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Student Post: Learning the culture in Europe

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

November 7, 2014: I still have no idea what I’m doing this weekend since there is a strike. Maybe I’ll just take it easy- watch TV, read, FaceTime people from home. I had some fish, potatoes and vegetables for lunch today - nothing special. I tried some chocolate cake with berries on the bottom, but the berries were really sour and the cake was not really chocolatey so I didn’t really like that. I did have some sauerkraut though and I have to say it is a completely different food here. It is so good! I got to Skype with my grandparents tonight! It was really nice to see them since I haven’t seen them since I left.

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

November 8, 2014: This morning I got up and had some breakfast at the hotel. I had a few errands to run in downtown Bietigheim-Bissingen, so I went and took care of those. I went to the bank, had to find a winter headband to keep my ears warm (since I lost mine in Prague), and did some looking around for Christmas gifts. It was a really nice fall day - 50 and sunny. I stopped at a bakery for lunch and got a roll with (Asiago?) cheese baked into it. It was really yummy!

November 9, 2014: I didn’t really do anything too exciting today. Pretty much just took it easy since I couldn't really go anywhere. It was kind of nice to just relax this weekend though, after all the traveling I have been doing.

November 10, 2014: Well, back to work this morning! I had a delicious lunch today! I had chicken on the bone and gnocchi in a squash sauce (I didn’t like that very much). I also had this amazing dessert. It was an apricot pie filling inside some type of dough topped with cinnamon sugar! It wasn’t bread like or pie crust like. It was actually similar to the fruit dumplings I had in Prague.

I had to travel to another customer today. We went to the city of Kronach in Germany. I’ve noticed there are no “rest stops” along the highway. They have a side road you can literally stop at, but there are no restrooms! We arrived around 5:30 p.m. and we met back up for dinner at 6:30 p.m. We met with Tim (works for LTB which is partnered with Durr). He is from England and has an awesome British accent. He knows German but prefers English so it was really nice to be able to talk to him throughout the night. He showed us around the Old Town Square and then we went to dinner. I had the common dish of Schnitzel filled with ham and cheese and served with a side salad and fries.

Tim taught me a lot throughout the course of dinner! We were talking about differences between Europe, U.S. and U.K. Some things I learned tonight: In Europe, windows open inward not outward (which makes sense because then you can clean them without getting on a ladder); their blinds are able to make a room pitch black, soundproof, and insulated; the lawn is forbidden to be mowed on Sunday; cars can’t be washed in the street; and trucks are not allowed on the roads on Sunday.

November 11, 2014: Just something I’ve noticed from traveling- when staying at a hotel in Europe, you pay for your stay at checkout not check in. The company we went to today is called Wiegand-Glas. After the meeting we got a tour of the plant. I have to say this was the coolest plant I have seen in all of my trips to different customers! This plant can store up to 360,000 tons of glass and recycles 2,000 tons per day which makes them the largest glass recycling plant in the world! They even let me take my picture in front of the Jagermeister bottle production line! It was so cool to see the process.

After the glass was melted down, it was cut into sections (as a liquid!) and sent down the line where I was able to see it blown into shape. We had to climb 21 flights of stairs in all to see the different pieces of equipment! The second customer we were supposed to meet with that day cancelled in the early morning. So my boss decided we were going to go on an excursion. It was awesome! We drove to the city of Bamberg which is also known as “Little Venice” due to all of the water in the city. It was very beautiful. We found a cafe and had cheesecake (since we hadn’t had lunch and it was 3 p.m.).

I never knew why American cheesecake was always called “New York Style” because I didn’t know any other kind of cheesecake. Well now I know why. In Germany, instead of a graham cracker crust, it’s actual cake beneath the cheesecake. It was good but I think I like the graham cracker crust better :)

Then we went and saw the Dom zu Bamberg. It was a very beautiful church and there was a small part beneath the church you could walk and see. That’s where the graves of all the bishops were! Yikes! We then proceeded to drive to Wurzburg, which is where my boss grew up. I learned so much about the town history being with Germans who could tell me about it. We walked around town, and he showed us different churches, museums, and palaces. I don’t really know any of their names. There was a bridge over a river (it looked a lot like the Charles Bridge in Prague) and it was so cool.

The restaurant we went to was right on the bridge and people we standing on the bridge drinking wine and having dinner. We ate inside however and it was a very charming place. Our food was brought out very quickly (which was a little surprising). My boss recommended me the pork shoulder served with some type of vegetables with sauce and homemade bread dumplings served with gravy. It basically tasted like stuffing. I am going to consider that meal my Thanksgiving dinner. I actually had to explain what the meaning behind Thanksgiving was today. I think that is the first time I have ever had to do that. It was getting late though so we drove back to Bietigheim.

I’ve seen people texting and driving all the time in the U.S., but tonight I saw someone reading and driving. We were next to him for a while and he was just reading away...I was not expecting any of this when I left for a business trip but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go!

November 12, 2014: I am back in the office today! It is kind of nice to be back “home”. I will only be in Bietigheim three nights this week, as I have a lot of traveling scheduled! I had to plan out my Rome trip today. I mapped out all the sites I will be going to and I will be doing a lot of walking that’s for sure! Today for lunch I had pork with gravy, sautéed spinach, and pasta with a pumpkin sauce. It was good, nothing too special though.