|Nick Skeba Spotlight|
Studying in Bonn was great. I participated in a 5-month-long program from early March through the middle of July. WMU German Professor Dr. Olivia Gabor led our group for one week to help us get settled in the city. We ate out a lot that week. After one week of orientation we were left to ourselves. Everyone from Western Michigan University enrolled in the program was dispersed across the city, the idea being that everyone would meet Germans better this way, rather than hanging out with the Americans.
I was placed in a one-month German preparation class where English was not permitted for word clarification. I never heard so much German before in my life; however, that class greatly helped improve my German skills. I noticed significant differences in my ability to understand German after finishing this class. I had class Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. No one wanted to be late for class because the teacher would find make an example of latecomers by making them answer questions in front of the class.
In my dorm room I was given a very tiny fridge space and had access to a community freezer. I got lucky because my room had its own bathroom, while many others in the program had to share their bathrooms with others. I found myself going to the food store every other day to buy food because the fridge space that I was allotted was so small. One lesson I've learned is never buy fish sticks for a community freezer because they will always disappear the next day. When going shopping I noticed that I could always buy fresh bread, my favorite being Broetchens, small bread rolls that I could spread with cheese and butter.
When eating out, I liked to mostly snack in Turkish fast food restaurants. There are many Doener Kebab shops in Germany. There, a small sandwich can be bought which is made from this meat slab that is spinning around on a grill. Then the chef takes a razor to it and razors the meat off. It really doesn’t look pretty watching the chef prepare the meat, but it is rather tasty. Eating at a German restaurant is very similar to eating at one in America. Every kind of food ranging from Chinese to Mexican is available. The tip is already included in the bill, so I’ve gotten used to not leaving a tip, which I now have to regain the habit of doing. One thing I really liked in Germany is that when looking at products for purchase the price written beside it includes tax and all other charges.
The Bonn program included many interesting excursions. We were taken to Marksburg, which is a castle situated on a hill on the Rheine River, we toured and learned about its history. We also visited a reconstructed German village that included many old German houses, where we learned much about early German culture. The high point of all of the excursions was a week-long excursion to Berlin during the launch of the 2006 World Cup. Behind the Brandenburg Tuer, a large gateway with a golden horse-driven chariot sculpture on the top, the World Cup games could be watched on three large television screens. I visited the Berlin Wall or, rather, what is left of it, and Sanssouci Park that is very large and filled with beautiful statues and a great palace.
The best part of the entire program length was living in close proximity to the Rheine River—a great place to spend time. When it was warm, I would go to the river with my girlfriend to swim and study. Along the river in the Bonn area a good view of the Sieben Gebirge can be seen. These seven mountains provide a great view and great hiking. During the Rheine in Flammen, Rheine in Flames, an event that is held every year, I watched fireworks and grilled food in Rheinnaue Park.