Time flies when you’re in the air

Shortly after my seventeenth birthday my father and I decided to approach one item on our bucket list we’d both wanted to tick off for a long time; learn how to fly. So we booked a paragliding course. The basic class we participated in, took about four days and aimed to teach every student to fly by themselves. The requirements were pretty simple: we should be able to run in a straight line and – of course – not be afraid of heights. And the equipment was provided by the flight school.

Learning to fly

Our course began with a bit of theory and school introductory course videos on the mechanics, equipment and paragliding techniques.  We learned how to understand local weather forecast accurately and how to decide when to fly and when to stay at home. For our first practical exercise, we moved to the training hills to practice inflating and controlling our wings on the ground, learning to take off, land, and steering skills. All these exercises were simple but also very exhausting, as they consisted of running, stopping and running again for nearly an hour.IMG-20161228-WA0000

On the third day, it was time for our first training flight. We launched from the side of a hill at a height of nearly 200 meters, we had to run downhill until the chute would open and lift us up in the air. In the meantime, the teacher gave us instructions from the ground through a walkie talkie. One of these training flights lasted around a minute and a half but it felt much shorter. Time just flies when you’re in the air!

In order to be prepared for the final flight on day four, we had to start at least 15 times from the practice launch site. What didn’t sound like too much of an effort at first definitely became the hardest challenge on the entire course, one reason being that the full equipment weighed around 15 kg and we had to carry it 200 meters uphill on a small path, which the instructor fondly called the “channel of sweat”.

Reward for the hard work

On the last day, we were ready for the first flight completely on our own. We started from the top of a 900-metre mountain. For a change, we didn’t have to carry our chutes to the top because there was a special lift installed. We flew for nearly ten minutes, enough time to relax and enjoy the beautiful landscapes from above. Everybody reached the landing zone safely and the course ended there and then.

Altogether it was a memorable weekend and if you haven’t put paragliding on your own bucket list yet, make sure to note it down immediately.

Author & Picture: Philipp Soballa

A camping experience

IMG-20170109-WA0129It’s a sad fact of life that our daily lives can become really stressful. If it’s not exams or work, it’s family or other obligations. Our daily routine is planned right down to the last detail, minute by minute: appointments, deadlines and the like. So how can we break out of this vicious circle, at least for a little while? Read on…

Escape the pressureIMG-20170109-WA0173

In order to stay healthy and function well, we have to find a release for stress and all our preoccupations. For some this means going out with friends, while for others it’s spending a day on the couch with their favorite TV show. What works best for me is spending time outside: disconnecting from everything and just enjoying the peace and quiet for a little while.

All it takes is a tent

If I feel overwhelmed or stressed out, I pack my tent, my sleeping bag, some basic supplies and my best travel companion. If it’s just a weekend getaway or a longer trip, depends, of course, on my university schedule. But my all-time favorite is escaping from the noise and crowded streets, preferably somewhere with long hiking trails and mountains to climb. A place with a breathtaking view where you can just put up your tent, get comfortable at the campfire and take out your guitar.

Just about anywhere is fine

Now you might not find places with these criteria everywhere, especially if you only have a weekend or even just one day. Maybe your perfect place to chill is your parents’ backyard or the forest close by. Personally, the occasional camping trip is a great way to help balance my daily life and to recharge my batteries for the return to reality.

IMG-20170109-WA0120Be ready to disconnect

For the best possible outcome, I recommend you turn off your cellphone and just rely on your basic communication skills. Take your guitar if you have one, or a pencil and paper and play a round of good old battleships. Talk about whatever comes to mind or just listen to the sound of nature. See if you like camping as much as I do!

Author: Caroline Müller
Pictures: Cristian Imilan

Jackaroo / Jillaroo Down Under

jillDuring my backpacking time in Australia, I decided to do some real Aussie stuff and get an insight into the jackaroo/jillaroo lifestyle. A jackaroo/jillaroo is somebody who lives and works on a sheep or cattle station – and well, there are about 70 million sheep in Australia, but only about 23.6 million people! Online, I found this horse breeding and sheep station farm near Bingara, in the northeast of New South Wales, called “Garrawilla”. After I had contacted John and his girlfriend and helping hand Natusha, I booked my train and bus tickets, packed all my stuff, and was definitely ready to go on an adventure!

I was warmly welcomed at the bus stop by John with “Hello, my little German!” and after we had had dinner together with Nat and Jorjah, a jillaroo-to-come, we drove to his farm, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The next day, after a good long sleep, I finally saw where I would be living for the next few weeks. Surrounded by large fields, hills, and about 400 horses scattered everywhere, Garrawilla began to make me feel tiny, really just like the “little German” I was/am?, apparently – it was just so huge! After our typical porridge and coffee breakfast on the terrace at about 8am, John and I usually started work (which didn’t feel like work at all) by driving the horses to the yards with his ute (a four-wheel drive pickup), his not-always-working motorcycle or quad. You know, it takes quite a lot of courage to stand cramped together in between 30 horses, only holding a stick to guide them to different places (I think my heartbeat was about 200 the first few times!).

JohnsUteBy telling me all his stories about his family and friends, his various jobs on the farm and all the bloody Germans he’d met, John taught me many useful, important things about how to treat horses properly. He always illustrated his wisdom with real-life examples: often myself. I can tell you, getting dirt smeared in the face or being poked in the bottom with a pencil is not the nicest way to start your day! For the next few weeks, we would make young horses used to wearing a halter, teach them to lead and give and also get them to have a saddle on for the first time. Breaking in horses was one of the main tasks on the farm. Apart from that, we did some fencing (a pretty hard job, really), drove in and sheared sheep, fed all his working dogs and rode the horses, of course!

John also offers tourist rides in town along the Gwydir River, but we also did a lot of horse riding on the farm itself. Not only to check on the horses in the fields and hills, but also to drive them in or teach them to be ridden. But the greatest feeling was cantering across the Gwydir River, water splashing everywhere and the wind blowing in my hair.

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Then, at some point, I didn’t feel touristy or foreign anymore, but I had found a place that felt like a second home. My inner cowgirl had found her own level. On Garrawilla, you get that once-in-a-lifetime experience with great people and amazing things to learn, and, as John told me when we went on our first ride: “As long as you don’t break your neck, you’re gonna be fine!”

If you want to collect memories like these yourself, visit their Facebook page: Jackaroo Jillaroo Down Under.

Author & Pictures: Rebecca Pichler

London on a student budget

If there is any vacation destination that I could call my home away from home it’s London. The British capital captured my heart from the first time I visited and has me coming back as often as I can. But frequent trips to London have one major drawback: this city is bloody expensive! So when my best friend asked me to spontaneously accompany her for just three days, I hesitated for a while, wondering if the expense was worth it for the limited time we had. In the end, I went with her, of course, and spent under €200, thanks to a couple of things I learned during my previous visits.

Museumslondon1

In 2001 all state-managed museums in London abolished admission charges, which means all of the major museums like the National Gallery or the Tate Modern are completely free. This allows you to basically museum-hop, which is what I like doing in the city more than anything else. If you want to visit the British Museum, just to look at the Rosetta Stone and admire the impressive architecture of its main hall – go for it! Tea at the Victoria & Albert and a quick detour through the dinosaur exhibit of the Natural History Museum? Lovely idea!

Churches

London makes up for the free museums with horrendous admission charges to its beautiful churches like Westminster Abbey or St.Paul’s. During a service, however, it’s completely free. I would especially recommend the choral evensong at Westminster Abbey; sit down to listen to the famous choir while taking in the gothic architecture and delicately carved décor.

West End showslondon3

No visit to London would be complete for me without seeing at least one West End show. Lots of theatres offer special daily tickets for a huge discount, but most of them are on a first-come-first- serve basis and require lots of queuing. So if you’re pressed for time or simply don’t want to research all the different deals, drop by the “tkts” booth in Leicester Square. They always have a lot of discounted tickets for evening performances on the same day, so you can go by and just pick what’s cheapest or sounds the most fun.

Food

You can find the best bang for your buck for a quick meal at “Wahaca”, a Mexican grill right beneath Waterloo Bridge. Their 6-pound pulled pork burritos are mouth-watering and satisfy even the biggest hunger. And if you want to make a little sightseeing trip out of it, cross Waterloo Bridge at night for a breathtaking view across the whole cityscape, get your burrito and wander along the Thames in the direction of the Tate Modern. Your path will take you through trees full of twinkling fairy lights and to Blackfriars Bridge, where you can check out “Doggets Coat & Badge” pub for a pint of cider or alelondon4.

Author & Pictures: Anna Reinbold

Tips for a great Dublin experience

Spending a semester abroad has been on my to-do-list ever since I started studying, but you know how things can go sometimes. Plans change, things get in the way, and in the end you have to set your priorities. Last term I finally did get my chance to take an Erasmus semester in Dublin and I honestly have to say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. So here are some things you absolutely shouldn’t miss while you’re on the green island.

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Explore the country. Ireland is really not all that big. With the Bus Éireann lines you can get from Dublin to Belfast in a few hours relatively cheaply. Landmarks like Tara, the Giant’s Causeway or the Cliffs of Moher are just a wee bit away. If you’re taking a semester abroad, the international societies like the Erasmus Student Network organise trips regularly as well. Ireland is beautiful. Go see for yourself!

Grab a few friends and visit Temple Bar in Dublin. I don’t think I’ll have to say much about it, but one bit of advice: the famous pubs aredublin2 cool, but, well… famous. My favourite place was a small cafe a bit further down the road. You still had the whole setting, but you could actually talk without having to shout at each other or having to cope with getting elbowed in the back. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find a bunch of places that are not on tourists’ radar.

Check out Grafton Street. There’s always stuff going on in one of Dublin’s busiest shopping streets. Very close to Saint Stephen’s Green (a beautiful park), it leads you straight to Trinity College. On the way you will not only find the Gaiety Theatre, all sorts of shops and restaurant, but also street performers and buskers. You can find some real gems there and occasionally even catch some more famous bands. If you are there around Christmas, prepare yourself for an incredible experience. Choirs, Christmas music and the lights and decorations transform Grafton Street into an absolute winter wonderland. The snow generally gets substituted with cold rain, though.

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One really important tip for all fellow students: you probably won’t be able to get a room at the on-campus residences, at least not until well into the semester. So arrive a week or two earlier, embrace the hostel lifestyle and then use Daft.ie, the local newspapers and the Facebook pages of the international societies (again, ESN helped me a lot here) to find a place to stay. You’ll probably be able to get something that’s significantly cheaper than on-campus accommodation, too.

Other than that, just be open-minded. The Irish are extremely welcoming (and chatty) people and if you approach them with a smile, they’ll pay it back with nothing but kindness. I’ll never forget my time in Dublin and I can’t wait to return to catch up with all the friends I have made there.

Author & Pictures: Andreas Böhm

Up and away

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself” – Danny Kaye

I was bitten by the travel bug the second I first travelled around Europe in a trailer with my family as a small child. I’ve already seen a few corners of the world, but there are still lots of plane tickets for me to buy! Traveling has definitely made me a better person and I’ve heard lots of people say the same thing about themselves. But what exactly is it about traveling that seems to change people for the better? Let’s take a look at some of the positive aspects…

Traveling can make you become…
…more modest
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Going to other countries makes you realize how small we, as humans, are in such a big world and how grateful we should be for being able to experience its beauty – just think of all the breath-taking landscapes that can be found all over the world! Nature is so much more powerful than humanity and it is our duty to do everything we can to protect its beauty because, after all, we’re just temporary guests on this planet.

…more open-minded

You meet so many different people on a journey, with different backgrounds and beliefs that shape who they are and what they think the world should be like. All these people have their own story to tell and if you listen carefully you realize that, even though language, skin colour and religion might differ, in the end, we’re all the same and that all these stories have an impact on you. I’m much more open towards other cultures now – and isn’t open-mindedness and tolerance what our world, which is characterized by fear, prejudice and walls, really lacks these days?

…braver and more independent

20150823_193302I was very homesick when I first started traveling on my own, but I became more independent with every journey and now, I’m braver than ever before. This includes approaching strangers for advice, relying on my intuition in situations where I feel lost and as well taking risks sometimes! While I was freaking out about all the possible dangers awaiting me in an unknown country a few years ago, I realized that things always figure themselves out somehow and I’ve always returned home safely.

…more balanced

While I have some doubts about myself from time to time (like a lot of us, I guess), I’ve experienced plenty of situations abroad that made me realize that others’ perceptions of me totally differ from my own. Meeting new people abroad gives you a chance to break free from the role you’re stuck in at home and this, in return, helps you to grow and develop a better self-image. So, go out into the world, be yourself, touch some people’s lives, so the experiences you have change you forever!

What are you waiting for?
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It might sound like a cliché, but it’s actually true: traveling can help you find yourself and become a better person and, most importantly, world citizen! If you let cultures, places and people abroad affect you, I promise you won’t be the same on your return. So, if you’re lucky enough to get the chance to travel don’t hesitate – pack your bags and be prepared for a life-changing and eye-opening experience!

Author & pictures: Henrike Wilhelm

Berlin Experience Extraordinaire

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Travelling is a great way to spend lots of money. It doesn’t always have to be super expensive though. One way of saving money while travelling is to start by exploring your own country. Germany has a lot to offer, among others my favourite city: Berlin. There’s so much to do there that it can be hard to decide what to do first. So here’s a list of my favourite things to do in the capital.

Berlin’s oldest secret: Don’t ever take one of the tourist buses! Seriously, don’t take one unless you enjoy wasting money on things no one needs. Take the bus #200 from Alex to Zoo and the #100 back and I swear you’ll see everything you need to see and more. And if you already have a day ticket you don’t even have any extra expenses. You won’t have anyone telling you when the Reichstag was built or how tall the TV Tower is, but if you really want to know all that, check out a Berlin Guide from your local library and spend the money you saved on food or books.

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Dussmann
berlin 3Everyone who knows me, knows Dussmann. Why? Because I talk about it pretty much 24/7. It’s a bookstore made of five floors of awesomeness. You need the Latin edition of Harry Potter? Go to Dussmann. Or are you looking for your favourite band’s latest album? You’ll find it at Dussmann. Maybe you prefer it as vinyl? Dussmann is your place to be. The best thing about Dussmann, though, is the English bookshop which you’ll find at the very back on the ground floor. I am pretty sure it’s the biggest English bookshop in the whole of Germany, and definitely worth a visit!
http://www.kulturkaufhaus.de/


Wonderpots/Friedrichsstraße

berlin 4The best frozen yogurt in town! Wonderpots has three different locations in Berlin but the one on Friedrichsstrasse is without a doubt the coolest one. The frozen yogurt is super yummy but it’s also a really great place to just hang out. You can enjoy your froyo sitting on a garden chair or if you like it a bit more comfy on one of their sofas. My special tip: Choose one of the seats outside. You’ll have a perfect view of the Humboldt University Library and let’s be honest: there is something awfully satisfying about knowing that students inside are studying for exams or working on their thesis while you’re enjoying the food of the gods.
http://www.wonderpots.de/

Burgermeister                                                   berlin 5
A burger joint in an old school restroom may sound a bit strange but the burger at Burgermeister is seriously one of the best I’ve ever had. Judging from the long line that will await you there, I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Their choice of burgers isn’t huge but there’s still a burger for every taste. They are fresh, super tasty and surprisingly cheap. So if you don’t mind eating your burger while standing squeezed in between two relatively busy roads, you should give Burgermeister a try.
http://www.burgermeister.berlin/

Author & Pictures: Katrin Bottke