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Student Post: Adventures in Vienna and Brussels

achael is participating in study abroad this term in Germany and will send periodic updates about her experiences.

Rachael Cuthbertson is a senior from Port Huron, Michigan, majoring in Chemical Engineering. Her co-op placement is with Durr Systems Inc. Rachael is participating in study abroad this term in Germany and will send periodic updates about her experiences. If you’d like to write a guest blog post, email phayes(at)kettering(dot)edu. 

By Rachael Cuthbertson

December 5, 2014: How is it Friday again?! I don’t understand how it is possible that time is going by so quickly! It kind of stinks that I have to leave soon. I’m finally to the point where I can understand a decent amount of the language, I’ve made some good friends, and I’m okay being on my own. It will definitely be nice to be home but I will miss it here too! Lunch was good again today! I had chicken kabobs and fish sticks. A customer gave the office a dessert (the Christmas season has officially started in the workplace), and the city they are located in (Dresdner) is famous for this raisin cake bread called “christstollen.” And oh my goodness it was delicious. It didn’t exactly taste like Grandma’s Hot Cross Buns but it was pretty dang close!! I guess “stollen” is a bread/cake that can be bought anytime of the year but a “christstollen” is made only during the Christmas season. Within the cake there were raisins and chopped nuts, and it was topped with powdered sugar. I went to the Tubingen chocolate Christmas market tonight! I’ve never had so much chocolate in my life.

I was originally supposed to meet Haley and Ayushi on the train but in attempts to find them I found Morgan and Jenn instead! We couldn’t find Haley and Ayushi so we assumed they missed the train or something. So the three of us went to the market. It was really cold and rainy so Jenn and I split a hot chocolate!  We all had tons of free samples, I had an entire “Nugat” Ritter Sport bar (basically nutella flavored), we split a cup of melted chocolate, and I had a cup of chocolate hot wine. I also tried “marzipan.” My coworkers told me I had to try it and it was really good! It’s translated as “almond paste.” It’s just a really smooth, soft almond flavored substance I guess. It’s really hard to explain but it was good! It was a lot of fun though and I’m glad I was able to go. As the three of us were waiting for our train back home to arrive we saw Haley and Ayushi in the train station as well. It turns out they did miss the train so they took a later one. After I got home I went to bed and got three hours of sleep before I had to be up to catch my next train!

Scenes from Rachael Cuthbertson's experience in the study abroad program.

Previously from this author:

December 6, 2014: I started my journey to Vienna at 2 a.m.! I tried to sleep most of the train ride there, but train seats do not make very comfortable beds. I got there mid-morning and started my journey. This was the first time I got to a new city and I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I just got off the train, found a hotel next door so I could get my map and I was on my way. It was pretty cold and rainy so that didn’t make for a very pleasant day but oh well. Just like La Rambla in Barcelona, Vienna has a major shopping street that runs through the city called Mariahilferstrasse. I got most of my remaining Christmas shopping done, which I was very pleased about.

After my shopping was done, the first thing I wanted to do was find Hotel Sacher so I could try their famous Sacher-Torte cake. It took me a while to find someone who could point me in the right direction (people were not nice at all in Vienna), but I finally found it. The cake was okay. It is chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam on top, coated in dark chocolate icing on the top and was served with unsweetened whipped cream.

After I ate my cake, I wanted to do more exploring. My map wasn’t very good though, so I was just walking wherever I felt like going. I did end up finding Karlskirche, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, and I found several Christmas markets. They were so cool and really beautiful. There were so many handmade decorations, ornaments, foods, just everything imaginable! I was getting hungry and I saw a hotdog stand on the main road. It’s not a typical hot dog stand though. These were sausages- at least 2.5 times the size of a normal hot dog- and it was so good. And their buns are so effective! It’s like a baguette with the inside cut out and one end cut off. So its complete enclosed and holds the sausage really well! Their mustard tasted a little odd though. It was like a spicy honey mustard. It was good- just not what I was expecting.

Up to that point I had been feeling really lonely and homesick. It was probably a combination of being with the girls last weekend and it’s the end of the term. I really wasn’t feeling motivated to come to Vienna in the first place but I wanted to at least try. So after I had given it my best shot for about four hours I decided to head back to Germany. I spent 16 hours on a train today - not that much fun. But it was worth it to see a little bit of Vienna and return to my “home” at the end of the day.

December 7, 2014: Well I got up at 9 a.m. today so I could have breakfast at the hotel. When I was done eating I was still tired so I went back to bed until 1 p.m.! Then I just took it easy the rest of the day. It was very relaxing and I'm glad I came home from Vienna early. This was just what I needed after all this traveling!

December 8, 2014: Last full week of work! Everyone in the office got a piece of chocolate since it’s Christmas time and I ate mine right away (obviously) and my coworker was laughing at me because I ate it before lunch time. It’s chocolate! You can eat it at anytime of the day!! I had lunch with Katrin today! It’s been a few weeks since we have seen each other since she was on vacation for a little bit and had a lot of training sessions. It was really nice to catch up with her. I will definitely miss her when I get back to the U.S. I had coconut chicken!! It was unbelievably delicious. The afternoon went by fast too! I had to go learn how to use the device needed for testing later on this week.

December 9, 2014: It was snowing this morning when I woke up! Winter has officially arrived in Bietigheim-Bissingen! One of my coworkers brought in stollen from his home town this morning. He brought three different flavors! The one I tried had marzipan in it with a sugar glaze over the top. It was delicious!  

December 10, 2014: So we drove to Emden today for work. My coworker wanted to stop at IKEA for a coffee and he insisted I try their hot dogs. \ It was just a normal hotdog with a toppings bar. Their specialty is fried onions and pickles. It was pretty good I have to admit! It was about a seven hour drive to Emden but we finally got there. It's right on the North Sea in northern Germany but it's basically The Netherlands. It has the same red brick on all the buildings, windmills everywhere, and the river running through the city. When we got to Emden we walked around the city a little bit. It was so pretty with all of the Christmas decorations up at night!! It was so cold though! I couldn't feel anything in my body by the end of the night. We stopped at a restaurant for dinner. I had the standard schnitzel topped with onions and mushrooms with a side salad and fries. Oh my gosh it was so good. Then we went to the Christmas market and got some hot wine. This was a special kind though. It was called Feuerzangenbowle. It was sweeter than typical hot wine and it tastes less like red wine so I liked it a lot better! We tried translating it and we think it might have brandy in it. We were both pretty cold so we walked back to the hotel.

December 11, 2014: Today was a long day! I worked from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The hotel had a standard German breakfast -- bread, slices of meat and cheese, scrambled eggs, yogurt and fruit. In the morning we had a short meeting with the people from Volkswagen and then in the afternoon/evening we did our testing.  For lunch I had ham, potatoes, and salad- nothing special. Since we worked so late we didn’t really get a dinner. There was some haribo (gummy bears) in a break room so we had some of those to hold us over. Then after we finished work all the restaurants were closed so we stopped at a gas station and got an apple croissant for dinner.

Scenes from Rachael Cuthbertson's experience in the study abroad program.

December 12, 2014: I was up at 6:45 a.m. to get ready, eat breakfast and leave with Houver so he could take me to the train station. Originally Houver and I were both supposed to drive back on Friday but there was so much work to do he needed to stay another day. I could have stayed too but that would have required me to miss my trip to Brussels with Morgan and Jenn tomorrow. I thought it was very considerate of my boss to let me come home by train instead of staying to work and miss my trip. Since my train arrived back in Bietigheim around 3 p.m. I figured I should go into work for a little bit. Well surprise surprise to me. I got to work and literally my entire building was empty! I finally found one person roaming around and I asked them where everyone was and I guess there is a town hall today. So I just stayed in the office for the rest of the work day and caught up on a few things before heading home. When I got home I had a package from the Johnsons! They sent me some snacks and the kids made me Christmas cards. It was so cute!

December 13, 2014: I was up bright and early at 4:30 a.m. to meet Morgan and Jenn and head to Brussels. One of the trains we needed to take to get there was not DeutchBahn, it was a private train. When we asked how much reservations were they told us 33 euros each. We decided to wait for the next train that was DeutchBahn to avoid the high price. We didn’t end up getting there until 1 p.m. so we only had about 5 hours in the city until we were scheduled to come back to Germany. We were on the trains/waiting in the train station for 16 hours today. Yikes!

While we were waiting in the morning we found a Dunkin Donuts and I got an apple jelly filled donut dusted with brown sugar. Yummy! When we got to the city we quickly discovered there really isn’t a lot to see in Brussels. We visited The Grand Place and Manneken Pis but there really wasn’t anything else. After we got a map from a hotel we walked into the city and found some traditional Belgian fries. They are different from normal fries because they are fried in animal fat. Definitely not healthy in any way but they were worth it! So so good!

We also visited 10 different chocolate shops and we ate free samples/bought something from almost all of them! The first chocolate we tried was in the train station while we waited. I got a mocha coffee truffle and a dark chocolate coated in dark chocolate truffle. My mouth was literally watering it was so good. We also had chocolate dipped strawberries from Godiva (didn’t know they were Belgian), hot chocolate, more truffles, and lots of free samples. I tried a sample of Orange Chocolate and it was actually quite good! I also had a cappuccino truffle sample and it was amazing! We walked through a couple Christmas markets and they were very beautiful. There was a performer in the street near by the market and he had a whole set up. He had two of his CDs for sale and I bought them because he was so good! It was just so calming to listen to! And he signed both of my copies of the CDs!  It was almost time for us to catch our train back but we decided to get some dinner before we left.

We went to The Waffle Factory and wow. We all split a waffle topped with nutella and strawberries, nutella and banana, and two waffle sandwiches containing bacon, mozzarella cheese, tomato, and basil. It was unbelievably good. We stopped back at The Grand Place on our way to the train station. There was a light show going on and Christmas music playing with it and it was so awesome! I had goosebumps because it was so magical feeling! As soon as we got on the train we saw April. This is the second time I have run into her in a foreign city during my time here without planning it! It was so bizarre. She was on her way back to Germany as well so we all rode the train together. It took us a lot longer to get home than we thought it would. All of our trains kept getting delayed and we had no idea why. We finally got back to Reutlingen at 2 a.m. though.

December 14, 2014: Since we were all exhausted from the day before we slept until about 12:30 p.m. today. Morgan had a group project to work on so Jenn and I just hung out in their room for a bit and relaxed. It was really nice. I was able to FaceTime my parents while we were waiting for Morgan to finish up. My mom told me that 100g in chocolate weighs a half pound! That means I’m bringing 17 pounds of chocolate home! Yikes!! Then we met up with Ayushi and we all went to dinner. It was a Mexican restaurant but I really wasn’t feeling good. I managed to eat a little bit but the girls ate most of my leftovers. Luckily we finished dinner in time for me to catch the train back to Bietigheim!

December 15, 2014: I think I’m sick. That explains last night I guess. I did find out why our trains were so delayed on Saturday. There was a small strike going on again. So I guess we got lucky that our trains weren’t completely canceled. This was the fifth strike DeutchBahn has gone on since I’ve been here. That’s crazy! For lunch I had chicken, tortellini, veggies and a salad- nothing super exciting. There was some sort of cake in the office today. It was lemon flavored cake swirled with an almond flavored cake with nuts on the top. And in between the two different cakes there was a glaze. It was really good! It is truly like fall here today. It’s about 50 degrees and sunny. The air even smells like fall. I love it!  After work I unpacked from the weekend, started packing to go home, and then went to bed in attempts to feel better.

December 16, 2014: I feel a little better this morning. I’m hoping to do a little more packing after work and then get a lot of sleep again. For lunch I had fish. I’m not sure what kind of seasoning it had but it was very good!

December 17, 2014: This morning I had to get up early to go back to the immigration office to de-register from Bietigheim. I can’t believe it’s already that time! Seems like I was just registering a little bit ago!  Lunch was good today! I had chicken in a chili marinade, some sort of pasta with parmesan cheese, and this really good cake! It almost tasted like a mocha cappuccino flavor with a mouse in between the layers of cake and on top for frosting. So so good!

December 18, 2014: It’s my last day of work! I had some serious trouble sleeping last night because I’m getting so excited to come home. We just had a huge breakfast thing in the break room because I guess someone is leaving the company and there was this bread there that tasted like coffee cake. Wow it was good! It was sweet but not too sweet and it was topped with brown sugar. I’m going to miss the food here so much! At lunch I had some pancakes with cinnamon sugar on top and they were really good. Like comparable to the family recipe good. Obviously Cuthbertson pancakes are still the best but these are the closest comparison I have ever come close to. Even though I'm excited to go home, saying all these goodbyes has me feeling a little sad. I'm really going to miss it here.

December 19, 2014: I was up before the sun today to catch my train to the airport! I can’t believe it’s already time for me to go home! I will miss a lot of things about being here, although I am beyond excited to see everyone back in Michigan! This trip has been such a blessing and I appreciate everything I have gained from it. Being on my own, in a foreign country, gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I have met so many great people and experienced so much culture in the last three months. There were some really tough times that made me want to come home, but it was more than worth it to stick it out. And I can only hope that one day I will return :)