Steven Xu is majoring in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. He was awarded a WCGS Travel Grant so he could participate on a one-week trip to Germany as part of GER 298: Topics in Cultural Studies (cross-listed a Fine Arts course) in 2017. The photo is of Steven in Dresden.
This is Steven's report.
Going to Germany for the first time is super exciting, and the generous donation from the Stork family has definitely helped me thoroughly explore and enjoy the trip.
In addition to expenses of flight, hotel and the course tuition, I used the money at some really interesting places and authentic restaurants and street foods. The museum pass of the Berlin Museum Island gave me unlimited access to all the museums in the area, and I was amazed by some of the most unique and precious art artifacts in the world, such as the Nefertiti sculpture in Berlin's Neues Museum. Walking through the German History Museum gave me much more in-depth knowledge about the history of Germany. Another interesting place I went to was the Berlin Philharmonic, where I attended a Philharmonic show.
As for food, I did research on some of the most famous and popular restaurants and street food stands in Berlin, and I really enjoyed staple food such as schnitzel, pork knuckle, Döner and Currywurst. They were very much beyond my expectations and were important reasons for me to visit Germany again.
I could tell my competency in the German language has improved even though it was only 10 days. I started conversations with people in German as much as I could, and I really enjoyed the surprising and impressed look they gave me. Just by speaking and listening German every day, I felt that it took me less time to organize a sentence in my head before I could say it out, and also I learned a lot of important, everyday vocabularies that weren't in my textbooks. I wouldn't be able to improve my German this significantly if I didn't physically go to Germany.
I feel that the average life quality of Germans is higher than what I am used to. Food tastes a lot healthier but delicious at the same time. People have incredibly high self-discipline in terms of keeping the streets clean and keeping the library quiet. The monuments and museums in major areas keep reminding people of the history of the city and the lessons from the past. On nights people dress up formally and go to symphonies on a regular basis to enjoy music and art, instead of watching superficial TV shows. The majority of citizens are multilingual, some of them are even fluent in my mother tongue (Mandarin Chinese). It is these observations of people's lives and lifestyles that made me truly a fan of Berlin.
My two goals of the trip - broadening my horizons and improving my German - have definitely been achieved well.