going to ask me for directions. Then I thought to myself, “Hmm, I must appear as if I belonged here or as if I was some expert tourist who knows everything.”

She was blondie, skinny, and furious. Her face was covered in sun burns, and her eyes were extremely insane. She was standing a foot away from me, and then out of the blue she punched my face as if it was a punching bag, or if I killed her precious dog. Then she kicked me the way you kick something to blow off some steam. People around me were shouting and cursing, but not me! I wasn’t sure what really happened. Then another stranger, or I may say an angle, rushed to checking on me with his concerned eyes. He asked, “Miss, Miss are you okay?”

I was gawking at him. Then I smiled and laughed in creepy way. I murmured, “I’m fine.”

He smiled at me, then walked away. I walked, then stopped, then walked again, then stopped, and leaned on some wall. I felt like I couldn’t hold myself. Then I burst into tears. Lucky me – it was only one wave of it. I tried to pull it together, whispering to myself “I’m okay, I’m okay, everything is fine.”

I was on my way again. I could hear my heartbeats. I felt vulnerable. I kept scanning people. Surprisingly, the angle was back. He asked “Are you sure you’re okay? I’m sorry that happened to you”.

He insisted on escorting me while he kept rambling about what happened. I was looking at him very closely while we were traveling together, trying to remind myself how much I love chitchatting with strangers. I paid no attention to what he said. Then, with my frozen face, finally, I spoke up, “This is where I was heading.”

He smiled and apologized over and over as if what she did his fault. I smiled back. Then he faded away. I remember their faces as if they were pictures printed in my memories. It’s funny that one random incident with two completely deferent strangers: One was an angel, and the other was, I don’t know If I can say a devil, but I think anyone in my shoes would say so. People say when they had a terrifying accident, they felt as they were moving in slow motions. I felt the opposite. I blinked, and she appeared, I blinked again, and she was gone. Maybe she was a ghost, but I didn’t believe in ghosts. Maybe I do now.

A Letter of Hope

By Abdulaziz Alkashi. English Language Program Student

April 2020

Abdulaziz wrote this letter of hope for the ELP Writing Contest and received an honorable mention. 

The recent Coronavirus outbreak certainly changed our lives and the way we live. Schools have closed, flights have stopped, workers have stopped going to work, and basically life stopped. The number of cases around the globe is increasing. Thus, people have to stay home all day in order to protect themselves, and they only go out to buy necessary survival items such as food and water. In countries like Saudi Arabia, people cannot even go out to buy grocery, as the government demands them to remain indoors 24 hours. Surely, it all sounds like an apocalypse, and that the end is near. However, this virus is actually a small obstacle, and humans will get through this difficult time as they always did with other deadly viruses. In fact, Coronavirus is making humans evolve in some ways.

There are many reasons we be cautiously hopeful about this situation. Firstly, this is not the first time that the earth faced such a pandemic. As a matter of fact, humans have managed to deal with numerous other deadly viruses, examples of which are the plague, the Spanish flu, and the swine flu. Coronavirus is nothing compared to some viruses like the plague, which had a fatality rate of 30% to 90%, or the Spanish flu that had a death rate of 23% to 71% (Wikipedia contributors, 2020). However, humans still managed to deal with those deadly diseases by developing treatments. Also, humans got through diseases like the plague centuries ago, when they did not have an advanced medical system that we have now. Therefore, utilizing the high-tech equipment and advanced medical system, scientists will be able to develop a vaccine soon. All we have to do is stay hopeful and optimistic.

Moreover, Coronavirus made the world stick together to fight it. All countries put their issues aside and are now united by working together in this war against the virus. It brought the world together as countries are helping other countries. For example, China provided Italy with necessary medical equipment such as masks in order to help Italy fight the virus (Aljazeera, 2020). Furthermore, communities all over the world are showing acts of kindness. People are not only caring for others, but they also volunteer to help. To illustrate, “people are coming together to sing on balconies in Italy. Others are setting up groups to offer support to the elderly or vulnerable” (Mental Health Foundation, 2020). Therefore, Coronavirus is helping mankind evolve by making everyone unify, despite their differences.

In the end, I have a message to Coronavirus.

Dear Corona,

you will not win against us. You are just a simple virus. Be prepared to lose because humans are united and strong. We will make sure that you do not success in your mission. Thank you for making humans connect and care for each other.

Thanks,

Abdulaziz

Picturesque School With Endless Green Grass

By Linh Nguyen

ELP Student & International Student Ambassador

Summer 2019

Neighborhood Tour with Friends

“I never thought that when I was 20 I could set foot in America – the dream country of so many people. But on a beautiful day, Chatham gave me that opportunity when they sent a congratulatory letter to inform me that that I received an International Student Ambassador Scholarship offered by Chatham English Language Program.

Enjoying the View of Pittsburgh

Time in America was truly a wonderful experience. The programs here are very creative and interesting: we presented, played games and explored the world outside the classroom. In addition, every Friday we have interesting field trips, which allowed us to explore nature and visit famous places in Pittsburgh. The teachers accompanied and guided us enthusiastically. The teachers here are the best and the most dedicated. They patiently taught us from the smallest things with all their hearts.

Friends here are really diverse and interesting. I had the opportunity to talk and make friends from many countries around the world. We ate together, played together and talked happily. Another thing that impressed me was the nature here. Chatham is a quaint and picturesque school with endless green grass. The air is fresh and clean. The people are very friendly. Chatham is a great option when you study abroad. I had a precious and unforgettable time here. If you intend to study abroad, I highly recommend Chatham.

Amazing Experience: Best Summer Ever!

Amazing Experience: Best Summer Ever!

By TuongVy Le, International Student Ambassador, ELP Scholarship Recipient

Field Trip to Three Rivers Art Festival – Vy is the last one on the right

I never once thought I would be able to study abroad or study in the US, but Chatham University offered me an International Student Ambassador Scholarship from from the English Language Program. It was the best experience ever for me. Before attending the program, I was a very shy speaker, but everything changed thanks to the program at Chatham, and my English-speaking skill has improved ever since.

Joining an Education Class with American Students – Vy is the one in blue

Studying in my hometown does not include going on field trips, so the program was such an eye-opening experience for me. History was never my favorite subject, but the U.S Culture class was so interesting, and that’s what I love the most about this program. It was the best summer I’ve ever had; I’ve grown a lot from this experience. I am so grateful for the friends I’ve made during the time at Chatham.

Receiving a Certificate from the Program Director

Even though it was the first time studying in a different country, I never felt lonely or helpless at Chatham. Everyone there is super friendly, you can always get the help you need anytime. I only studied in Chatham for approximately three months, but Chatham felt like my second home. Chatham University offers the best environment for you to study and grow as a person, you will never regret going to Chatham!

BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS, ENTHUSIASTIC TEACHERS, AND AMAZING FRIENDS AT CHATHAM

BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS, ENTHUSIASTIC TEACHERS, AND AMAZING FRIENDS AT CHATHAM UNIVERSITY

Ngoc Pham, International Student Ambassador, 2019 ELP Scholarship Recipient

In the past, I never thought that I could go to the US for an overseas education, but Chatham University gave me a great chance through the English Language Program International Student Ambassador Scholarship. During the 10 weeks at Chatham University, I learned a lot of things. Through the English Language Program at Chatham, you are cannot only improve your English language skill, but also explore US culture and form new relationships with other international students. I have changed a lot, from a person who is always shy to speak English to a confident communicator, from a family-dependent to independent person, and from a passive to now a more lively person. All of these changes occurred during my three months in the U.S. To me, Chatham is not only the university to study, but also the place to discover myself and the environment to grow.

At Chatham University, you will be able to receive full support from enthusiastic teachers, experience well-designed learning programs, and  interact with amazing friends, and study in a place where you always feel comfortable like a second family.

Chatham University is one of the best choices for your education, you will never feel regret when making that choice!

Tôi chưa bao giờ nghĩ mình sẽ có cơ hội được học tập tại Mỹ dù là trong một chương trình ngắn hạn. Đại học Chatham đã cho tôi một cơ hội đáng quý và thật may mắn hơn cả là tôi đã nhận được học bổng Đại sứ Sinh viên Quốc tế từ chương trình Ngôn ngữ tiếng Anh tại đây. Trong suốt gần 3 tháng ở Mỹ nói chung và đại học Chatham nói riêng, tôi đã có cho mình rất nhiều những trải nghiệm đáng giá và đã học được rất nhiều điều. Thông qua chương trình Ngôn ngữ Anh tại đại học Chatham, tôi không chỉ cải thiện được các kỹ năng tiếng Anh của mình mà còn được tìm hiểu thêm về văn hoá Mỹ, gặp gỡ các bạn sinh viên quốc tế đến từ nhiều quốc gia khác nhau để có cái nhìn toàn diện hơn về thế giới bên ngoài. Đại học Chatham đã giúp cho tôi có điều kiện để tự khám phá bản thân, thay đổi chính mình. Những giảng viên tâm huyết, những người bạn quốc tế tài năng, những bài giảng thực tế, môi trường học chủ động, khuôn viên trường cổ kính và còn vô vàn những điều thú vị khác bạn sẽ có thể khám phá tại Chatham.

Đại học Chatham là một sự lựa chọn mà tôi không hề cảm thấy hối hận và tôi tin bạn cũng sẽ cảm thấy như vậy!

Sommer in Deutschland

By Natalie Gmiter (Human Biology 2020)

The German classes that I took with Dr. Martina Wells from the Modern Languages Program at Chatham University have been my favorite classes. This summer I was lucky enough to spend two and a half months studying abroad in Germany. I stayed in a small town, Lohr am Main, situated about 50 minutes east of Frankfurt. The people I stayed with have been my family’s friends for all my life, but I hadn’t seen them in quite a few years. They have two sons, Max and Felix, who became my ‘adopted’ brothers for the summer. Max is my age, so he was kind enough to introduce me to all of his university friends! Over the eleven weeks, I made so many great friends who provided me with memories that I’ll never forget.

Aschaffenburg Volksfest with Family

The class that I took was German History from 1900 to 1970 and was held at the University of Wuerzburg. We met once a week on Tuesdays, but the class also offered optional extracurricular events like wine tastings and historical tours of the city. I really enjoyed the class despite it not being a part of my major, but I found that most of my learning occurred outside the classroom. My main reason for visiting Germany was to practice and improve my German speaking skills. I was able to do this on an everyday basis, whether it be ordering food or asking a passerby for directions. And while I did do my fair share of touring around (I was able to visit France, Luxembourg, and Belgium), I found that my favorite things to do revolved around whatever the locals did on a daily basis! In finding out that they, too, enjoy spending a day outdoors and then grilling hamburgers amongst friends, I realized that despite distance and language, we are all the same at our core.

My experiences!
• Went to a Champion’s League soccer game
• Visited the Cologne Cathedral and even heard someone playing            the organ inside it

Cologne Cathedral

• Toured the Residenz in Wuerzburg, which contains the largest              ceiling fresco painting in the world

The Residenz Wuerzburg

• Toured Luxembourg city and a castle in the country regions of                Luxembourg
• Visited the World War I Memorial at the Battle of Verdun
• Enjoyed walks in the woods where I would stumble upon either a        herd of goats or beautiful secluded church
• Became a surprise guest in a primary school’s English classroom
• Toured the European Parliament Building in Brussels, Belgium
• Watched the first two stages of the Tour de France in Belgium

Tour de France Stage in Brussels

• Ate the most wonderful Belgian waffle off of a street vendor,                  mmmm
• Tried seven different white wines native to Wuerzburg.                              Wuerzburg has Germany’s second, third, and fourth largest                    vineyards and specializes in white wines. The wine cellar                            underneath the Residenz holds up to 700,000 liters of wine!
• Watched people surf on the river Isar in Munich
• Stayed at a youth hostel and made some friends from the UK and        Australia
• Visited the World War II Labor Camp Dachau

“Work sets you free” KZ Dachau

This study abroad experience pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to grow as a person. I would highly recommend anyone to study abroad if they get the chance!

Reflection: Chatham Field Experience, Brussels, Belgium

By Melanie Landsittel, OIA Student Worker

Brussels

Hi again! I’m taking pictures of the Grand Place here, in Brussels. It’s a huge center where you’ll see amazing, gilded architecture, people playing music, sitting in groups, conversing, and also being touristy and taking pictures. I’ll show you what I mean in some pictures below:

As you can see Brussels is an extremely historic and beautiful city. It’s also extremely touristy, which can sometimes make trying to enjoy yourself like a local be tricky. But don’t worry, with a little bit of research and determination, all things are possible!

Ah, empty space—these grounds belong to the royal garden of Belgium, part of the royal family’s country home. They’re only open 3 weeks out of the year, and we were just lucky enough to make it in time. This was probably my favorite thing we did in Brussels, we left the immediate area of the city to get here which was really nice since it’s quite a crowded place.

In Brussels, we also visited several government offices, like the Flemish Parliament and the EU Parlimentarium. These two bodies were quite different, and gave us a little taste of some of the social issues facing Belgium, and the EU in general. Our tour guide of the Flemish Parliament building told us that, in Brussels, only about 10% of the people living in the city were born in the region. He elaborated briefly on the challenge immigration poses to the city, and to Flanders, in the opinion of the Flemish branch of the government. He also discussed the wealth divide between the French and Dutch speaking populations—Flanders is far wealthier than their southern counterpart of Wallonia, and has very different political interests than it as well. He even mentioned that the Flemish government has a bigger budget than the federal government of Belgium!

By contrast, the EU parlimentarium provided us with a walking tour through documents and pictures illustrating the history of the Formation of the EU, and the progress it has made as a governing body since its founding in the late 20th century through a series of treaties. They emphasized the need for Europe to work together to prevent conflict and empower all of its regions.

We were privileged to take several day trips during this program, one of them was to the beautiful place pictured above—Luxembourg City. Honestly, there’s no way for me to describe in words how beautiful Luxembourg is—it’s probably my favorite place I’ve ever visited on earth—just heavenly.

There are huge shifts in ground level, peaks and valleys all across the city, it reminds we of what I think towns in the Swiss alps would be like, yet Luxembourg is not like France, Germany, or Belgium really—it’s just entirely its own place, I felt like.

A group of us visited the city of Ghent, which was a beautiful small town, it felt much more like a Dutch city than Brussels, to me anyways.


There’s an enormous castle in the center of Ghent, pictured above, which we immediately got in line to tour. There was an unexpectedly high number of creepy torture chambers, but we didn’t let that ruin it for us—we took the narrow winding stairwell up to the top and got an amazing view of the city, you can see in the picture below:

There happened to be an amazing outdoor food market while we were there, offering a huge variety of food, from the classic Belgian frites to kangaroo meat, to amazing vegan options like the sandwich that I had. We also had the frites—which were the best I had the whole program by the way. After collecting all of our food, we found an open spot on the canal, sat down, and let our feet dangle in as we ate—it was an absolutely perfect day.
Just to top it off, as we were about to head back to find the group, we passed underneath the beer market tent and from the DJ stand was blasting “Take me Home, Country Roads.” An alarming number of people were singing along—it was fascinating, and humorous, to say the least.

A third day trip we went on was to Brugge. The city was, at least to me, quite similar to Ghent but much more touristy. When we were in Ghent, I had wished that we took one of these little canal boat tours, so we tried to do that in Brugge, but the line was incredibly long, so we didn’t bother. Renting bikes is one thing that I would highly recommend in a place like this to get a good view of the city.

The last day trip that we went on was to Antwerp. It was cold and rainy, which seemed fitting for this beautiful port town. The train station is said to be one of the most beautiful in Europe—I absolutely agree with that assertion and included a picture below:

Right along the harbor in Antwerp is this museum called MAS, it’s pictured above. It’s extremely unique, the exhibitions are curated along narrative lines, rather than chronological or regional, so the way we’re learning about and absorbing the meaning of the art is really different—I found it very impressive.


One exhibition dealt with the topic of urban agriculture and how to feed humanity, they gave solutions like growing algae on our bodies, eating rotten food with receptors that trick our senses and change the enzymes in our stomach, and growing meat in the lab (and all of these things are being done by the way!).

We also wandered into an art exhibition of Jan Vanriet. We think he was there, wandering the grounds and talking to people about his work—it could have been his personal home for all we knew. It was quite the day for art, as we also visited a large church with huge paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. From this day trip I think I learned that it’s important to have structured activities, as well to wander and let your curiosity guide you, it’s a balance.

At the end of the day, we visited this really odd, old escalator, it was wooden and ran slowly—I recommend visiting it, it’s called St. Anne’s Tunnel. The escalator leads you down to cross a 572-meter tunnel under the canal where you can get a great view of the city as pictured below:

Even though I feel like I spent more time outside of Brussels than within it, I do appreciate the city for its central location, it’s beautiful structure, and its vibrancy.

Melanie Landsittel is a senior at Chatham, majoring in Visual Arts: with a double concentration in Studio Art and Art History. Melanie works in the Office of International Affairs.

Interested in study abroad? Contact internationalaffairs@chatham.edu to find out about options available!

Packing for study abroad! The do’s and don’ts

by Melanie Landsittel, OIA Student worker

The basic adages

They say to pack what you want to and then take out half–you won’t have to do that if you really think about what you’re actually going to be using. I usually think about bringing the types of things that I know I’ll use on a day-to-day basis, not anything I might only need once. I would also advise only packing what you can carry–there will be times you might have to haul your baggage up stair cases, like my first study abroad apartment which was on the third floor, and I was glad I only brought a carry-on suitcase and a backpack. Don’t let stuff weigh you down and keep you from being mobile.

If there’s any specialty items you need to bring like hiking shoes for a trip you are sure you will go on, pack those first. Another golden rule of packing for travel abroad is don’t pack something you can’t replace. Your study abroad dorm is no place for family heirlooms or irreplaceable jewelry.

Liquids!

Seal all liquids well! If you bring a big container of some soap or something it will most likely pop on the plane. This happened to my roommate the first time I studied abroad and it ruined a lot of her clothes. Shampoo and soap can be purchased at your destination. Don’t need to waste suitcase space on anything you can buy there. You may want to bring a small travel size bottle of any essential items to get you started, but don’t bring a huge tube of shampoo–that’s a real waste of space.

Also don’t forget, if you bring any liquids in your carry on they must follow TSA regulations–everything must be under 3.4 ounces, and that it all has to be in a zip-lock or some type of sealed bag. You can bring a water bottle to reuse also, just make sure that it’s empty before you go through security.

The biggest space waster: Clothes

For clothing, consider the climate that you’re going to, I usually look up the weather patterns, precipitation, wind, etc…

preparing my clothes…

You’ll probably have access to a washing machine, if you keep in mind that you’ll be doing laundry maybe once a week, you can see there’s no need to bring a lot of clothes. It’s important to bring at least one formal outfit, as well as consider the culture that you’ll be going into. A lot of countries dress more conservatively and more formally than the United States.

This is something to do a little research on before departing for your host country–you don’t want to get there and then stick out like a sore thumb! What we consider ‘business casual’ is kind of the normal dress when leaving your house in most places, and, in my opinion, it’s better to be a little over-dressed than under-dressed. Short skirts or short-shorts are also things you’re just better off avoiding when traveling abroad–besides knee length and mid-calf skirts and pants are really in style nowadays anyways!

Especially when visiting cultural heritage or religious sites, it’s safe to make sure your knees and shoulders are completely covered. I remember visiting old churches in Rome with my study abroad group, and a few girls were kicked out because their clothes were too revealing. Now–keep in mind, I’m not trying to say you should change who you are or not express yourself, or something like that, I’m simply suggesting that it’s important to respect the culture of your host country, you’re a visitor and are there to learn, and I would say for safety purposes alone, just blending in isn’t a bad thing. Individualism is not a universal cultural value–I think these types of things are important to reflect on before going abroad and before finalizing your packing.

My carry-on suitcase and backpack for a three-month long study abroad journey!

Melanie Landsittel is a senior at Chatham, majoring in Visual Arts: with a double concentration in Studio Art and Art History. Melanie works in the Office of International Affairs.

Interested in study abroad? Contact internationalaffairs@chatham.edu to find out about options available!

Ohiopyle State Park

by Kylie Fletcher, OIA Student worker

On this past Sunday, I went with my family to Ohiopyle. Ohiopyle is a small riverside town that many people in (especially) Southern Pennsylvania visit during late Spring to late Fall. There’s a very long trail nearby, small shops that sell different frozen desserts and handmade products, a visitor center that doubles as a gift shop and museum, and rental places for whitewater rafting and biking. Often, people spend the day there and bring a picnic lunch to share with friends or family by the river. My family lives close by, about a 30-minute drive away, so we go rather often during the summer. Usually, my grandfather won’t let us go swimming in the water, no one is really sure why, but this year my siblings, cousin, and I waded in the river that runs through Ohiopyle.

Ohiopyle Falls 2018

My smallest cousins waded in the water near the riverbank, since they weren’t allowed to go farther. I watched my siblings and my other, older cousin, so we went out much farther into the water. It was freezing but refreshing in the recent heat. There are also a lot of dogs that swim and play catch in the water. Dogs who come to Ohiopyle are usually really friendly, several immediately made me pet them when I let the dogs sniff my hands. My family saw a husky who was afraid of the water and refused to go deeper than its ankles in the water and my siblings, cousin, and I saw another family with three puppies who looked like they were in the water for the first time. One of them was really excited to be in the water so the puppy was hopping in the shallow end of the river where we were. Going to Ohiopyle reminds me of the theory a lot of people have that most people’s dogs look like their owners. Most of the people I saw had dogs that looked and/ or acted really similar to their families, i.e. smaller, energetic dogs tended to be with active petite people, and greyhounds were with people that looked, like a greyhound, very very thin. I always think it’s funny to compare how a dog looks compared to their family.

When I was small, I used to get ice cream with my family after walking on the trails, but I found that I’m allergic to milk. This past trip to Ohiopyle, I saw that there was a frozen yogurt shop, which also had sorbet. Sorbet is basically a frozen fruit puree, which I always find more refreshing than ice cream when it’s hot anyway. There’s about six or seven different stores that sell ice cream, which is a lot considering they’re all in such a little town. There’s a few different stores that sell handmade jams and candy. I usually like looking around at the falls and river more than at the shops.

The waterfall area of Ohiopyle is a short walk away from the riverbank most people swim in. Obviously, visitors are not allowed to swim in the falls area of the river, though there is whitewater rafting renting services. I don’t think I’ve ever seen whitewater rafters at the falls, which I find different since I used to live near a waterfall where there would be a lot of people riding the falls in small boats. I think at Ohiopyle, though, the lack of people actually in the water makes it more beautiful since you can see the natural beauty of the water.

Kylie Fletcher is a senior at Chatham, majoring in Media Arts: Graphic Design and Cultural Studies. Kylie works in the Office of International Affairs.

 

 

Reflection: Chatham Field Experience – Berlin, Germany

By Melanie Landsittel, OIA Student worker

During the first two weeks of May, 2018, I was able to attend Chatham’s short term field experience program in Berlin and Brussels and in the following post I will describe my experience in Berlin.

To me, Berlin is an extremely livable city. Its wide open spaces, rivers, and abundance of public green space are unlike any other place. Getting around is easy with the subway and tram system as well. Another great thing about it is the food—there is a huge variety of what you can eat in Berlin, and most of it is great, like New-York level food.

The above picture is me, being touristy and taking a picture by the Brandenburg gate. The area we stayed in, in general, was a bit touristy, but it really wasn’t too crowded which I was impressed by.

Here you can see what I mean by open spaces. This picture also shows how clean of a city Berlin is, it’s extremely impressive. For those of you who haven’t visited Europe, you may be surprised to know that most public bathrooms here, and in other cities around the continent, charge 50 cents to 1 euro on average to use the public restroom.  This may seem a little bizarre, but… honestly it’s kind of worth it because they are so clean!

On this field experience, we had several opportunities to visit sites related to German history. One of these is pictured above—The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. It was really a sobering experience, the tour guide described the structure to us as a “geometry of terror.” I didn’t quite get what he meant until I glanced out this window—the whole structure is enclosed in a giant triangular wall, the rows of camps forming semicircles facing the gate. It was quite jarring to look at, and to contemplate what had taken place here. It’s kind of beyond words for me.

We also visited the Stasi Archives. These were where the East German secret police kept their files on citizens. An estimated 51% of the East German population was associated with the Stasi in some way, as official or unofficial spies, according to our tour guide. She recounted to us a story about a woman whose husband had been spying on her for years and she had no idea. Nowadays, citizens of the former East Germany can request that their file be released, but the average processing time is about 2 years. When I think about it, I’m not sure if I would want my file or not—imaging finding out that one of your parents or sibling had been giving the Stasi your private information!

On a lighter note, we also took a short bus ride to the city of Potsdam to visit the castles of old Prussian kings, as well as the offices of the Potsdam conference. The castle pictured above, Sans Souci (Without Worry) was the home of Fredrick the Great King of Prussia… and his 11 greyhounds. He loved these dogs so much, he had them buried next to him on the grounds of the castle.  Potsdam is quite the gem of a city—I highly recommend taking the time to visit!

In our free time, we were able to roam around the city, using our transit pass for the subway and the tram. Berlin is very large with so much to do, so we didn’t have any trouble keeping ourselves busy. One treasure that we stumbled upon was the Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm Zentrum, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin Library. Pictured above is a view of the library’s astounding architecture—this style is characteristic of the Bauhaus movement in Germany, which is also very popular in the United States! Many famous Bauhaus artists moved to the USA to escape WWII.

On our last night in Berlin, a group of us managed to buy tickets to the Berlin Philharmonic. This was an amazing experience, especially as a fan of classical music, it’s probably the most famous orchestra hall in the world. We saw a group from Berlin University of the Arts’ rendition of Mahler 9—it was absolutely incredible.

As far as Berlin goes, there’s plenty to do to experience the culture, enjoy yourself, and learn about German history.

Tschüss! (It means bye, people didn’t really say Auf Wiedersehen)

Melanie Landsittel is a senior at Chatham, majoring in Visual Arts: with a double concentration in Studio Art and Art History. Melanie works in the Office of International Affairs.

Interested in study abroad? Contact internationalaffairs@chatham.edu to find out about options available!