Berlin & Final Thoughts

For the last weekend of my time in Germany, we visited Berlin. Even though we only had about a day and a half to visit the city, it was a great experience with amazing sights and unique history. We were able to visit The Reichstag, which houses German political offices and debates. The glass dome represents the openness that the German government wants to have with its people. Inside the dome, you can view where the politicians vote and discuss political issues. We also went to the Brandenburg gate which was beautiful to see! Then, we visited the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. This was an interesting memorial since the blocks try to embody the confusing and anxiety feeling that was experienced by those affected in the Holocaust. Although this can never be truly felt by those who did not experience it, the picture below shows what we saw when entering the memorial. We also visited the Topographie des Terrors, which discussed in pictures and explanations the rise and fall of the Nazi regime. This was incredibly interesting and often at times, disturbing, due to the evil viewpoints and lack of human respect given in the information; I think it’s important though to see and talk about how it happened, not just the happenings of the event. It helps to remind us that it if it did happen then it could happen again. We also visited the Neues Musuem which housed the famous bust of Nefertiti and many Ancient Egyptian artifacts, including canopic jars from tombs of pharaohs!

I enjoyed Berlin due to the incredible history it holds. I think it’s important that the city has so many monuments for its dark past, and does not try to hide any of its history, but remains humbled and true to what happened. It was a very easy city to walk from sight to sight, and almost everything was free to see.

This is my last day in Germany, and I am sad to leave but also excited to share my experiences with others. I have been able to see so much during my time abroad, including Paris,  Lübeck, Schelswig-Holstein, Berlin and Kiel, where I stayed to teach. My favorite part was to experience all of the history Europe has to offer, and it has only reinforced my need and want to come back and experience even more.

A trip to Lübeck

This past weekend my host mom and dad took Tessa and I to see Lübeck, a medieval-dated city that was once a fortress surrounded by two rivers. I had never heard of the city before coming to Germany, but it is very famous in the northern part of the country, called Schleswig-Holstein. In school, we learned about the Renaissance and the middle ages, but to go somewhere that actually has buildings from this time period was an incredible experience. To me, it is remarkable to walk into a building that was constructed in the 1400’s; it makes history real and larger than life itself.

We first entered the city by passing through the Gothic city gate. It is very interesting because the city is actually sinking due to it being surrounded by small bodies of water. If you look closely in the pictures, you can see a slight tilting and unsteadiness to the buildings. We went through the Christmas market there, which is so charming and filled with so many interesting and handmade things to buy. We also saw the political building, which has incredible medieval-style architecture and is pictured below. You can go inside it, which shows the Gothic style with black brick and a dark aesthetic. We also went into the Marienkirch which has been preserved, even after World War II. There was a bombing raid in 1945 that caused the church’s bells to fall from their tower. There is a picture below of the bells in the exact place they fell.

This trip was an amazing experience, and Tessa and I enjoyed all of the amazing sights and history. We have never been to a place so full of legendary culture, and we were so grateful to have been there.

German Christmas Market

This week, Tessa and I went to the Christmas Market in Kiel. They are very common in Germany, and we are planning on visiting more in Berlin and Lübeck during the rest of our time here. There are little booths set-up around the central area of the city, with tons of festive lights and decorations. There are also so many different kinds of food and souvenirs to buy. Some snacks you can get include hot wine, chocolate covered bananas, candy, currywurst mit pommes, hot chocolate, and of course, beer. There are people that come from all over to see the markets, and many sell specialty items such as russian nesting dolls, candle holders, art and small glass trinkets.

The wooden booths that look like log cabins with the lights and overall appearance really create a fun experience. We enjoyed strolling through and seeing what everyone had to offer, because there is so much to see!

Danish Christmas Dinner

My host mom is from Denmark, and she hosted a family and friends Danish Christmas dinner. After school the day before, we went to Denmark to go shopping for the special items she needed. It was very interesting to cross the border, because we weren’t stopped and our passports were not even looked at. This is so different from what I know in America, because the Mexico-U.S. border is so strict. I also did not know how much German and Danish culture blends together, especially in the north of Germany where Denmark is so close. For example, there is a grocery store located 5 minutes from the border to Denmark that takes Danish money, not Euros!

Once we arrived in Denmark, we got coffee and a sweet treat. Denmark makes a lot of sweet things, which is awesome because I have a sweet tooth. However, even the cinnamon pastry I had was extremely sweet-even more sweet than something in America! Still delicious though. There were so many different kinds of fresh fish in the supermarket. They had different jars with all kinds of seafood. They also sold little brown cookies which you serve with coffee; they are similar to a molasses shortbread. My host mom was also very excited by any and all things related to the Danish royals!

The Christmas dinner had tables with Danish flags and floral arrangements. We started with a curry fish dish on bread, fried fish topped with lemon and cucumber, sliced meats, liver, more bread, beer, sparkling wine, bratwurst with mushrooms, and then the dessert which was a vanilla rice pudding topped with chocolate shavings and served with a warm berry sauce. It was all very delicious. I am glad I was able to experience another culture, in addition to the German culture I have already been experiencing for two weeks. I never knew much about Denmark, but now I can say I have experienced a true Christmas dinner so common in the country!

Food, Shopping and the Baltic Sea

Yesterday afternoon, Tessa and I went to her host family’s house. They live near the Baltic Sea outside of Kiel. We strolled down a street where we ate fresh fried fish, potatoes and coleslaw. The shop has fresh fish caught in the sea, and it was delicious. There were so many different kinds of fish and it reminded me a lot of Boston and their fish markets. We then went shopping and found so many cute things in the stores. The stores are small, and located down narrow streets. It was raining and a little dreary, but we still had fun exploring. We were able to enjoy many different kinds of chocolate from a candy shop and we had little cakes in a small café that was over 100 years old! Tessa’s host mom said she would go there with her grandmother when she was a child. We also finally realized that we had forgotten to see the beach, so we headed that way. It was getting dark and it was raining, so it was hard to see how far out the sea went, but the waves crashing on the sand was still calming and relaxing. There was also a statue of a mermaid that reached over 7 feet tall. I will admit it was slightly scary in the dark!

Exploring Paris

During our trip abroad in Germany, Tessa, Ashleigh and I went to Paris for the weekend. I had been dreaming of going to Paris ever since I started learning French in 7th grade. I have also absolutely loved the history behind Paris, because it is so legendary. During this weekend, we experienced seeing the 1200 church called La Chapelle, Notre Dame, the Mona Lisa and Winged Nike, and the Eiffel Tower. We ate at Brasseries and enjoyed great food such as the famous Angelina’s hot chocolate.

During this time, there was a lot of policemen and firefighters throughout the famous sights, which made us very nervous. We did not know there were protests going on in other parts of the city. They closed the metro and we managed to walk back to our hotel. We were grateful that the French government took so many precautions during this time, and every place we went seemed safe for tourists.

I also was able to practice my French, which was a goal I had for this trip! I feel more confident about speaking the language, which is what I really needed!

German Education

I have started my teaching so far in Kiel, Germany. I am placed in a 6-12 grade school in the English classes they are required to take. I have been able to see so many unique and different things about the education system, which is so exciting as an educator. The classroom is very different from America. There is not as much technology use in the classroom-the school has two computer rooms for teachers to reserve. Additionally, there are long windows that overlook the courtyard which I think helps students think and stay relaxed while learning. The classrooms use chalkboards instead of white-boards or SMART boards which are so common in America!

The cafeteria in the school has food such as bread slices with meat and cheese, granola bars and yogurt. The parents prepare the food each day for the students….this is so different from the My Plate food initiative for children in America. Students can also go to the supermarket nearby and many do this, too.

There are no yellow school buses at this school! Students use public transportation. However, I think this promotes independence and responsibility for students.

Many students have so many questions for us….many questions are political and many are about life in America. It is so hard to tell every side and opinion of American aspects, but Tessa and I are trying our best!


Yesterday was my first day in Germany, and today was my first day in a German school. My host mom, Ingeborg, welcomed me with the American flag and a fun sign. We talked about what we would maybe do the next month….such as going to Christmas markets which are so popular in Germany, cooking a Danish Christmas meal since Ingeborg is part Dannish, and attending the Kiel ballet. Then, the whole family welcomed me with a breakfast of different breads, meats, cheeses and spreads…they even have a coffee machine similar to our Nespresso…very cool! I wanted to stay up until that evening so we decided to see the Kiel U-boat located in the harbor. It is the last of its kind, and was so interesting to see how 44 men fit into such a small space. We also went to the Marine memorial to honor those who fought and died in the World Wars. After that, we walked along the shoreline which was beautiful.

Entering a Japanese Shrine

Hi everyone! My name is Torin Horvik, and I am spending the 2019 Fall Semester at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan. Last week, the University took a group of students to a city named Kyoto, not too far from the main Campus in Hirakata City, Osaka. We visited various shrines in Kyoto, and these are images from some of them. Before entering, we learned that people must undergo a certain process. You need to purify yourself by going to one of the purification fountains. There, you will pick up one of the objects pictured above, and fill it with water.
Next, you must rinse your left hand, right hand, and mouth in that order. Be sure to rinse in the draining area as pictured above! Then, when you rinse your mouth, be sure not to swallow, as the water in your mouth can also be disposed of in the draining area. After that, you’re ready to enter the shrine!
(Pictured: My friend, Haru)
Once inside the shrine, there are some places that you can pray. In order to do this, you will need a 5 yen coin. Once you have that, the first thing you will do is go up to one of these bells pictured above, put your hands together, and bow. Then, you step forward, put your 5 yen coin behind the panels, and step backwards again to face the bell. Following, You ring the bell in a forwards/backwards motion (I know this because I accidentally did side to side, but it wasn’t very successful). This is to wake up the God within the shrine. Then, you clap twice, with a small hesitation between the claps. After this, you can silently say your prayer or wish. Once that has finished, you put your hands together and bow once more.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more posts!
Torin Horvik
(Pictured: My friend Sonja)

“Thank You for Learning Spanish”

As we said goodbyes, recapped our favorite memories, and prepared to leave the people we had grown close to over the last month, several Colombians shared similar parting words with us: “Thank you for learning Spanish.” While I often consider the positive impacts being bilingual might have on my life, I rarely think about what it means for other people.

But to those who thanked me, my effort to learn their language and their culture means a lot. It shows them that while the loudest voices campaign to build up walls, many people are finding ways to break down barriers. It gives them hope for unity, and it shows them love.

Un abrazo,