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A new worldview from Eastern Europe

Story & Photos by Cassi J. Cline
HNC European Correspondent

Journalism major Cassi Cline continues HNC’s series of glimpses from overseas with this report from her study-abroad home on the German-Polish border.

FRANKFURT-ODER, GERMANY—The rumbling of cars passing on cobblestone streets and horns blaring beckons in the morning as fog hangs in the chill air. The church bells begin to chime—it is 9 in the morning as I look out over the hazy world to see traffic over the bridge between Slubice, Poland, and Frankfurt-Oder, Germany.

I watch from my seventh-story window as the Oder River briskly makes its journey under the bridge and north to more distant lands. People hurry past traffic to work and school, scarves wrapped around their necks and bracing jackets against the chill morning.

I stop to think about Logan with its glorious and proud mountains and how the first snows have already begun to fall in Cache Valley. I think for a moment of how I miss those mountains and the busy-ness that Utah State University ushers in every weekday morning.

Life seems slower in Europe, where my classes begin no earlier than 9 and even coffee shops and bakeries open their doors in the late morning hours. However different Germany may be from the U.S., I’ve learned to love it all the same.

Frankfurt-Oder is a small town, populated mostly by university students from around the world. I have made friends here from Turkey, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Mexico and more. If you don’t understand the German language, you have a multitude of languages spoken here—from Spanish to Russian, and almost everyone speaks a little to perfect English.

The European-University Viadrina is an international school that offers three faculties in business, economics and cultural and social sciences. Classes are taught in Spanish, English, Polish and German, plus many different language courses from the beginning to advanced levels. The school offers many options for any student looking to study abroad.

Besides academics, the geographical location is pleasant. Germany has two Frankfurts—the one where I am studying is the smaller of the two, lying one hour east of Berlin and separated from Poland only by the Oder. Look it up on Googlemaps to give you an idea of the location.

You can walk to Poland to buy cheap products or food, or travel to Berlin to see the sights and experience German urban culture. Granted, it could never replace beautiful Cache Valley, but it gives a unique perspective on how others live and a unique experience when trying to navigate German bureaucracy.

As much as we make fun of how organized Germans are and how punctual they seem to be, it’s not always the case. For example, if you need to talk to the housing office, Studentwerk, about rent payment, you have a few options. You can email them, but it takes them at least a week or two to get back to you. Or you can call the office or make an appearance, but the office hours are only two hours a week.

In either case you wait at least a week before you can talk to anyone and get your questions answered. The system can be frustrating at times and here it seems a little less than organized, but it gives light to experience and hopefully it will teach me a little patience.

So far, I feel Germany is giving me a chance to grow a little and understand the world at large. As much as Americans boast about being a political power in this world, sometimes I think we fail to realize that there is more to the world than just America and American ideology.

If you have a chance to wander the world, do it. Save a couple thousand dollars, find the cheapest plane ticket to Europe, and spend a month or two wandering around. You will be amazed at how differently and simply people live here. Plus once you’re in Europe, travel becomes a lot cheaper. For example, I have a friend from Brazil who went to Italy for four days and spent around $40 for a roundtrip ticket.

My other suggestions are not only to travel and enjoy the unknown world across the sea, but to live in another country for at least six months. Assimilate to that society and realize there are ways to adapt to how others live.

The experience can and will change you, and that’s never a bad thing. Take the advice of the writer Harper Lee in her book To Kill a Mocking Bird and try wearing someone else’s shoes for a while to get to know them.

TP