On the plane here I felt my stomach burning with anxiety of not knowing what to expect and anxiousness for what would happen on the trip.
On our first day, three girls and I wandered across the city square for something to eat and stumbled upon a quaint little street that appeared to be hidden from all the hustle and bustle of the main streets. It had been raining on and off all afternoon. The cobbled streets had a bit of a glow about them and the air was crisp and fresh.
We walked into each of the restaurants to look at menus and try to interpret the bit of German that we recognize, which is far less than even basic greetings. It has been a pleasant surprise that most people in the city speak a bit of English. Basic talk is fairly easy for being in a country where everything is in another language. We ended up choosing an Italian restaurant, yes Italian, even though we should have sought out German food since we only have three days in Germany before we head to the Czech Republic.
I was very surprised to notice how much attention we attracted. We were very respectful and quiet in the restaurant, yet nearly everyone was staring. There was a couple near our table that literally glared at us the entire hour we were there. I was very surprised to feel so much like a minority in a place where everyone looks so similar to myself. Though it may have been any number of reasons why we stood out so much, whether it was due to our accents, attire, hand gestures or what, it was very uncomfortable nonetheless.
Thankfully, the wait staff were friendly and personable with us even despite the language barrier. Our waiter would laugh and joke with us in German and Italian, calling us his California Bellas. Most of the time we had no idea what he was saying, but it was fun and an experience nonetheless.
On the way back to our hotel the rain was coming down much harder, so we hurried to the closest train station. As we stepped onto the platform, my friend in front of me fell and immediately started screaming. I looked down and saw her right leg had fallen in between the train and the platform. A similar incident of a friend in Ireland flashed into my mind. Weeks earlier she had fallen in between the train and platform as well, to which held the train to wait for emergency help and resulted in a fractured leg and weeks on crutches. As this flashes through my memory, I bend down pulling my friend to her feet. I was shocked to notice that no one around us came to our help, the train door started to close and I pushed it open with my arm while the passengers in front of us just watched.
Immediately after getting her on her feet she cries out, “my phone!” to which all three of us crouch down with our iPhone flashlights looking into the dark under the train, all the while hoping it won’t start moving. The gap between the train and the platform is a good six to eight inches with no different color marking or textural griping than the rest of the platform which would easily contribute to any accident to go bad quickly.
Thankfully my friend found she had responded to the fall with a quick reflex of shoving her phone into her pocket. Once we boarded the train, in one piece, three elderly women got up from their seats and told her to sit and rest her leg. Despite people not helping during the initial fall, it was nice to see that people were friendly to help after such an unfortunate event.
The fall cost my friend a night in filled with cooling her leg and commands not to walk by our San Diego State professors. She was in a lot of pain but was such an amazing sport about the whole thing and has been very positive. We later laughed about her worrying so much about her phone when she could have easily lost or severely injured her leg, had the train moved or had her leg not came out so easily.
All in all, I’ve learned that it is important to always pay attention to your surroundings and to be cautious, especially where the surroundings are new and unfamiliar. Her positive spirit is a reminder to not dwell on unfortunate events and to take in as much positivity you can while traveling and are presented with so much uncertainty and new experiences. Uncertainty can be scary and intimidating.
Students who have gone on this trip in past years recommended to venture out in small groups and to embrace every moment with an open mind and to seek out small adventures to really delve into the culture as much as we can. They said, and I’ve already seen this in the short three days we have been here, that things will happen that you are unsure about but they will come together in the end and whether they began in a good or bad way, they will hopefully leave you with a story to look back on and remember.