Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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

“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

Border controls – a love/hate relationship

Border controls – we all know them. We all hate them when we get stuck in depressingly long traffic jams near the Germany’s southern border with Austria on our way back from Italy, Croatia, etc. When you finally reach the point where the police officer comes up to you and wants to see your passport all your patience is gone, and you just want to get home. One might wonder what good these border controls are. One might argue that they shouldn’t be taking place because Austria is in the EU as well and furthermore is a part of the Schengen treaty, which was brought into life nearly solely for the purpose of eliminating borders. Now, there was a time not long ago where there indeed weren’t any controls among Germany’s borders, but we all know what changed this. The massive waves of refugees pouring into the country. The government decided to have the federal police controlling the most frequently used routes of illegal immigration by human traffickers.

Illegal immigration is not the only crime these border patrol units are trying to prevent. We all heard about the Mafia. What does the Mafia do? They kill, blackmail and trade with drugs. While the border patrols can’t really do much about the killing and blackmailing, they sure can do something about the drug-trade. A friend of mine which I’ll refer to as Tim works for the border patrol as an undercover investigator. Undercover meaning that he doesn’t wear a uniform and drives around in a normal car not that he went undercover to become the best friend of some drug kingpin and then snitch on him. Tim told me several stories about several cases concerning his and his colleagues’ work with drugs at the German-Austria border. The most spectacular being the one where they found multiple kilos of cocaine welded into a car. The total value was estimated to 500.000€. And this is not even the most amazing thing about this case: The mule was known to the German authorities and they even knew that he had planned a trip from Germany down south, with drugs on board. He started this roadtrip of his in Nordhrein-Westfalen carried on through Baden-Württemberg until he was finally stopped by a border patrol unit. Unknown to the vast majority is the fact that border patrol control traffic entering but also leaving the country in order to make sure no convicted criminals leave the country.

That is just one of many many cases in which the border controls executed by the police resulted in success and helped to make this country safer. Where there are expensive drugs like cocaine, violence isn’t far away. And violence leads to pain, pain that often innocent bystanders of drug wars have to endure. So next time when the police officer at a border control comes up to your car and asks you for your passport and what you have in the back think about all the good things that come out of border controls and think twice if your sacrifice of time really is that bad.

author: Sean Langer