mirabell gardens then, studying now

Well, the robotics competition I got to go to (the RoboCup German Open) was a lot of fun (and TUD won in both the Rescue and the KidSize Soccer divisions!).  And then I spent ten days travelling around with my parents, which was amazing.  Here’s a picture of my parents standing in the Mirabell Garden in Salzburg:

my parents in mirabell garden in salzburg

The castle in the back is the Festung (fortifications of) Hohensalzburg, which we also got to tour.  Very cool.

But now, my parents are back home fighting off jetlag and I’m preparing for my oral exam tomorrow for my Machine Tools and Industrial Robots class.  There’s a fair amount of memorization involved, but also a lot of calculations I could be asked to perform.  And I’ve never had an oral exam before.  (An oral exam is where the student goes to the professor’s office and the professor asks the test questions verbally.  Then the student answers verbally, or if asked to work out a problem or draw a diagram, the student writes things out on paper while the professor watches.)  Oral exams are said to be easier than written exams, since you’re allowed to ask the professor for clarification or hints, but still, I’m nervous, to say the least.  If you’re a praying person, I’d appreciate some prayer, both for my memory and for my anxiety. 🙂

Back to studying. I am looking forward to this exam being over.

Update: I passed the exam!  Thanks for the prayers!


going on a trip

I have a busy next couple of weeks.  Tomorrow I leave for the RoboCup German Open, which is a robotics competition being held in Magdeburg, Germany.  And the day after I get back from that, my parents will arrive and we will travel together some more.  I’m looking forward to both trips!

Since I seemingly only ever post on a regular basis when I’m travelling, I though I’d schedule a blog post or two for the time I’m gone.  But for today, a picture of the streetcar tracks near my apartment.  Appropriate for the travel theme, no?

streetcar tracks near my apartment

granddad <3

I know I’m a bit behind on posting new things.  I’m studying for exams, which here in Germany happen in February and March for the winter semester.

But I’m posting for a different reason than usual today.  I don’t have a cultural-differences anecdote or pretty photo of Darmstadt for this.  Just a picture and a thank-you to someone I’m going to miss.

granddad <3

Granddad, I’m so sorry that you’ve passed on.  I, as well as the numerous other people still here on Earth who love you, will miss you very much.  You are an inspiration to me both as a person and as a mechanical engineer.  Thank you.  I hope you are enjoying Heaven, and I look forward to seeing you there someday!  I love you!

my one word for 2012: story

very inspiring story about one's life as a story.

source: http://www.amazon.com/Million-Miles-Thousand-Years-Publisher/dp/B004SUQ9KS/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1326639470&sr=8-3

I’ve been back in Darmstadt for over a week now. Christmas at home with the family was fantastic. It was hard to leave my parents and friends at home to come back to Darmstadt, but I’m refreshed and prepared to finish what I started here.

Since a new year has begun, I’ve picked my New Year’s Resolution. It is a single word, using a New Year’s resolution program started by Port City Community Church, the church I went to during my internships in Wilmington, NC. That system is called My One Word. You pick a word that represents the growth you want to see in your life for this year.

My One Word for this year is story. As in, my life story is part of a big, exciting story God has planned out. I can sit inside on my computer all day every day and make my story dull and uninspiring, or I can get out, explore, meet new people, take (sensible) risks, and generally make the story of my life a good part of God’s bigger story.

I’m making a consious effort to get out of my apartment and interact with the world, in order to have more chances to develop my story. For instance, I’ve started running. I can’t run for very long at the moment, but even running as a beginner is more healthy than sitting in front of my computer.  And it gives me more of a chance to see beauty in nature and to interact with the people around me. (Especially the people out walking their adorable dogs!)  And I’m making travel plans for later this year, which means more chances to develop my story.

This word goes along with the word I picked for last year, which was go. Go, as in stop-worrying-about-how-the-semester-defining-conversation-with-this-professor-will-go-and-go-ask-him-your-question-already, and go as in go-take-a-risk-and-study-abroad. Those were my ideas for the way go would work in my life in 2011.

The ideas I have for why I choose a particular word each year aren’t always the same ideas I have about the word by the end of the year. By the end of 2011, I began to go out of my apartment and take a walk around town to distract myself from homesickness, I had had to go ask professors and teaching assistants for help or advice (in German), and I had gone on trips to see cities I may not get much of a chance to see again.  I saw myself mature in the way I handled life situations by how I looked at the word go in January vs. in December.  There were both victories and defeats, but I learned a lot.

When I went to Nürnberg for the Christkindlesmarkt, I decided that My One Word for 2012 would be story. I had had the idea bouncing around in my head for months.  On the train ride, I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  That book convinced me that I want to focus on making my life a better story in 2012. (Very good book, by the way. A friend of mine who also blogs quoted it on Facebook, and I knew I had to read it.)

So that is My One Word for this year: story. Want to pick a word for this year? Great! Here is the page with a guide of how to do so.  I hope you find this approach to New Year’s resolutions as inspiring as I do.  Best wishes for the new year!

lots of pictures, coming up

Since I got to go to Nürnberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber last week, I have a lot of new pictures.  But I’m getting ready to visit home for a few days, which means packing, getting work done so I don’t have to take any work home, and making sure any loose ends here are tied up.

And my time at home is going to be time to catch up with my family and my friends at home, as well as some doctor’s appointments and other things I need to squeeze in.  I enjoy blogging, but I need me some family time this Christmas!

So, with the magic of the handy-dandy blog post scheduler, I’ll have one of my recent pictures posted every day with a short description.  This will continue until I run out of pictures from the trips last week that turned out well enough to post, which will probably last through Christmas and New Year’s.

First picture coming tomorrow. Enjoy!

friday youtube party 1

I was recently writing an email to some family members who were under a lot of stress.  I wanted to help, but I’m kind of far away at the moment, so I gave them what I sometimes need to improve my mood:  distraction.

Yep, distraction.  If I’m in a funk, homesickness or otherwise, I’ll go write out my frustrations for a while, but after a few minutes, I just find myself writing the same things over and over.  I miss my family.  I miss my friends.  I miss home.

That’s when I know to do something completely different.  Get out of my apartment and go for a walk, or If the weather is bad or if it is late in the day, I read one of my favorite blogs or go searching for random stuff on Youtube.  Sounds weird, but it helps.

So when I emailed these family members distractions, I sent them a ready-made Youtube lineup.  Need a distraction yourself?  Here are the videos I sent:

Halloween was recently.  I wish I could have seen this middle school science class in person!

What’s a Youtube party without the Old Spice Man?

…and Grover as Old Spice Man?  Awww.

Two words: Extreme. Ironing.

Europe’s The Final Countdown, on cello:

(And the original Final Countdown:)

making the most of this year

Homesickness has hit me pretty hard this week.  I keep having little flashbacks to places I’ve been in the past.  Driving down Main Street in Blacksburg, VA to get to church at Virginia Tech, or of my parents’ house, or of the beach in Wilmington.  Even strangely specific places, such as particular grocery stores and the various Wal-Marts and Targets I’ve been to.

I’m not sure why I keep thinking of all these things, but in some ways, I’m thinking my mind just wants to know that all the stuff I remember is still there.  That I’m not crazy and reminiscing about imaginary places.  Surrounded by a foreign country that I’m only half-used to and only being able to contact family members through email and video chat is still jarring.  Everything I was used to at home has not been nearby for two-and-a-half months now, and it feels so far away!

Things will be fine after a while, I’m sure, and since I’m only here for a year, it won’t be too many months before I can go to all those familiar places back home again whenever I want.  For now, I need to get out of this rut and enjoy the advantages of Germany.  So my plan to take steps to make the most of my time here:

– Come up with a list of books I want to buy while I am in Germany, since getting German books in America is both difficult and expensive.  And since I like to read.

– Buy a few movies or TV shows on German iTunes.  (I already have a 25€ iTunes gift card ready to go.)

– Research the places I want to visit while I’m in Europe.  I have a map on my wall with several cities I’d like to visit already marked.

But amongst studying for classes, taking exams (first one is in December!), grocery shopping, applying for grad school, being involved with Campus für Christus, volunteering in the robotics lab, and blogging–with all this stuff to do, as well as exploring what Germany has to offer, how do I have time to be homesick?

I’m honestly not sure.  But I do know this: being homesick means that home is worth missing.  I’ll get there eventually.  I just need to enjoy where I am now.

virtual tour: to the streetcar stop

It dawned on me the other day (read: my Mom told me) that some–well, most–of the things I see every day here in Germany are so different from whatever they are in America.

So I plan to post at least one virtual tour a week. It might be something simple, such as a location I go to often, or it might be something you would look for while vacationing here. This week is a simple one: what I see every day going to the streetcar stop to go just about anywhere in this city. After the pictures, though, I have a request for you, dear bloggy readers. So don’t just look at the pretty pictures (or not-so-pretty pictures, as the case may be).

But with no further ado, my walk to the streetcar stop!

courtyard between dorms

This is the view of the courtyard just outside my apartment/dorm building. That ramp on the right you see is one of the few accessibility ramps I have seen here. The left path is the steps.

trees i walk through on the way to and from my room from streetcar

Here is walking past a few other dorm buildings through some trees…

oh look! a statue!

Oh look! A statue! (botched quote from The Guy on a Buffalo, which I discovered thanks to Jen, the author of Cake Wrecks and Epbot)

the street i walk along to get to the street car.  for some reason there is a cigarette vending machine on the way.  im not sure why i took a picture of it because i don't smoke.

And walking along the street.

this is the kind of sign you would look for to check streetcar departure/arrival times, at least for the streetcars that stay within darmstadt.

Signs that look like this let you check to see when the next streetcar will come.  So you can know whether you get to wait five minutes or fifteen minutes.

the shop that sells brötchen, newspapers, magazines, beer, etc. i have sometimes seen a little container of dog treats for the people who walk their dogs by here every morning.

When it is open in the mornings, this little shop sells Brötchen, or little loaves of bread. And newspapers, and beer. There is usually a box of dog treats on the counter for people with dogs. I have a feeling the shop owners earn decent money from people waiting for the streetcars.

And once I get to the schedule signs and the little newsstand/bread shop, I wait a few minutes for a streetcar to come.  But a tour of a streetcar?  That’s another post.

Now here’s where you come in, readers. Here in Germany, all I see are German buildings, German stores, German streetcars. I have German friends and friends who are exchange students, but at times (read: a bajillion times a day) I feel very foreign and far away from home. I found a picture of my house in my iPhoto library the other day and was surprised at the architectural style. I see a picture of an American car and am shocked at the stylistic differences.

Moving here, even if it is only for a year, does something weird to my perspective. There is no family here, and there is no American architecture. No American-style cars. Little American-style anything.  American stuff has mostly become some figment of my imagination, and I’m forgetting what it all looks like.  And I miss you guys–my friends and family at home. And for those of you I have never met, I would love to learn more about you and get to know you some too.

So if you ever have a few minutes, and your family is bored, grab a camera and take a picture and send it to me. In front of your house, your car, your favorite thing in the town in which you live, in your living room, whatever. Feel free to send these to my personal email address if you have it, or send an emailtolalaland@gmail.com. I would loooove to get pictures and emails from you guys. And if you send pictures, I might hang them up in my room. So you can stare at me while I’m studying during the year.  And/or so I can remember you guys even when I’m an eight-hour flight away (at least).


I’m about to take myself to a breakfast buffet to celebrate.  Why?  This is my 30th day in Germany.  Today, I have been living in a foreign culture and coping with culture shock for a month.  My year-long study abroad is 1/12th over, give or take a few days.

I’ve learned a lot already.  I’m more sure of myself than when the plane first landed, even though I keep on making mistakes both with the language and the culture.  I’m learning to bounce back from those.  Family and friends are more important to me than ever before, and I’m learning how to better keep in contact with them.  I’m actually trying to correspond with people instead of just saying “let’s keep in touch” and friending them on Facebook and forgetting it.  (I’m still working on that part, though.  I’ve been learning who exactly my friends are, and it turns out that God has blessed me with a LOT of friends.  So if I haven’t written you a message yet, please be patient.)

I can now count Euros using mostly just the edges of the coins I can see in my wallet, and I know enough functional German to talk to people I meet in German without having to revert to English.  (They sometimes switch to English, since they can tell I have an accent, but oh well.)  I’ve started a list of the places I want to visit while I’m here.  A very long list.  I’m not sure the break between semesters I’ll have will be long enough.  But we’ll see.

I’ve also made enough friends in my major to hear about some of the classes I’ll be taking, though.  They are hard classes.  I have started reviewing material from classes that would be prerequisites for these hard classes at Virginia Tech, and I hope I get enough understanding from that review (and from translating the notes I take!) to be able to follow class well enough to pass.  I heard from a former participant in this program that not everyone in her year actually passed all their classes, which scares me.

So, 1/12th of the way in, and I’m both getting more comfortable and getting very nervous about classes. What does that mean?  More coffee.

coffee:  you can sleep when you're deadimage from http://www.stationbay.com/coffee-sleep-when-your-dead-tin-sign.htmlidea from my mom.  Thanks, Mom!  See?  My parents are great.  They support both my study abroad and my love of coffee. ❤

photoblogging is fun

I have an Instagram account. The Instagram app lets me take pictures with my iPod and then apply pretty filters to them. So I have decided to start posting some of those pictures here.

20110716-111106.jpgThis is a picture of my dad photographing a chameleon at the Cotton Exchange ice cream shop in Wilmington, NC. My parents had come to visit me for a weekend, so we went to the Cotton Exchange, which is essentially a shopping mall of local businesses. We bought a few souvenirs at a pottery shop and then decided it was time for ice cream. This chameleon apparently also thought it was time for ice cream. My dad had a lot of fun sneaking up on the little guy to get pictures.

On a different topic, I need ideas for a name for my little travel buddy here. He is a teensy pocket-sized garden gnome.

20110716-111731.jpgAny ideas? He’ll give you a cute little flower if you give him a name. Or rather, he would if the flower were not permanently attached to his hand. Aww. Poor little guy.


UPDATE: The gnome’s name is now Jimmy.  In an earlier version of the post, I tried to write the word “him,” and spell-check corrected whatever typo I made into “Jim” instead.  But I think he’s more of a Jimmy.  Thanks, spell check!