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The sound of bees buzzing – Keeping memories alive

It happens in less than a second… a bee flies close to my ear making its typical buzzing sound and (swoosh) I´m back to a past situation in my head. It´s a hot day in late summer, I´m in my grandparents’ garden in the east of Germany for the holidays, my granny has just made her delicious plum pie and maybe in the afternoon we will ride our bikes to the beautiful lake in the forest around the corner.

Wonderful trick of the brain

It happens just like a reflex: you smell, hear or taste something and it reminds you of a situation in the past. It´s like a moment you caught and put into an empty marmalade jar, only to open it up again and get a whiff of the feeling you had at this time. Just to name another few examples: I love the smell of gasoline. Not because it´s a fancy perfume, but because it reminds me of my childhood vacations. Going on a camping trip in Italy by car, being stuck in a traffic jam, excited for the next two weeks just enjoying life. Same goes for the sound of pigeons, which I always heard when I woke up in the tent.

The taste of milk chocolate – for me also an association with being a child. My first advent calendar, a Milka chocolate bar as a present from relatives or a piece of the typical Easter chocolate bunny. I take a bite and I feel like a little girl again. Another amazing thing: the smell of old books… or new books, as well! As for the old ones, their smell takes me back to rummaging in a library or my parents´ bookshelves. The smell of new books always brings excitement to me: like when you got a new book for your birthday and could not wait to start reading, or when the new year of school started and you were still excited about what would happen during the year (motivation was still existent back then).

Bringing childhood back to the present

I could probably go on telling you other examples for eternity… The smoke after you blew out a candle (on your birthday cake), the sound of a cow´s bell, the smell of French fries, the feeling you get when you coincidentally smell the soap your grandma uses as well, the scent of sunscreen or the taste of cotton candy…

All of these things bring some kind of joy to our minds because they remind us of happy moments that are already gone. Maybe in hard times we should remind ourselves of those smells, sounds or tastes and try to get a glimpse of them. Just to get the feeling of being a child again, when the worst thing that could happen was having to take a nap (now the most amazing thing ever!) and the best thing was eating French fries next to the pool.

author: Carolin Joos

Behind the green – Tips on how to spot and avoid Greenwashing

Organic. 100% recycled. Recyclable. Natural. Certified green. When you buy this item, 1$ will be donated to children in need. Think for yourself: Do you feel better when buying an item which is labelled as environmental-friendly or sustainable?

There are many words that could be used to describe something as eco-friendly or sustainable. When reading these, people mostly feel good for supporting a company that cares about sustainability, animals and human rights. However, most of these companies only use these for tricking people into buying their things – while not caring a single bit about problems like environmental pollution, child labour and so on. This problem is called greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines greenwashing as “activities by a company or an organization that are intended to make people think that it is concerned about the environment, even if its real business actually harms the environment”. The term is based on the word “white-wash”, which describes that somebody is trying to hide unpleasant facts about something and trying to make it seem better than it is. As protecting the environment and living a more sustainable life is a current and “trendy” topic in times of climate change and Fridays For Future, many companies try to use this for making profit and selling more of their products. For example, a company sells items packed in plastic but claims that they have a new campaign which reduced the plastic by 15%. So why don’t they ban it entirely and search for a completely different type of packaging which would be a 100% less plastic? Probably because it is cheaper and costumers don’t really think that much into it, as the item is “more” sustainable than others or the older version of the same product.

How do I recognize greenwashing?

There are some possible ways to recognize greenwashed products. Above all, trust your instincts. Also check the whole product, what it’s made of and how it can be disposed of afterwards. When seeing a green label, check why it’s claimed to be green. You could even go to the website and read through it. Do they give a lot of information about their goals and marketing or is it really vague and unspecific? Is there a lot of ambiguity? Research the company on other websites, which are not associated with it and check for hints. If you want to go into it even more, contact the company and directly ask them your questions. If they don’t respond or talk around your questions, it might be greenwashing. Look for certain certifications and seals on the product. Research them and make sure they are from third parties which are not influenced by the company.

How can I avoid greenwashing and take action against it?

You can avoid greenwashing by saying no. Don’t buy the item if you don’t want to support this company. If you have the choice, search for the same thing by another brand and buy it instead (if it isn’t also affected by greenwashing). Also spread the word. Less demand will eventually get the product from the market. If you want to go even further, contact the company and state your concerns. They might have done it unintentionally or are open for suggestions to improve their marketing. There is also the possibility to report it to the consumer advice centre (Verbraucherzentrale). They check the item or advertisement and may even go after it judicially. Now you might think “Why should I do all this if it’s just a marketing strategy?”. The problem about it is that you lose sight of the bigger problem that is hidden behind the “green marketing”. At its worst it isn’t just a marketing trick but rather an attempt to hide the bad effects the companies have on the environment. This is why everybody should take a look behind the green.

author: Veronika Grashey

Just around the corner! – Moving from small village life to Augsburg

It all begins with finally finishing school and being able to really start your own life. After you leave secondary school, your classmates scatter in the most diverse directions. Many are taking a gap year to discover at least a little more of that world that awaits us out there. Others start an apprenticeship and a considerable number enrolls in university. No matter what choice you make to hit off you’re your “new” life – it most certainly always involves changes. A major one that many students undergo is moving out.

How I ended up moving out

After starting university, I realised quickly that commuting to Augsburg every day wasn’t a permanent solution. That’s why, within the first week, I started searching for flats. However, I didn’t give the choice of moving a lot of thought. Neither did I know what it would be like as I grew up in a village. Not having my own car had made it quite difficult getting to the closest train station every day, since it was still 20 km away and the bus system in rural areas is exceptionally obsolete. I wasn’t able to properly get to know my fellow students or take part in any spontaneous hangouts, since mostly I had to catch the train and worry about how I would get home. I’m also fairly sure all of you who moved out are familiar with the process: it takes a little time to hunt down the right flat. However, before I knew it, I got accepted and packed up my stuff a week later.

“You don’t need to move out”

Family and friends didn’t like the thought of me “leaving again” after I had just returned from a year abroad. I got used to comments like “But it’s just around the corner, you can commute easily!” or “Why should you move, you just came back?”. Nevertheless, I started to gather my suitcases, books and an inflatable mattress. On the one hand, the journey to Augsburg takes only about one hour from my little village – depending on how often you get stuck behind tractors or crammed school buses. Not to mention the roadworks you’ll have to bypass on the way. On the other hand, I couldn’t wait to get to know my flatmates, have a new home and an incredibly short journey of 15 minutes to university!

All the things that are so much easier

Of course, I’d known Augsburg before becoming a university student. Over the years I had gone there for shopping trips with friends. I had even been to the university library the odd time for when I had to do research for my term paper back in school. As time passed and I got to spend more and more time exploring the old city’s charm, there were many things I wasn’t familiar with before. The following thought might sound funny to some of you: being able to take a bus or tram without having to wait for hours was merely fascinating to me! Or that I could simply go to the supermarket around the corner if I ran out of milk. I mean, how awesome is going to a bar on Friday night and not having to make it for the last night bus? Those are the things that weren’t imaginable for me to be real at all. You’re baking on a Saturday night and you run out of flour? Too bad, the little dairy is closed, and the next supermarket is 15 minutes away by car. Oh, you missed the school bus in the morning? Unlucky. Your last period on Wednesday afternoon is cancelled? You’ll just have to wait for the next school bus in an hour, no problem.

It’s not worse, just different

Some of those “experiences” might sound abnormal. I’ve even met a considerable number of people that were terrified of being “cut off”.  Humans have an astounding ability to adapt to circumstances, hence going grocery shopping once a week was totally normal for me. Even though I wouldn’t need to buy my food for an entire week all at once now, I still find myself in those habits I grew up with. I surely had to learn a lot about “city life”, even if it were just the simple things like being able to use public transport at any time or going grocery shopping by bike. Although I’m sure there’s many more students that have made similar positive experiences by moving to Augsburg, having grown up in a village was quite an adventure and I’m lucky to call that place my home.

author: Anna Schmitt

Moving away as far as possible – My Exchange term in New Zealand

If I told you that, in 2015, I got on a plane to New Zealand, you might think that maybe I was trying to escape a bad situation, flee from my parents or get as many kilometres in between me and my old life as possible. But you’d be mistaken: What I did was start the biggest adventure of my life so far.

German schools? – 18,000km away!

In July 2015, I flew to Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand. I was in year 10 at school at that time, which means I was used to our German school system with a monotonous timetable every single week. My first impression of Thames High, the school I attended in New Zealand, was that everything was less organized and school is going to be way different from what it had been like at home – well guessed, Michael!

Outdoor Education

When thinking about your average school day, would you expect to learn the theory of canoeing, repairing bike shifters or diving at school? I didn’t and I think most of you wouldn’t, either! All these things are fundamental in “Outdoor Education (OEC)”, a subject offered at high school in New Zealand.

German schools offer a broad range of knowledge to their students, but a lot of the content is not important for your future life. The opposite is set as a standard in New Zealand. The country tries to offer its students a practical education as well, which I think is great!

OEC 301          

OEC 301 was my course during my term there. At the end of each term, an Outdoor Education class goes on a trip. For my course, that trip included canoeing, caving and mountain biking.

Now imagine a lake with an average water temperature of 16°C, bloody cold wind and canoes. Our group paddled around Lake Tarawera to Hot Water Beach, a natural hot spring heated up by volcanic activity. We set up our tents and went for a swim in the lake… The water temperature was like 38 degrees in the area of volcanic activity while the rest of the lake was bloody cold. 

Day 2 and 3 lead us to a cave, but sadly, I can’t remember the name… and a mountain bike park called Red Woods. While my German friends learned about the French Subjonctif, I was able to gain lots of experience in wildlife camping and outdoor sports that I will remember my entire life!

It was great to make new friends and to get to know another school system. Absolutely recommendable!

author: Michael Kurz

“Thank you for your service, Sir!” – Living with an US-Army family for a year.

“Thank you for your service, Sir!” – That’s a sentence I’ve heard probably about almost 100 times, when I was out with my host dad and him wearing his US Army uniform. What seemed incredibly weird for me at first, was very normal for people living in the Unites States of America. Being in the Army or any other military unit in the USA is something highly respected among its citizens, which I started to realize quickly after moving in as the au pair of an Army family.

Advantages

Before I started my year as an au pair in 2016, I of course knew that most of US citizens are pretty patriotic and that they love their country and everything what it stands for. But when I actually started living there, I realized that there is much more to it than loving your country. It’s a way of living, which especially shows in how they treat people working in the military.

So, my host dad who has been working in the Army for about 30 years, brings my host family a lot of advantages. Especially when we were going out together for dinner or visiting an amusement park, they always got a huge military discount. When we did go on a trip, we always were able to board the plane priority, because of my host dad being in the military. I also found out that there actually are certain camping grounds and hotels, that you can only go to if you are in the Army. Besides all this, I also noticed the second they realized my host dad is part of the US military, we always got special treatment and regardless their age people showed so much respect towards him. That’s something that I got fascinated about, since I’ve never experienced such behavior towards people in the German Bundeswehr.

Disadvantages

Of course, besides the discounts and all the respect, there are some things that are far away from being perfect, when you are a military family. The hardest thing my host family probably has to face are the ongoing goodbyes.  I don’t even know how many times my host dad had to say goodbye to his loved ones to go on another military mission. He was not able to be there when my host mum gave birth to their first child and he missed a lot of special occasions. And I guess it’s even harder, when you don’t know if you’re going to see each other again or not. When I first got there my host dad was only able to stay for two weeks until he had to go back to the Middle East.

Respect for the military

Regardless of all the advantages and disadvantages working in the US military, I found the lifestyle and how much respect the US military gets fascinating. It’s part of the country and history and people realize how hard it must be to have a job like that. Of course, you can discuss whether the military is really needed, but at the moment it exists, so why not treat the people working for it with the right amount of respect. Something we in Germany probably could learn from.

author: Janina Trinkl

The Lighthouse – a unique masterpiece of modern cinema

Two lighthouse keepers are losing their sanity when being trapped on a faraway island. This is all I knew about the movie The Lighthouse before watching the actual trailer. Despite thinking I was all set up for watching the teaser, my mind still got blown as director Robert Egger really takes the cake here! First, all you hear is the sound of a foghorn blaring while you stare at a black screen and you get an instant claustrophobic feeling. Then, a black and white vintage shot of a lighthouse; Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, who look like weather-beaten 19th century sailors, are gazing into the camera. I don’t want to spoil too much but what follows is an uproarious roller coaster ride of images as you see an ax-wielding psychopath, tentacles, an eerie mermaid and much more horror madness.  It leaves you puzzled as to what you have just seen, and I can promise you one thing: you are hooked and intrigued right away!

They did it again: Psychological horror at its finest

If you decide to check out this flick, its imagery, setting and symbolism will be stamped in your mind long after you left your TV. Egger’s psychological horror movie isn’t just more than worth seeing, it also breathes new life into an industry which has left us progressively with trite and dull movies over the past years.

With the film’s release in October 2019, it’s no surprise that no less studio than A24 is behind that project; a company which is well-known for highly renowned and well lauded productions of independent movies such as Midsommar (2019), Hereditary (2018) and Moonlight (2016). Just looking at these films, it’s almost certainly that The Lighthouse  delivers what it promises.

“what’s a timber man want with being a wickie?”- Disorientation as the goal

Vaguely based on an unfinished short story of Edgar Allan Poe, the plot is set on a remote, storm-wrecked lighthouse in New England during the 19th century. Ephraim Winslow’s (Robert Pattinson’s)  adventure is to get underway as he decides to quit his job as a timberman and starts his first day working for a contentious, gross and elderly man named Thomas Wake (William Defoe) as he wants to learn the ropes of being a wickie (old term for lighthouse keeper). Wake orders Winslow around with daily annoying duties, while always making clear that he is at the helm. As he heads up to the lantern room, he forbids Winslow to ever go up there.  In the course of time, the audience can see how Winslow evolves, unveils his dark secrets and eventually dips into madness. He becomes obsessed with what happens at the top of the lighthouse and at some point, the viewer asks himself which one of the guys goes crazier and who’s still to trust.

It’s amazing how Robert Egger has managed to make the film look so authentic. From a technical point of view, it was a brilliant idea to shoot the film in a gray 1.19:1 aspect ratio in order to magnify the dark, gloomy and claustrophobic atmosphere. The old-time sailor’s dialect of the actors is flawless and their sledgehammer performance did leave me speechless, for example, when Thomas spells a biblically, dramatic and few minutes long curse upon Winslow only because he was not fond of his lobster. All this provides an experience unlike anything you have seen before and makes the movie so unique.

Complexity: What does the movie even mean?

The most enjoyable part for me personally is that there is no fixed interpretation or message behind the story. Intentionally, the gist of the movie remains blurry as there are many hints and signs unpretentiously hidden. One can surely find psychological, sexual and homoerotic themes; however, I was mostly amazed by the Greek mythical reference as Winslow could be portrayed as Prometheus, the titan who got punished for stealing the fire from Zeus in order for mankind’s benefit. The light is seen as a metaphor for enlightenment such as, on a more straightforward level, the light of the lighthouse illuminates the night and guides the ships through darkness. 

A timeless film but not for everyone

Even though the movie satisfies my cinematic needs in every way, I do have to admit that it isn’t a film for everyone since some people could perceive it as too brutal or blend in its story. If you’re someone who rather aims for movies which are easier to digest and jollier, The Lighthouse wouldn’t particularly be the right choice for you. However, if you like extraordinary and artistic movies which pluck up courage to try something new and even write a piece of film history with their exceptional style then go ahead with all sails set and watch the movie. You won’t regret it!

author: Mariana Silva Lindner

Popcorn flavors around the world – Thoughts of a popcorn addict who only goes to the movies to get fresh popcorn.

Who doesn´t love popcorn? It´s crunchy, chewy and puffy, it can be salty or sweet all in all, it´s just incredibly tasty. Popcorn is one of the most popular snacks and has been enjoyed across the globe for centuries. But have you ever wondered how popcorn became such a popular snack?

A historical recap

Popcorn actually is a truly ancient dish! The oldest popcorn known to date was found in South America approximately 5,000 years ago. Native Americans not only ate it but also used it do decorate ceremonial embellishments, clothes and necklaces. As colonists arrived in the New World, they became fond of Native American food. Not only was popcorn enjoyed as a snack, but it was also eaten with milk and sugar like a breakfast cereal. The story of popcorn´s rise to prominence continued with vendors selling the snack near crowds, especially outside theaters, circuses and fairs in the 18th century. This gave birth to popcorn being sold as a classic movie snack later. During the Great Depression, the corn kernels gained even more popularity since it was the only snack many people were still able to afford.

Salty or sweet? – it is not that easy

Enjoying a bag of popcorn isn´t limited to just a few countries anymore. I´m a popcorn addict who got the chance to travel the world during the past few years. On my journey I experienced that each country enjoys its popcorn in very different ways, which honestly surprised me.

Let´s have a look at three places that stand out when it comes to the enjoyment of my beloved snack.

USA

Apparently, the Americans have really weird popcorn-eating habits. They mainly like to eat it salty, which is fine by me. But why do they drizzle butter on top making it all soggy? It is also very common to add cheddar cheese which makes them even more greasy. Mostly Americans either enjoy their popcorn at the movies or as a late-night snack at home cooked in the microwave. However, popcorn has been reinvented over the past few years in the US. If it´s dry popped in hot air without oils, fats, salt or sugar it´s actually low in calories, high in fiber and contains many nutritious antioxidants.

Singapore

This country´s love for the fluffy snack is exceptional – you can get any type anywhere at any time. Popcorn usually is part of the standard Singaporean diet and a common snack at work or served before dinner. The Malaysian brand Eureka is the most popular popcorn brand in South East Asia and sells common flavors like sea salt and caramel as well as fancy flavors like seaweed, curry or white coffee.

Australia

Unlike in Germany where flavor options are usually limited to sweet or salty, Australia has a huge selection of popcorn in movie theatres. The abundant flavor choices include French Vanilla, salty caramel or white raspberry. I found my first and foremost, all-time favorite flavor called Rocky Road Popcorn in Melbourne. The Popped kernels were mixed with salted cashews and melted Hershey´s chocolate. In the end they put mini marshmallows on top, which made them the unhealthiest but best popcorn I have ever had in my life.

To all the popcorn addicts: Popcorn is a delicious snack that came from America but is enjoyed all over the world in different ways. Whichever way you like it most, if you´re a real popcorn lover, you should open your heart to new adventures and tastes and just keep popping along.

author: Hannah Reichle