Tag Archives: Germany

My Goals–Revisited

19 Jan

When I got to Brussels, I made a list of my 5 goals for studying abroad. Coming into the New Year, I decided to revisit those 5 goals and reevaluate them for the new semester. Here they are!

Goal 1: Try New Foods!

I think this might have been one of my more exciting goals of the semester. I’ve had frites, waffles, and beer in Belgium, frites speciaal in the Netherlands, bratwurst in Germany, fish and chips in London, and Guinness in Dublin. Also, I no longer despise fish! This semester: I want to try and cook some of these dishes. I have a great kitchen at my host family’s house, so I intend to use it!

Goal 2: Travel in Country!

So, I kind of failed at this one. I did a lot of traveling, but not much through Belgium. I spent a day with Hannah in Namur and a week playing tourist in Brussels with Alex, but nowhere else. This semester: Just do it! 🙂 I just need to get out and take those day trips. I still want to go to Bruges, Ieper, Bastogne, Antwerp, and more.

Goal 3: Make friends!

This was the most successful of my goals. I made a TON of friends! The hard part is that they are all back in the US now. This semester: I guess I’ll just have to make new friends. Oh darn. 😉

Goal 4: Learn the Language!

I don’t think I did as much as I could with this. I had a French host family, but I didn’t really speak to them much in French. I didn’t end up getting into the French class that I needed for Agnes, so I guess I’ll have to do this on my own. This semester: I think what I’m going to start doing is getting a French newspaper to read on the 45 minute tram ride to or from school everyday. That should give me plenty of time to brush up a little.

Goal 5: Study, study, study!

Okay, so I probably didn’t do as much as I should have. I didn’t have the best of grades, but I didn’t have the worst either. I did get to have a ton of out-of-class learning though. One way was through the European Peace and Security Studies program where I got lectures from Karen Smith of the London School of Economics, Johan Galtung, the founder of peace studies, Dr. Christian Koch of the Gulf Research Center, and many more. I also found some great museums both in Brussels and in other cities around Europe. This semester: Spend more time studying for my actual classes.

In front of NATO HQ

In front of NATO HQ


Where In The World Is Agnes Irvine Scott?: Episode 4

12 Jan
Brussels, Cologne, Langenfeld, Bielefeld, Aachen

Brussels, Cologne, Langenfeld, Bielefeld, Aachen

After our quick trip to Bielefeld, Flat Agnes, Eva, her father, and I took to the autobahn and drove down to their family’s house is Aachen, Germany. Here in Aachen we got to see the end of their Christmas market, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Centre at the Aachen Cathedral, and try some of their traditional Aachener Printen (similar to American gingerbread). Another successful trip with some great memories!

Flat Agnes and I at the Aachen Cathedral

Flat Agnes and I at the Aachen Cathedral


Where In The World Is Agnes Irvine Scott?: Episode 3

12 Jan
Flat Agnes's Journey from Brussels to Bielefeld, with a few stops on the way

Flat Agnes’s Journey from Brussels to Bielefeld, with a few stops on the way

One of the things that I love about Agnes Scott College is their focus on introducing their students to different cultures and customs. One of the ways they do that is by encouraging students to study abroad (as I am now). However, one of the best ways they do that is by welcoming a large number of international students to attend school in the U.S. I had the great fortune of becoming great friends with one of those students, Eva Vogt, and Flat Agnes and I came to visit her in Bielefeld, Germany. We had an amazing time with her and her family and got to see Bielefeld’s famous castle, as well as go to more Christmas markets and try currywurst.

Flat Agnes and her currywurst at the Bielefeld Christmas Market

Flat Agnes and her currywurst at the Bielefeld Christmas Market

Where In The World Is Agnes Irvine Scott?: Episode 2

27 Dec
Agnes's Trip from Brussels to Cologne to Langenfeld

Agnes’s Trip from Brussels to Cologne to Langenfeld

And we’re off! Flat Agnes has officially crossed the border into her second country on this grand adventure that is Christmas Break! Second stop: Cologne, Germany! She got the chance to visit the shops, take a bus tour around the city, and enjoy some of their fine eating and drinking establishments. After that, we split up and Agnes came with me to Langenfeld, Germany to spend Christmas with the Grothe family! Here are some pictures of her travels…

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

26 Dec

Fröhliche Weihnachten (Merry Christmas in German) to all of the people who read my blog, so mostly friends and family. I first want to say how much I love and appreciate each and every one of you, and I cannot wait to see you when I get back to wherever you are living!

That being said, I was fortunate to experience a new kind of Christmas this year in my explorations of Germany. I was adopted by my German family (The Grothe Family) for the season and could not have been more thrilled! They really took me under their wings and helped me get the most out of the season. This post is dedicated to them and will show how I really got the chance to experience a traditional German Christmas.

Advent Calendar– Der Adventskalender

My Milka Advent Calendar

My Milka Advent Calendar

The advent wreath and calendar were actually invented by a German pastor, Johann Hinirch Wichern, in 1833 when he was working in an orphanage in Hamburg and the children kept asking when Christmas was going to arrive. He made the wreath as a way for the children to count down the days. I totally didn’t know that! I had always helped my Grandma Pipher light her advent wreaths, but I didn’t know where it came from. Now I do! Lucky for me, this was the first introduction I got to German Christmas traditions. When I visited my German family earlier this year, they sent me home with a Milka Chocolate advent calendar. Starting December 1 I got a piece of Milka chocolate every day for 25 days! It was a delicious countdown! 🙂

My chocolate piece from 1 December 2013

My chocolate piece from 1 December 2013

German Christmas Markets (Weihnachstmärkte)

I have a new love in life, and its name is “Christmas Market”. I had SO much fun going through the Koln (Cologne) Christmas markets with my friend Alex for a few days before I ended in Langenfeld. Though the city of Desden has the oldest Christmas market in Germany (dating back from 1434), Koln is one of the most popular ones. It had 9 markets spread out across the city, and there was a little train that you could pay to take that would go between all 9 of them (we decided to walk instead). They have everything ranging from food, drink, decorations, souvenirs, and presents. It was perfect!

German Mulled Wine (Glühwein)

1387881714226When coming to Christmastime, every person who has ever been to Germany says that you have to try Gluhwein. No matter what Christmas market you go to, you will see lots of these stands all around. For me, I finally got to try it our last day in Koln at the restaurant LyLy (which we went to twice because it was so good and the people were great!). Though Alex didn’t like it (she doesn’t drink alcohol, but I made her try it anyway), I thought it was delicious!

 The Christmas Tree (Der Tannenbaum) 

The first Christmas tree on record was in Freiburg, Germany in 1419. It was set up by the town bakers who put fruits, nuts, and baked goods on it as decoration that the children of the town could remove on New Years Day. Traditionally the tree is put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, but some German families put theirs up during Advent. Christmas trees have always been a favorite of mine, and up until I left for college we would always get a real, 8′ tree to put in our house. This year, I got to have a real tree again! Though the Grothe family does not put real candles on their tree like some German families do (Thank goodness in my opinion! Can you say fire hazard?!), it was still beautifully decorated!

Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend or Heiligabend)


Presents from Christkind

In most European countries, including Germany, they celebrate St. Nicholas Day on 6 December. This day is based on the Catholic St. Nicholas who lived in the 4th century in present-day Turkey. He is known as the protector of children. Traditionally, this was the day that children received their gifts. However, the Middle Ages brought the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church, led by Martin Luther (a German). It was through the Reformation that the glorification of saints was replaced with the focus on Jesus himself. Therefore, Luther changed the traditional date of receiving present from St. Nicholas Day to closer to Christmas Day itself. He also replaced the image of gifts coming from St. Nicholas to gifts coming from Christkind (also seen spelled Christkindl), which translates to “Christ child”. Some say that Christkind is an interpretation of Jesus as an infant, but Melissa informed me that their version of Christkind is an angel. Rather than coming during the night like the American Santa Claus, Christkind comes while the children are away and sneaks the presents under the tree. After our Christmas Eve dinner, us children (Melissa, Norman, Migel, and I) were sent to our rooms and were not allowed to leave until we heard the bell announcing that Christkind had left. We returned to the living room to find the tree with presents under it!

Christmas Days (der erste und zweite Weihnachtstag)

Table set for Christmas dinner

Table set for Christmas dinner

In Germany there are two legal days of Christmas, December 25 and 26. They are known as the First and Second Days of Christmas. This is the time for the extended family to get together and visit. This is exactly what we did. On the 25th Melissa, her boyfriend Jonas, and I went to Jonas’s family’s house where we had dinner with his extended family on his mother’s side. There we had some traditional German Christmas food, including red cabbage and potato dumplings. Then we came back to Melissa’s house where we had dinner with Melissa’s father’s extended family. After dinner we went to Jonas’s fathers house for drinks with his father, step-mother, and sister. On the 26th we had Melissa’s mother’s parents over for cake and coffee.

All in all, I had a fantastic Christmas time with the Grothe family! I learned a lot about their language and customs and laughed the whole time! This is a Christmas I will never forget!


Grothe Family + Adopted Children (from the back, left: Klaus, Migel, Sabine, Norman, Me, Melissa)