Posts by Jonathan B.

 
 
 

Strasbourg and Mannheim

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Last Saturday, some other RISE students and I checked out what has come to be known as the legislative capital of Europe- Strasbourg! Ahmad, Charlie, Cheng, Josh, and I were able to get there for only about 15 Euros each by splitting a Baden-Württemberg-Ticket,which is good for groups of up to five throughout the German state, then paying 3,90 essentially to cross the border into France. A lot has been said about the “futuristic” trams that run in and around Strasbourg with comfortable seating, expansive windows, and a sleek design. I, however, was just extremely annoyed to be packed in with about a hundred other people on the 2-3 car long vehicles. Would it have been that difficult to keep the fancy design AND make them long enough to accommodate a regular load of passengers? Once we arrived of course, the fresh air and wide open park in front of the central train station were all the more welcoming. It felt good to be in France.

After snapping a quick group photo in front of the futuristic-looking train station, we headed straight for the city’s historic city center- a UNESCO site (so it has to be good!). Beautiful old European architecture, including some pretty white-timber framed buildings filled the island that made up the old town. Charlie, Josh, and I got lunch at a restaurant on the riverside while Ahmad and Cheng did some wandering. I had one of the best and definitely the most expensive cheeseburger in my life. Still not sure if it was worth it, but hey, the French know food and I’m sure it will be a while before I make it back to France. Reunited with Ahmad and Cheng after lunch, we visited the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. It’s said to be one of the best Gothic cathedrals in the world and for a while, it was even the tallest building in the world (from 1647-1874). Next, we walked north to check out some grandiose government buildings. The stuff near Place de la République was all pretty nice, but the best and furthest away were definitely the European Parliament buildings way up near the NE-edge of our map. We saw the colossal Palace of Europe and abstractly-designed Hemicycle (the blue sheep I mentioned in a previous blog post were also here). Afterward, we made our way south, hoping to check out the botanical garden, but we were greeted instead by a pointy fence. A wrong turn did lead us to stumble upon Rue Beethoven (Beethoven street). As a mediocre violinist, I found that pretty cool, but was shocked to learn that SOMEONE in the group did not know who Beethoven was! Kids these days . . .
               
So, we kept walking south and eventually made it to the highly-anticipated Citadelle. Only the Citadelle was really just an ugly fort by the river that no one bothered to tear down, so that was kind of disappointing. The park surrounding the eyesore was pretty nice though. I especially liked seeing basketball courts and what was essentially an outdoor gym. There was an elliptical trainer and even several pull-up bars! I have this weird obsession with searching for structures that I can do a couple of pull-ups on after completing a run, so I was happy to see that the French share this eccentricity of mine. At this point, we only had about two hours left to spend in Strasbourg. This time was well spent stocking up on some French goodies at a grocery store we found on the way back to the train station. To our chagrin, the “futuristic” ticket machines at the train station only accepted credit cards, so we had to run to the ticket office before it closed to buy our train tickets back to Deutschland. I kind of see the value in encouraging a complete switch from cash to credit (less chance of armed robbery, etc.). At the same time, however, a currency system that relies entirely on computers doesn’t seem that reliable to me. But enough negativity, all in all it was a great trip. Strasbourg has even been a sister city with Boston since 1960! The Esplanade is an amazing park back home, but did you know the name comes from the French word for an open field in front of a citadelle? Now you know!

I should end here, but I want to spend at least a little time talking about Mannheim, a city just up the river from Heidelberg. The same group of students went, just subtract Charlie and Josh and replace them with my pals Ilyas and Lorenzo. The tour of the city started with a visit to the Wasserturm (watertower), which was constructed back in the 1880s and today is a symbol of the city. We then walked over to Paradeplatz (Parade square) which had a nice monument in the center, followed by the Schloss, a former castle now used by the University of Mannheim. Next up was the Jesuitkirche (Jesuit Church) which had a very ornate interior. Then, we walked over to Schillerplatz (Schiller square) where I translated the words on a memorial for the Trümmerfrauen(“rubble women”) who cleaned up the rubble stone by stone after WWII and helped to rebuild the city. At the end, we took a nice stroll along the Neckar and explored Luisenpark a bit before heading back to Heidelberg.

I know, this short summary really doesn’t do justice to Mannheim. I have a feeling I’ll be back in Mannheim quite soon, however, stay tuned! Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!

Czeching out Prague

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

It was Friday night. I was standing outside of Prague main railway station with my friend Ahmad thinking that our trip was over before it had even started. Why wasn’t the number that Peter gave me working? I took a deep breath, exhaled, and suddenly remembered a piece of advice that Dylan gave me back in Venice. “We have to dial two zeros before our numbers for our phones to work.” I tried again and breathed a sigh of relief as I heard Peter’s voice on the other end. “Hey, you made it,” Peter said in a surprised voice. It was the first of many jokes that my friend Tomas’s father would make throughout an unforgettable weekend in the Czech Republic.

Saturday was dedicated to exploring the Czech region of Bohemia. The Melrosian family that Ahmad and I were staying with took us first to Žlleby castle. The medieval castle was filled with suits of armor, art, and other cool stuff, but unfortunately for all of you, pictures were forbidden during the tour. It’s worth checking out, however, if you ever make it out to Zleby! After lunch, we drove to the town of Kutná Hora, home of the stunning, UNESCO-certified St. Barbara’s Church. While the interior of the church was indeed amazing, it’s the walk along Baborská street leading up to the church that I enjoyed the most. Besides the breathtaking view, Peter pointed out all these traces of sea life that one could see in the sandstone wall along the street. A long time ago, Bohemia was actually underwater and although the Czech Republic is now a landlocked country, Peter was still proud of the fact that his homeland has a navy! The other part of the walk that I enjoyed was a certain little someone constantly stopping to lie down in the street to snap silly self-portraits of himself with the family’s iPad (aka Bob).      

Bob got a chance to rest at our next stop- the family’s cottage, where Peter spent his summers growing up. Here, Ahmad and I got a chance to help the family out with some good old fashioned yard work and I mean it when I say old-fashioned! No power tools, just a scythe (the thing the grim reaper carries) and a few sickles (think Communist flag without the hammer). In under an hour, we had the whole front lawn mowed and then had some time to play a modified version of cricket involving a frisbee and bouncy ball. As dusk began to set in, we piled back into the car and headed back to the family’s apartment in Pardubice. I could tell everyone was pretty tired, but Peter insisted on giving Ahmad and I a quick tour of his hometown. He showed us the main sights of the city and we had a good informal chat about life. Someone made an amusing slip of tongue that led us all to agree that there not only needs to be more discourse between peoples of the world, but intercourse as well. In addition, I found it fascinating that Peter’s one big wish for the US is that more Americans learn a second language. It is only through learning another language that you realize that the other guys you think are so strange and perhaps dangerous are more similar to yourself than you think. I had never really thought of learning German before as a way of building world harmony, but now I have extra motivation to both maintain my German when return to the US and perhaps start learning a new language.

On Sunday, Peter gave us all a grand tour of Prague. Even though Ahmad and I were only able to spend about five hours exploring the city, for much of the time in the rain, we both agreed that it was one of the best European cities we had visited and resolved to come back in the future. In order to see everything as efficiently as possible, we began on the west side of the city up on Prague Castle and worked our way east toward the main railway station. The castle complex was really something else. The Czech Republic’s president has Royal Gardens, St. Vitus Cathedral, and spectacular views surrounding his official residence. The lucky bloke doesn’t even have to mow the lawn- a robot lawn mower takes care of that. Next, before crossing the famous Charles Bridge, we visited the Infant Jesus of Prague in the Church of Our Lady Victorious. The wax-coated wooden statue has an interesting history worth looking into if you have time. Afterward, we spent the remainder of our time walking around the Staré Město (old town) and Nové Město (new town). We stopped in another nice church called Our Lady of the Snows before rushing over to see the astronomical clock in the Old Town Square strike 4 PM. An automated procession of apostles and Death emptying his hourglass occurs once an hour, often above a large crowd of tourists. As our own time winded down, we walked along the grand Wenceslas Square (more of a boulevard than square) to pay our respects at a memorial for victims of communism and to take a group picture in front of the National Museum. It was sad to say good-bye to the family back at the train station so soon, but I will see my neighbors again in August once we are all back in Melrose. Děkuji Peter, Maria, Tomas and the rest of the family for a wonderful time! Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!        


  

Czeching out Prague

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

It was Friday night. I was standing outside of Prague main railway station with my friend Ahmad thinking that our trip was over before it had even started. Why wasn’t the number that Peter gave me working? I took a deep breath, exhaled, and suddenly remembered a piece of advice that Dylan gave me back in Venice. “We have to dial two zeros before our numbers for our phones to work.” I tried again and breathed a sigh of relief as I heard Peter’s voice on the other end. “Hey, you made it,” Peter said in a surprised voice. It was the first of many jokes that my friend Tomas’s father would make throughout an unforgettable weekend in the Czech Republic.

Saturday was dedicated to exploring the Czech region of Bohemia. The Melrosian family that Ahmad and I were staying with took us first to Žlleby castle. The medieval castle was filled with suits of armor, art, and other cool stuff, but unfortunately for all of you, pictures were forbidden during the tour. It’s worth checking out, however, if you ever make it out to Zleby! After lunch, we drove to the town of Kutná Hora, home of the stunning, UNESCO-certified St. Barbara’s Church. While the interior of the church was indeed amazing, it’s the walk along Baborská street leading up to the church that I enjoyed the most. Besides the breathtaking view, Peter pointed out all these traces of sea life that one could see in the sandstone wall along the street. A long time ago, Bohemia was actually underwater and although the Czech Republic is now a landlocked country, Peter was still proud of the fact that his homeland has a navy! The other part of the walk that I enjoyed was a certain little someone constantly stopping to lie down in the street to snap silly self-portraits of himself with the family’s iPad (aka Bob).      

Bob got a chance to rest at our next stop- the family’s cottage, where Peter spent his summers growing up. Here, Ahmad and I got a chance to help the family out with some good old fashioned yard work and I mean it when I say old-fashioned! No power tools, just a scythe (the thing the grim reaper carries) and a few sickles (think Communist flag without the hammer). In under an hour, we had the whole front lawn mowed and then had some time to play a modified version of cricket involving a frisbee and bouncy ball. As dusk began to set in, we piled back into the car and headed back to the family’s apartment in Pardubice. I could tell everyone was pretty tired, but Peter insisted on giving Ahmad and I a quick tour of his hometown. He showed us the main sights of the city and we had a good informal chat about life. Someone made an amusing slip of tongue that led us all to agree that there not only needs to be more discourse between peoples of the world, but intercourse as well. In addition, I found it fascinating that Peter’s one big wish for the US is that more Americans learn a second language. It is only through learning another language that you realize that the other guys you think are so strange and perhaps dangerous are more similar to yourself than you think. I had never really thought of learning German before as a way of building world harmony, but now I have extra motivation to both maintain my German when return to the US and perhaps start learning a new language.

On Sunday, Peter gave us all a grand tour of Prague. Even though Ahmad and I were only able to spend about five hours exploring the city, for much of the time in the rain, we both agreed that it was one of the best European cities we had visited and resolved to come back in the future. In order to see everything as efficiently as possible, we began on the west side of the city up on Prague Castle and worked our way east toward the main railway station. The castle complex was really something else. The Czech Republic’s president has Royal Gardens, St. Vitus Cathedral, and spectacular views surrounding his official residence. The lucky bloke doesn’t even have to mow the lawn- a robot lawn mower takes care of that. Next, before crossing the famous Charles Bridge, we visited the Infant Jesus of Prague in the Church of Our Lady Victorious. The wax-coated wooden statue has an interesting history worth looking into if you have time. Afterward, we spent the remainder of our time walking around the Staré Město (old town) and Nové Město (new town). We stopped in another nice church called Our Lady of the Snows before rushing over to see the astronomical clock in the Old Town Square strike 4 PM. An automated procession of apostles and Death emptying his hourglass occurs once an hour, often above a large crowd of tourists. As our own time winded down, we walked along the grand Wenceslas Square (more of a boulevard than square) to pay our respects at a memorial for victims of communism and to take a group picture in front of the National Museum. It was sad to say good-bye to the family back at the train station so soon, but I will see my neighbors again in August once we are all back in Melrose. Děkuji Peter, Maria, Tomas and the rest of the family for a wonderful time! Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!        


  

RISE conference

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I’m doing a summer internship in Heidelberg right now. Simultaneously, there are about 300 other American, British, and Canadian students doing similar internships all across Germany. What connects us all is a program called RISE (Research In Science and Engineering) that is the brainchild of DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), an independent organization that receives 411 million Euros of funding from the German government every year to support international exchange of students and scholars. It’s a good example of the things government has money for when it operates on a balanced budget.

Politics aside though, this past weekend, DAAD organized this big 3-day conference right here in Heidelberg to give all of us student interns a chance to meet each other, learn about each other’s projects, and get recruited by German companies/post-graduate programs. It took me a whopping 20 minutes to get to the youth hostel on my bike where we all stayed for the duration of the meeting. After checking in and getting a bag full of goodies from DAAD (German dictionary anyone?), we were treated to lunch at the hostel, which for a hostel, was actually a quite good meal. Then, the organizers bussed us all to the Alte Aula (old assembly hall) for the opening ceremony. I was a little bummed out, since I was missing a talk by a Nobel laureate happening back on campus, but when I saw the ornately decorated room that looked much too fancy for a bunch of twenty-somethings in T-shirts and shorts, I convinced myself that there will be more Nobel talks in the future. The ceremony itself was all right. It basically went back and forth between short welcome addresses and music from a Brazilian music trio with a saxophonist that is a DAAD alumni. The highlight for me was the keynote address from Dr. Robert Rosenberg from Transylvania University. He gave us some interesting ideas to think about, including “if you’re having fun at your internship and not becoming frustrated, impatient, or losing sleep, then what you’re doing probably isn’t real research.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, we were again ushered out of the auditorium and sent on our way to the Kulturbrauerei, a brewery five minutes by foot from my fraternity and one of the few places in town that can accommodate a party of 200. The banquet was the last item on the schedule for the day, so we were all free to do whatever afterward. Ilyas, Ahmad, and Andrey (intern in Aachen) made our way  back following the Neckar, taking silly pictures along the way. With another student, we played the boardgame Carcassonne back at the hostel. None of us had ever played it before and the instructions were in German. So while we got the main idea of the game, I don’t think we did the scoring correctly. Once Ahmad became the first to surpass 25 points we decided to call it a night.

Friday morning was interesting, since we got the chance to be courted by different companies and graduate programs from across Germany. Although at this point, there is a better chance of me dying my hair pink than doing a graduate program in Germany, it was still really interesting to learn about the vast array of opportunities that are available to American college graduates in Germany. Most don’t even require any knowledge of German. For me, the most compelling presentation was done by the Max Planck Institute for Biological Sciences in Tübingen. Their PhD programs are fully-funded so all you have to worry about is your research project. The one argument I really didn’t buy, however, was that a PhD from Germany is of the same value as a PhD from the US. At the moment, I think you should get your degree from the country you plan on working in. I am sure I would do just fine with a PhD from Tübingen, but that would likely mean a long term commitment to my pal Deutschland, which I just can’t do at this point in my life. I’ll never forget the Egyptian graduate student I met in Mainz that was really confused as to why  I, an American, was studying in Germany. He told me he’d do anything to study in the US, but the University of Mainz was the best offer he could get, so that’s why he’s there.

After another satisfying lunch at the hostel, I embarked with the rest of the interns on our free guided tour of Heidelberg. You’re probably wondering what Jonathan is doing on a guided tour of Heidelberg when he’s been living in the Altstadt (Old Town) for the past 8 weeks. The answer is that although I knew all the sights, I really didn’t know the storiesbehind any of the sights or their significance. For that reason, I had a great time just absorbing all that the tour guide had to tell us and realizing how lucky I am to be able to spend three months here.

My apologizes, it looks like this is going to be one of my longer posts. But I can’t stop now, there was another Sommerfest! (Summer Festival). On Friday night, Ahmad, Lorenzo, Shivalik, and I were able to go to the hospital-sponsored Carribean night at Schwimmbad Club (Swimming pool club) where there had been public viewings of the soccer games in previous weeks. I thought the first Sommerfest was amazing, but the scale of this one was just mindboggling. Around 5000 tickets were given out to hospital employees and the security was so tight they didn’t even let some woman’s husband in (although employees’ children were admitted for free). There really wasn’t room for anyone extra though in the plaza with an artificial sandy beach on one side and a sea of tables on the other. A great German cover band was hired that played a mix of American and German pop/rock hits and of course, there was an open bar and buffet line. I don’t even want to know what it all cost, but if all the employees are now refreshed and ready to work another year until next year’s Sommerfest (apparently there is a pretty good party right before Christmas too), then I’d dare to say that it was a good use of the hospital’s money. After all, doctors and nurses are people too.  
Needless to say, I needed a cup of coffee on Saturday morning to stay awake for the student presentations on Saturday morning. We split into groups based on subject and got a chance to learn about what some of our fellow interns across Germany are working on. I am happy to report that there is some pretty cool stuff going on in biology. For example, one student is driving around his region in a van painted like a tiger measuring species density for different crops. Another is studying the human immune response following a stroke. My favorite presentation was definitely from this Brit, however, who opened by explaining that the only reason he has a job is because no one does research on neuron cells in the gut. It’s “dark, damp, dreary”. In one word, very “unsexy” he told us. (The thick British accent was key in keeping us all engaged, but the work itself seemed pretty cool too.)

We took a group picture outside after the presentations were over, but you won’t find me in the picture. I was behind a mass of other students, as they pretty much just had us stand in this blob, snapped a quick shot, then told us that lunch was waiting back inside. I can’t complain about lunch though. It was pretty much a finger food buffet, the kind of stuff that will put some pounds on you if you eat it every day, but it was delicious! It was sad saying good-bye to the other RISE students after lunch, but the good thing is that it’s easier than ever before to stay in touch with people through FB, e-mail, etc. I’m sure I’ll run into many of them again in the most random circumstances as life goes on, but hopefully not in prison. Prison is never a good place to be in :)

Okay, no real good way to transition after that last comment. I’ll just end with a short reflection. One thing I think I did really well over the three days of the conference was “living in the moment”. I think for a lot of students my age, it’s tough to balance both enjoying what you have right now and making preparations for what lies ahead in the future. About a year ago, I got wicked excited when I found out about RISE for the first time while surfing online. I dreamed of shaping my own study abroad experience, taking the best of what Midd had to offer and then finding an excuse to stay in this awesome place for the next five months. Now, I’m living the dream! I’m in Heidelberg and I actually pinch myself once in a while to confirm that I’m not dreaming. At the same time, however, I have to plan for the future. There are evenings in which I will hide from the world and read posts on Student Doctor Network or get a head start on learning material for my classes in the fall. It’s this constant back and forth between work and play, being alone and being with others, planning and living. Will I ever strike a perfect balance? Probably not, but that’s okay! It’s definitely a bit corny, but it’s sort of like the “pursuit of happiness” idea in the Declaration of Independence. As long as I’m striving to balance everything that’s going on in my life, that in itself is a sort of balance and something that I think everyone is capable of. Some people can combine their work and play into one passion and continue that passion well after their official retirement without ever burning out. That’s wonderful for them, but I don’t think that’s for me. There’s something about the good vibes I get just being around family/friends after a long day at work or being at work after a long night with friends/family. It’s this vicious, wonderful cycle called life. In one word, it’s anything but “unsexy.” It’s awesome.     

On a less philosophical note, I am leaving the country this weekend to visit a family that lives two houses away from me in Melrose. Only I won’t be going to Melrose. How is that possible? Find out next week! Danke für Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!   

RISE conference

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I’m doing a summer internship in Heidelberg right now. Simultaneously, there are about 300 other American, British, and Canadian students doing similar internships all across Germany. What connects us all is a program called RISE (Research In Science and Engineering) that is the brainchild of DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), an independent organization that receives 411 million Euros of funding from the German government every year to support international exchange of students and scholars. It’s a good example of the things government has money for when it operates on a balanced budget.

Politics aside though, this past weekend, DAAD organized this big 3-day conference right here in Heidelberg to give all of us student interns a chance to meet each other, learn about each other’s projects, and get recruited by German companies/post-graduate programs. It took me a whopping 20 minutes to get to the youth hostel on my bike where we all stayed for the duration of the meeting. After checking in and getting a bag full of goodies from DAAD (German dictionary anyone?), we were treated to lunch at the hostel, which for a hostel, was actually a quite good meal. Then, the organizers bussed us all to the Alte Aula (old assembly hall) for the opening ceremony. I was a little bummed out, since I was missing a talk by a Nobel laureate happening back on campus, but when I saw the ornately decorated room that looked much too fancy for a bunch of twenty-somethings in T-shirts and shorts, I convinced myself that there will be more Nobel talks in the future. The ceremony itself was all right. It basically went back and forth between short welcome addresses and music from a Brazilian music trio with a saxophonist that is a DAAD alumni. The highlight for me was the keynote address from Dr. Robert Rosenberg from Transylvania University. He gave us some interesting ideas to think about, including “if you’re having fun at your internship and not becoming frustrated, impatient, or losing sleep, then what you’re doing probably isn’t real research.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, we were again ushered out of the auditorium and sent on our way to the Kulturbrauerei, a brewery five minutes by foot from my fraternity and one of the few places in town that can accommodate a party of 200. The banquet was the last item on the schedule for the day, so we were all free to do whatever afterward. Ilyas, Ahmad, and Andrey (intern in Aachen) made our way  back following the Neckar, taking silly pictures along the way. With another student, we played the boardgame Carcassonne back at the hostel. None of us had ever played it before and the instructions were in German. So while we got the main idea of the game, I don’t think we did the scoring correctly. Once Ahmad became the first to surpass 25 points we decided to call it a night.

Friday morning was interesting, since we got the chance to be courted by different companies and graduate programs from across Germany. Although at this point, there is a better chance of me dying my hair pink than doing a graduate program in Germany, it was still really interesting to learn about the vast array of opportunities that are available to American college graduates in Germany. Most don’t even require any knowledge of German. For me, the most compelling presentation was done by the Max Planck Institute for Biological Sciences in Tübingen. Their PhD programs are fully-funded so all you have to worry about is your research project. The one argument I really didn’t buy, however, was that a PhD from Germany is of the same value as a PhD from the US. At the moment, I think you should get your degree from the country you plan on working in. I am sure I would do just fine with a PhD from Tübingen, but that would likely mean a long term commitment to my pal Deutschland, which I just can’t do at this point in my life. I’ll never forget the Egyptian graduate student I met in Mainz that was really confused as to why  I, an American, was studying in Germany. He told me he’d do anything to study in the US, but the University of Mainz was the best offer he could get, so that’s why he’s there.

After another satisfying lunch at the hostel, I embarked with the rest of the interns on our free guided tour of Heidelberg. You’re probably wondering what Jonathan is doing on a guided tour of Heidelberg when he’s been living in the Altstadt (Old Town) for the past 8 weeks. The answer is that although I knew all the sights, I really didn’t know the storiesbehind any of the sights or their significance. For that reason, I had a great time just absorbing all that the tour guide had to tell us and realizing how lucky I am to be able to spend three months here.

My apologizes, it looks like this is going to be one of my longer posts. But I can’t stop now, there was another Sommerfest! (Summer Festival). On Friday night, Ahmad, Lorenzo, Shivalik, and I were able to go to the hospital-sponsored Carribean night at Schwimmbad Club (Swimming pool club) where there had been public viewings of the soccer games in previous weeks. I thought the first Sommerfest was amazing, but the scale of this one was just mindboggling. Around 5000 tickets were given out to hospital employees and the security was so tight they didn’t even let some woman’s husband in (although employees’ children were admitted for free). There really wasn’t room for anyone extra though in the plaza with an artificial sandy beach on one side and a sea of tables on the other. A great German cover band was hired that played a mix of American and German pop/rock hits and of course, there was an open bar and buffet line. I don’t even want to know what it all cost, but if all the employees are now refreshed and ready to work another year until next year’s Sommerfest (apparently there is a pretty good party right before Christmas too), then I’d dare to say that it was a good use of the hospital’s money. After all, doctors and nurses are people too.  
Needless to say, I needed a cup of coffee on Saturday morning to stay awake for the student presentations on Saturday morning. We split into groups based on subject and got a chance to learn about what some of our fellow interns across Germany are working on. I am happy to report that there is some pretty cool stuff going on in biology. For example, one student is driving around his region in a van painted like a tiger measuring species density for different crops. Another is studying the human immune response following a stroke. My favorite presentation was definitely from this Brit, however, who opened by explaining that the only reason he has a job is because no one does research on neuron cells in the gut. It’s “dark, damp, dreary”. In one word, very “unsexy” he told us. (The thick British accent was key in keeping us all engaged, but the work itself seemed pretty cool too.)

We took a group picture outside after the presentations were over, but you won’t find me in the picture. I was behind a mass of other students, as they pretty much just had us stand in this blob, snapped a quick shot, then told us that lunch was waiting back inside. I can’t complain about lunch though. It was pretty much a finger food buffet, the kind of stuff that will put some pounds on you if you eat it every day, but it was delicious! It was sad saying good-bye to the other RISE students after lunch, but the good thing is that it’s easier than ever before to stay in touch with people through FB, e-mail, etc. I’m sure I’ll run into many of them again in the most random circumstances as life goes on, but hopefully not in prison. Prison is never a good place to be in :)

Okay, no real good way to transition after that last comment. I’ll just end with a short reflection. One thing I think I did really well over the three days of the conference was “living in the moment”. I think for a lot of students my age, it’s tough to balance both enjoying what you have right now and making preparations for what lies ahead in the future. About a year ago, I got wicked excited when I found out about RISE for the first time while surfing online. I dreamed of shaping my own study abroad experience, taking the best of what Midd had to offer and then finding an excuse to stay in this awesome place for the next five months. Now, I’m living the dream! I’m in Heidelberg and I actually pinch myself once in a while to confirm that I’m not dreaming. At the same time, however, I have to plan for the future. There are evenings in which I will hide from the world and read posts on Student Doctor Network or get a head start on learning material for my classes in the fall. It’s this constant back and forth between work and play, being alone and being with others, planning and living. Will I ever strike a perfect balance? Probably not, but that’s okay! It’s definitely a bit corny, but it’s sort of like the “pursuit of happiness” idea in the Declaration of Independence. As long as I’m striving to balance everything that’s going on in my life, that in itself is a sort of balance and something that I think everyone is capable of. Some people can combine their work and play into one passion and continue that passion well after their official retirement without ever burning out. That’s wonderful for them, but I don’t think that’s for me. There’s something about the good vibes I get just being around family/friends after a long day at work or being at work after a long night with friends/family. It’s this vicious, wonderful cycle called life. In one word, it’s anything but “unsexy.” It’s awesome.     

On a less philosophical note, I am leaving the country this weekend to visit a family that lives two houses away from me in Melrose. Only I won’t be going to Melrose. How is that possible? Find out next week! Danke für Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!   

Roadtrip to Rotterdam

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to return to the Netherlands, this time with my American friend Shivalik and German friend Niclas. The goal of the trip was to go beyond Amsterdam to see the rest of the country. While Amsterdam is definitely an awesome city, Shivalik pointed out that conversations with people who travel to the Netherlands tend to go something like this:” Where did you go? The Netherlands. Where were you in the Netherlands? Amsterdam.” At the end of the weekend, I can confirm that we achieved this goal. Two days were still not enough to truly experience the land of tulips and cheese, but it was a great time nonetheless.

We arrived in Rotterdam via Niclas’s car late Friday night (the Autobahn is fast, but not that fast), so other than exploring Witte de Withstraat, which seemed to be an area where lots of students hang out and walking across the Erasmus bridge to take in the city’s amazing skyline, we had to wait until Saturday to properly explore the city. After a nice canned breakfast catered by REWE, we made a trek over to info center at the Centraal Station to pick up a map of the city. From there, we followed part of the “Architecture Walking Tour” back to the City Hall, where our car was parked, Laurenskerk, a medieval church that was the only late Gothic building to survive the Rotterdam Blitz, and my personal favorite, the Cube Houses (see pictures on FB). I felt mixed emotions walking around all the stunning modern architecture. I think the natives of Rotterdam really did a marvelous job rebuilding their city after WII, but it was only possible because the old city was completely leveled by the German Air Force. One can really see the worst and best sides of humanity by looking at pictures of the city in 1940 and then today.

We checked out Rotterdam’s Chinatown to try to find something good for lunch, but all of the restaurants were really expensive. Luckily, we were able to convince good ol’ Aldi to provide lunch for us at a reasonable price before continuing our journey up north to the Hague. Back in the car, I was a bit bummed that Niclas wanted to skip both this picturesque town called Delft and the central part of the Hague to head straight for the beach in Scheveningen, but he was the driver, so I didn’t want to give him a hard time. When we arrived at the beach, however, I had a change of heart. I realized that I hadn’t gone for a swim in nine months! It was the most amazing feeling in the world to run into the North Sea for the first time and dive in head first. I think Niclas and I lasted a good 5-10 minutes before the adrenaline disappeared and the cold set in. In any case, we chilled at the beach (it actually did start to get cold with the wind) afterward until it started to get dark and then found a reasonably priced Thai restaurant on Keizerstraat for dinner. Unfortunately, it rained a bit Saturday night, but I got Shivalik and Niclas to play a couple rounds of 20 Questions with me before we called it a night.

Sunday was spent making our way back to Heidelberg. Since neither Niclas nor Shivalik had ever been to Cologne before, we stopped there for about two hours on the way back to see the city’s iconic cathedral. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my first time in the city with my Midd pal Dylan back in December. What was cool for me was also getting to see the inside of the cathedral this time around, as well as making the journey to the top of one of its towering steeples. I doubt I’ll make it to Cologne a third time before heading back to the US in five weeks, but some more adventures for the conclusion of my time abroad are definitely in the works! Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!           

Roadtrip to Rotterdam

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to return to the Netherlands, this time with my American friend Shivalik and German friend Niclas. The goal of the trip was to go beyond Amsterdam to see the rest of the country. While Amsterdam is definitely an awesome city, Shivalik pointed out that conversations with people who travel to the Netherlands tend to go something like this:” Where did you go? The Netherlands. Where were you in the Netherlands? Amsterdam.” At the end of the weekend, I can confirm that we achieved this goal. Two days were still not enough to truly experience the land of tulips and cheese, but it was a great time nonetheless.

We arrived in Rotterdam via Niclas’s car late Friday night (the Autobahn is fast, but not that fast), so other than exploring Witte de Withstraat, which seemed to be an area where lots of students hang out and walking across the Erasmus bridge to take in the city’s amazing skyline, we had to wait until Saturday to properly explore the city. After a nice canned breakfast catered by REWE, we made a trek over to info center at the Centraal Station to pick up a map of the city. From there, we followed part of the “Architecture Walking Tour” back to the City Hall, where our car was parked, Laurenskerk, a medieval church that was the only late Gothic building to survive the Rotterdam Blitz, and my personal favorite, the Cube Houses (see pictures on FB). I felt mixed emotions walking around all the stunning modern architecture. I think the natives of Rotterdam really did a marvelous job rebuilding their city after WII, but it was only possible because the old city was completely leveled by the German Air Force. One can really see the worst and best sides of humanity by looking at pictures of the city in 1940 and then today.

We checked out Rotterdam’s Chinatown to try to find something good for lunch, but all of the restaurants were really expensive. Luckily, we were able to convince good ol’ Aldi to provide lunch for us at a reasonable price before continuing our journey up north to the Hague. Back in the car, I was a bit bummed that Niclas wanted to skip both this picturesque town called Delft and the central part of the Hague to head straight for the beach in Scheveningen, but he was the driver, so I didn’t want to give him a hard time. When we arrived at the beach, however, I had a change of heart. I realized that I hadn’t gone for a swim in nine months! It was the most amazing feeling in the world to run into the North Sea for the first time and dive in head first. I think Niclas and I lasted a good 5-10 minutes before the adrenaline disappeared and the cold set in. In any case, we chilled at the beach (it actually did start to get cold with the wind) afterward until it started to get dark and then found a reasonably priced Thai restaurant on Keizerstraat for dinner. Unfortunately, it rained a bit Saturday night, but I got Shivalik and Niclas to play a couple rounds of 20 Questions with me before we called it a night.

Sunday was spent making our way back to Heidelberg. Since neither Niclas nor Shivalik had ever been to Cologne before, we stopped there for about two hours on the way back to see the city’s iconic cathedral. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my first time in the city with my Midd pal Dylan back in December. What was cool for me was also getting to see the inside of the cathedral this time around, as well as making the journey to the top of one of its towering steeples. I doubt I’ll make it to Cologne a third time before heading back to the US in five weeks, but some more adventures for the conclusion of my time abroad are definitely in the works! Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!