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
October 31, 2014: It’s Friday which means I get to travel in a few hours! Today one of my coworkers asked if I wanted to join him for lunch and he looked at my computer to see what time it was and suggest a time to go. However my computer still reads U.S. time (I need an administrator password to change it), so the clock read 6:24 AM at the time. He asked me what AM meant! I guess it didn’t occur to me Europeans don’t know AM/PM because they use military time here so there is no need for it! I had this burrito thing for lunch. I don’t even know what was in it, but man it was good! The guy I was eating with had one too and he asked if I minded if he ate with his hands. Absolutely not! So I got to eat my burrito and French fries with my hands, as they should be! He was telling me how offensive it is if you eat with your hands in Europe ... oops -- I might have accidentally done that a few times. I was surprised how many people were dressed up for Halloween! Not so much during the day, but when I got to the train station there were some interesting outfits! I noticed they don’t have any “cute” costumes here (like how the U.S. has kitty cats, princesses etc..). They are all dressed in very thick makeup with scary looking outfits.
November 1, 2014: I had my first experience sleeping in a train bed cot last night/this morning. It wasn’t that bad actually. I got about 9 hours of sleep. The only trouble I ran into was finding the cot. Apparently this particular train (or maybe it’s all night trains) has certain cars that go to certain places. I was originally in the car going to Berlin when I needed to be in the one going to Prague. That was an easy fix though. When the guy came around to check tickets he just told me to walk back a couple cars. Since I got to Prague in the morning, I had plenty of time to explore! The first thing I noticed is there are no pedestrian crosswalk signs, which is actually really nice compared to Germany. In Germany if you walk when the crosswalk isn’t green or cross the street somewhere other than the designated crosswalk, you get a lot of dirty looks. And I’m sorry, but if there are no cars coming, I’m going to cross the street! So Prague is a little bit more American style because you can literally cross the street at any place in the road at anytime and it was so nice.
Scenes from Rachael Cuthbertson's experience in the study abroad program.
The second thing I noticed is Prague is super cheap. So I definitely won’t complain about that- especially coming from Switzerland where things are ridiculously expensive. Conveniently, even though their currency is the Crown, they still accept Euros, so I didn’t have to exchange my money either. I covered a lot of sites this weekend. Just to name some of the major ones, I saw The Old-New Synagogue, Jerusalem Synagogue, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Church of Our Lady of Victory, Mala Strana, St. Nicholas Church, Church of Our Lady before Tyn, Powder Tower, and the Old Town Square.
There were a lot of other places I saw too, I’m just not sure on what they were all called. The architecture of the city is just amazing. While I was walking around I noticed a lot of these cylindrical cinnamon bread looking things. I decided to try one (they are called trdelink) and oh my goodness I can see why everyone was eating them. They were melt in your mouth delicious. After doing the majority of my exploring I decided to treat myself to a classic Czech dinner. I found this cute little restaurant on the corner of the street, near the Charles Bridge. I ate outside and they had these cool heaters next to the tables to keep guests warm. I ordered a Czech beer and it was lemon flavored. It tasted like lemonade only better! For my dinner I had spaghetti alla carbonara. It had chunks of bacon (seasoned so well) and it was in a creamy/olive oil sauce all topped with fresh parmesan cheese. It was the by far the greatest pasta dish I have ever tasted. The flavors were so fresh and rich and you could tell it was all made from scratch!
After dinner, I decided to go check into my hostel. I had a much better experience this weekend than last weekend. Not only was the hostel easy to find and near by, but when I got to my room there were actually people there so I was not alone! It turns out Czech Republic has the same electrical plug as Germany (I was told differently), so I was able to charge my phone too. I was also able to connect to the wifi in the lobby which was a relief. One of the girls staying in my room, Tammy, invited me to come with her to check out a bar one of her tour guides had recommended. It was near the hostel so I agreed to come with her. Tammy is from Canada and had stayed in Prague for a couple days after being there for work. I was glad to meet her, as she was good company! We went to Hemingway Bar and it was a very charming place. It was decorated with all things Ernest Hemingway and their drinks were unbelievable! I ordered an “M&M” and it was served in this cute little coffee mug. Tammy ordered “Hemingway Paparazzi” and they served it in a real Canon lens! It was so creative! We stayed for just a drink because I had to be up early to catch my train and we both had really long days, so we were exhausted!
November 2, 2014: I had to catch a train at 5:15am today! I checked out of the hostel and they said it was about a 20 minute walk to the train station- not bad. I took my map and was on my way I was headed in the correct direction but then a man asked me where I was going. So I told him and he told me to go a different way. Since I wasn’t completely confident in my route choice at the time, I listened. Well I should have gone with my gut because I ended up not at the train station. I asked some people at a bus station where I was and they showed me on the map. Considering my train left in 20 minutes there was no way I would be able to walk there in time! So I had to flag down my first taxi! Since it really wasn’t too far and Prague is cheap anyways, it only cost me 4 euros to get to the train station. I was able to catch my train, however it ended up getting delayed over the course of the trip so we arrived at the next station 20 minutes late. I made it to my next train on time but only by about 2 seconds! I finally made it home though! I have to say, traveling is fun but it is exhausting!
November 3, 2014: I had the same swebian dish I had last Monday plus some apple croissant thing for lunch today. It was good but it was no Grandma Clara apple pie :) I left for Switzerland in the afternoon- we had to go see a customer to do testing. We were near the city of Bern and it took us quite a while to get there. In the car on the way there, “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker came on and it made me miss all my sisters so much! (we have a song that goes to the tune). We finally got there around 8pm which is when I got dinner, so I was pretty hungry. The hotel was such a cute little place! It was out in the country and it looked like a house from the outside. It was quite spacious on the inside however and I had my own room. We had to be up early so I went to bed shortly after we arrived.
November 4, 2014: I was up bright and early this morning! We ate breakfast and were on our way to the customer. The view from the hotel was beautiful but the view from the customer was even better! We were able to see The Alps from where they were located! We took a coffee break in the morning (the Europeans love their coffee), and the customer offered us a few different kinds of cookies- naturally I had to try them! The first one is called “Pig ears” since that is the shape of the cookie apparently. It basically tasted like the crust to a pie (homemade not store bought!) so that was pretty good :) The other one was just a basic cookie topped with a piece of swiss chocolate! I got to put my artistic skills to use at work. I had to draw the layout of the equipment so we could take all the measurements. So that was kind of neat. We finally finished around 3:30pm and started back to Germany. Besides breakfast at 7 a.m. and those two small cookies, I didn’t eat all day so I was beyond hungry when we finally got dinner at 7pm! They wanted to wait until we crossed the border because Switzerland is so expensive. Which I can understand but I was so hungry I didn’t even care if I had to pay an absurd amount for food. By the time I got home I was exhausted. I worked 12-hour days Monday and Tuesday so I was ready for bed.
November 5, 2014: Well I was back in the office today at work. As soon as I got there I heard the German train union has decided to go on strike again this weekend (starting Thursday and going until Monday). Apparently it is the longest strike of any other individual industrial labor action in the rail operator’s history...great. So I have no idea what I am going to do this weekend now. I found out I’ll be starting my project next week so that’s exciting! I also had to do a little bit of chemical formation research this afternoon which is always interesting! I watched a little bit of The Big Bang Theory after work. Ironically enough, Sheldon made some sort of comment about his bowel movements (as usual) and he said they were as regular as a German train schedule....as I’m sitting here in Germany in the midst of a train strike.
November 6, 2014: Well I was supposed to go to the bar with some of the interns tonight, but my ride couldn’t get his car to start today so I won’t be going anymore. I finally figured out what is in Maultaschen though! It’s minced pork with chopped spinach and carrots all stuffed in a giant ravioli I guess. It was a struggle after work today. I was still pretty bummed about the train strike and my internet wasn't working so I really had nothing to do. As great of an opportunity this is, I will be glad to be home where I have people to hang out with, a car to get me where I want when I want, and internet to occupy me in my spare time!