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Student Post: Week three in Germany

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 16, 2014: Wow. I had a croissant filled with chocolate at breakfast and oh my goodness it was delicious! Today was a pretty slow day at work. All of the quarterly business unit meetings are going on this week so everyone is pretty crazy busy. I had lunch with Laura again. We talked more about how I like it here, and what it will be like when she visits the U.S. It’s helpful to have someone my age that is in a similar program to mine to talk to. After being here for two weeks, I think it has finally hit me that I get to travel all over Europe. I was looking at my list of places I wanted to go and just realized how awesome this truly is. I just got so excited for all of the adventures that are in store for me! Tonight the engineering group in my department planned to go out for dinner and they invited me! We went to a restaurant called Africana in Ludwigsburg. I had beef and peppers in a peanut flavored sauce. It was served with cooked spinach, beets, fried banana slices (these were so amazingly good), and bread that was basically a crepe. It was all very good, but not what I was expecting for African food at all. It was very helpful to be with my co workers. I was able to ask them questions on the different customs of going out to eat and they were helping me with my German. For example, in Germany when it is time to pay the bill, you have to retell the server what you had and they calculate your bill right there. It is also not necessary to include a tip. If you really want to, 5 percent max is appropriate but servers here have a higher salary that U.S. servers, so a tip is not the bulk of their earnings.

Scenes from Rachael Cuthbertson's third week in Germany in the study abroad program.

October 17, 2014: Well it’s Friday again! I had my first meeting this morning. It was actually an interesting meeting. My boss explained the engineering problem (which related to some testing we did last week), and I was able to participate and understand what was going on. In the end, we decided the customer's specifications were not possible with their given circumstances. I also booked my first hostel today! I haven’t needed one up to this point since all my adventures have been close enough that I can go there and back in a day. I’m getting more and more confident being on my own here. I had lunch with Katrin again today. It is always nice to see her because she always has all this positive energy and she just brightens my day. I ate some baked chicken and potatoes, veggies, pasta with pesto sauce, and I had another type of pudding. That was reallllyyy good but I could not figure out what the flavor was. It had a hint of chocolate but there was definitely something else with it. Well it looks like the train personnel are on strike again this weekend...so I guess I can’t travel anywhere by train...kind of a bummer. My boss has been really helpful though. He gave me a few places I could bike to and suggested possibly meeting up with his family, which is so nice of him to do.

October 18, 2014: I got up this morning and decided to go biking since I couldn’t go anywhere by train. I rode to Ludwigsburg to see Monrepos. It was so beautiful- there was the Monrepos castle, a lake, horses, a golf course, hotel and restaurant. The ride there was so peaceful too. It was through the countryside so it was very relaxing. After I explored all of the property I went and sat by the lake and read my book. It was gorgeous weather- 75 and sunny! I couldn’t believe it! Later in the afternoon I came back home to get some lunch. Then I walked to downtown Bietigheim and got some ice cream. It was still really nice outside so I went and sat in the park and read some more. I couldn’t help but be outside and relax. It was almost like the summer we didn’t have in Michigan. Although I didn’t explore as much as I had originally planned, and I didn’t get to travel as far as I wanted, I still made the best of it given the circumstances I think.

October 19, 2014: This afternoon, I met with my boss and his family. They took me to the Maulbronn Monastery and it was beautiful. The lady at the admission table knew I wasn’t their kid but she just let me pass and counted me into the “family package”- so all of the kids were free. Then we took the tour and it was amazing. They packed a picnic that we ate on a bench in the courtyard of the monastery. Afterwards, we continued our journey around and found some ice cream (so creamy and delicious) and a lake with a beautiful path around it. We had pretty much seen everything by that point so I assumed they were going to take me back home. They surprised me though and told me they had planned a dinner for us back at their place, which I thought was very generous of them. We went back and I played with their kids while we waited for dinner. They were sooo cute! They had three boys- Phillipp, Eustis, and Peter. They were roughly the ages of 9, 7, and 4 probably. They were all speaking German of course, but they wanted to play Monopoly which I knew how to play so it worked out. Phillipp drew me a picture, and Eustis and Peter were kept holding my hands and arms pulling me around trying to show me all of their games and legos. They were so sweet. After we finished dinner it was time for the boys to start getting ready for bed, so my boss drove me home. This was definitely not the weekend I had planned but I think it all worked out very well :)

October 20, 2014: Well it’s Monday morning again. Today I had an earlier start than usual. I had to be to work by 7 in order to leave the office in time to go see a customer and do some testing. It was cool to do more testing and see a new system. However, we think their system had a leak because there was a really strong odor from the solvent. It smelled awful and gave us all headaches. Luckily there was a door that we were able to stand by frequently to get some fresh air. We weren’t sure if they were going to provide us with lunch so we stopped at a bakery on our way just in case. I saw a cinnamon roll and had to get it. They did end up providing us with lunch though. We had potato soup with sausage in it and a fresh baked roll. There was also this pudding stuff which I found out translates to “semolina” in English, and it was topped with cranberry sauce. I did eat my cinnamon roll on the way home though and wow. It was just so good. We didn’t get back until 5:30 though so that took my whole day and it went by really fast!

October 21, 2014: I had a surprise training session this morning. Those are always kind of nice because things like that make my days go by a lot faster! The training was interesting too. The guy was teaching us how to use the combustion calculation tool he designed (it is so detailed and helpful, I can’t even imagine how much time he has put into it). It really is an all in one calculator for any type of system you could possibly want to design. One thing I do want to say, I think it’s so cool that every morning my boss makes sure to greet everyone in his department with a handshake and a “good morning”. It makes me feel like he really values all of us, and I just think that’s so respectable that he does that. Ahh I’m so excited! I just got an overview of one of the projects I will be working on this term! I am going to be doing testing with one of our systems and looking at the composition of the outlet stream with certain chemicals. This is great! They will be training me so I can operate the system by myself and conduct the entire experiment! I’ve never had this much responsibility at work before so I’m excited! This will give me so much experience and skills that I can hopefully put to use when I get back to work in the US.

October 22, 2014: I had another training session today! It was all about catalysts! Which was neat because I got to listen to people talk about chemical reactions all day :) For lunch I had a slice of bread with my meal and it totally tasted like beer. It was really strange but kind of good at the same time. I  had a conversation with one of my coworkers about his visit to the US and I was laughing so hard. He was explaining to me how he went to see a Tigers game and how confused he was about what was going on. Then he went to Hockeytown and loved the environment. And he was just raving about how good our cheeseburgers and fries were! It was awesome! It’s really interesting to hear about your hometown from a foreigner's point of view. Things seem so normal to me but I guess they are really different if you didn’t grow up there- just like things are different for me since I didn’t grow up here. Some of the interns invited me to go out with them tonight after work! We went to a bar in Ludwigsburg. It was fun and I enjoyed getting to know them outside of a work setting. But it made me miss my friends back home!

October 23, 2014: Well I finally got my work visa this morning! I got this cool official Deutschland sticker in my passport! I’m so happy it is finally taken care of. I have to go back one more time, but not until the end of the term. I basically just need to notify the city that I am returning to the US. This morning I tried this cake looking thing for breakfast. I think it was supposed to be a coffee cake equivalent? But it was basically just cake with apples on top haha. Definitely no comparison to the family recipe :) I planned out the details of my weekend trip today and it took me about 2 hours to figure out what I want to see and map it all out! Hopefully my planning pays off! I’ve got a lot planned for the weekend, and fingers crossed there aren’t anymore strikes! I had lunch with a new group of coworkers. It’s really great having lunch with different people everyday- it gives me a chance to get to know everyone a little better. They were all asking me where I was planning to go and they all just think it’s funny how many places I’m going to travel in the short time I will be here. I had a traditional Swabian dish for lunch today. It’s called Maultaschen. It doesn’t have a translation to English but it’s a basically a massive ravioli stuffed with (not really sure??). It was really really delicious. And for dessert I had a waffle with a chocolate type pudding sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Yummmy!! Random side note- the more time I spend here the more I learn about myself. I’ve realized I can still  be independent even if I ask people for help sometimes. Whether I’m asking a random person on the street for directions or asking a coworker about German customs, it’s not a big deal to get help every once in a while. This trip has taken a lot of courage for me and it has been scary at times. Most of the time, I don’t have much of a choice other than to suck it up and just do whatever I’m afraid of. It’s made me realize how capable I am of achieving what I want in life, no matter how intimidating the situation is.