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Studying Abroad: I did it: 4 Semesters at Uni Heidelberg Wild 70's. Pros / Cons

First, learning another language gives you such deep insight into the culture. I learned SO MUCH ABOUT MYSELF and my own culture from being away from it for a long time. I learned better time-management (by scheduling all classes to start after at or after 11:00 am!) I learned money-management, surviving on the paltry $185 per month that my dad sent me (Thanks Dad!) And the cooking sessions that I took part in on our floor's kitchen - with Lina from Malaysia using a wooden spoon in her wok with these puffer shrimp chips that she threw into the hot oil - they popped like popcorn! And Marmoru from Japan wokking green veg in his wok using big, thick chopsticks blackened to short nubs from use; Chhaya from India starting every meal with frying garlic and onion in half oil and half butter, then she would choose chicken or whatever, and then taking out a shoebox with 10 different whole spices - whole nutmegs, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, turmeric, making her own curry for that moment with her grater plus mortar and pestle; Stefania and her boyfriend living in her tiny little dorm room, making pasta and homemade tomato sauce by pushing a can of roma tomatoes through this grinding strainer which took out the seeds and little bits of tomato skin ---this common food-making (I have realized in my later years) was so valuable to me. Oh yeah, and the German kids too, showing me Nutella, and Knorr soup and Quark, brewing coffee with their tiny Melitta filters and a small electric kettle.

I learned to knit from a girl in my dorm who needed help in talking and learning about Mark Twain, who I was also interested in, and I was familiar with his works, so we became best friends, and she then helped me with my German papers, too. At that time, all German girls learned knitting, crocheting, cooking skills, lots of decorative arts were taught in German schools.

And, I can't forget my wonderful, darling, long-haired, beer sipping, philosophical, canvas Army Jacket-wearing, doe-eyed poet German boyfriends, walking arm-in-arm along rainy cold streets, willing to describe the street-scenes and the people whom we passed, using such lyrical poetry. The most romantic boys I have ever known were German boys, wondering about how to take their place in the world as the post-war generation. Oh, the pros of studying abroad were MANY!

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293 posts

Nancy, the 1970's were a big, bad, good amalgamation of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, plus the Vietnam War, domestic terrorism, protests in the streets. And not only at home in the U.S of A., but all over Europe as well. Those of us who were young in the 1970s were privileged to live in an exceptional music age, too, when magic filled the air. So there was that. Also, there was a freedom in the pre-AIDS 1970s that sprung up, especially in the University towns. And the clothes! Remember the Icelandic sweaters that all the European kids wore? Plus bell-bottom jeans, canvas Army jackets when the boys performed their Dienst (Service) in the Bund (Bundeswehr/Army). Oh Lordy - when I remember Paris, London, Berlin - these places rivaled the 1920s in terms of creativity, music, protest, free expression, and not all of it was pleasant, but all of it was quite -- well, "vivid." That was the "Wild 70s".

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9361 posts

So this study abroad was 40+ years ago? I studied abroad then, too (Austria), when I was in college. I don't need to be told what the 70s were like, though yours sound much different than mine. I actually assumed you meant the 1970s but couldn't figure out why you would be posting on something so long ago, so I thought I might be wrong about your meaning. Thanks for the clarification.

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12084 posts

Hi,

I agree that going over in the 1970s was indeed adventurous. It was a great time to be there too. Traveling in Germany and Austria was simple. My first trip was on a charter flight for 12 full weeks in the summer of 1971 as a student backpacker solo. Yes, it was the summer of '71 and I was 21. It was the right time to go over. You learn a lot about yourself going solo, I don't regret going solo this first time at all,.. first time away from home, first time on a plane, first time basically on a train, first time out of Calif, first time out of the US, first time fending for yourself, first time being alone, and the first time going to Europe where out of the 12 weeks, seven were planned for traveling in Germany starting with Lübeck-Travemünde, then focusing the next 5 weeks on covering North Germany.

You always kept five "vitals" on your person...passport, Eurail Youth Pass, ( 2nd class/2 months), Amer Ex Travelers Checks, your US Youth Hostel card, your plane ticket back. In the 1977 trip I had the German youth hostel card.

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23251 posts

Same year, same 5 vitals, probably slept on the same trains as you. Munich with gastarbeiter pushing suitcases through the open windows into the compartments, compartments full to the ceiling with luggage, other compartments where you would expect 6 people with so many you couldn't count, and further down the train me, asleep in a darkened compartment with my big metal framed backpack hoping that no more than two more people would come and I could sleep with the seats pulled down into a makeshift yet comfy bed (the headrest just high enough for a pillow) and really hoping it would just be me; changing trains about 3 or 4 am to go back to where I had come from, or staying on to somewhere new....

Proper youth hostels with iron beds - in Munich the woman who came in as the sun rose with an iron bar and banged all the beds to wake us up, great hostel breakfast which set me up for the day, finding the coins for the showers, in the castle stables in Nuremberg, fantastic views in Schaffhausen, exploring the alps.....

Getting to Vienna, finding that the backpack didn't fit in any of their tiny lockers so just having a cup of coffee and a quick look around and back on the train to somewhere else, getting to Paris on Bastille Day after standing in the corridor of the TEE (I think it was a TEE) and then remembering the date, searching for and failing to find space at any hostels or pensions and back on an afternoon train to Köln...

Getting tired of German rain and heading for Nice, finding bright warm sunshine and great museums - liked the Riviera so much that we still regularly return.

Oh the memories

thanks

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756 posts

I studied abroad in 2001 and it was one of the best experiences of my life!!

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760 posts

Wayne State's Jr Yr in Munich, 73-74 - definitely one of the most profound formative experiences of my life! First, my one big regret: studying to keep good grades. In retrospect, more time off and mediocre grades would have been just fine.

Wild 70s: leaving my passport "safe" in my dorm while hitchhiking with boyfriend and sleeping on a highway's cloverleaf. When the police found us in the morning, they shook their heads in disbelief at my naive stupidity. Luckily, I had my Munich college ID and other ID docs.

Getting through Checkpoint Charlie but not knowing how to get back to W. Berlin; knocking on the door labeled Eintritt Verboten which yielded a stern but then affable E. German soldier. It helps to be 20 sometimes.

Hitchhiking back from W. Berlin and getting a ride from some v. dubious youths who turned out to be carrying drugs. Urgh! We got back to W. Germany without incident and were v. happy to get out of that car.

Marathon train journey alone from Perpignan to Munich covering more than 24 hours during which I realized no one in the world knew where I was (exhilarating and scary, both); being surrounded by spanish workers travelling to Switzerland for jobs and finishing up any booze and cigarettes they had with them; meeting an elderly (or so it seemed) Viennese composer who offered to treat me "like a princess" if I stayed the night in Mittenwald (I did not); intending to sleep in the Innsbruck train station but being rescued by a kindly soul who paid for my night in a youth hostel, breakfast, and a taxi to the train in the morning (I had no Austrian money and my train pass expired); successfully getting back to Munich on the expired train pass surrounded by German matrons who probably would have trounced the conductor if he confronted me. Don't ask me how that happened.

Driving with other American students to Paris on All Soul's Day not realizing banks would be shut. We were helped out by a friendly gas station attendant who took us home for lunch with his family and changed some money for us (pre-ATM era). We ended up staying in Pigalle at a fairly modern hotel only to learn the nature of the area when we returned later that night.

Good times!

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9361 posts

Yes, it was definitely different in the time before cellphones, email, GPS, the internet, etc. If we wanted to call home, we had to go to the post office in Salzburg, tell the person at the counter the number we wanted, then wait while they dialed it. When the call was connected, we went into a booth to take the call. Letters took about a week to arrive from home. If I needed money, I had to go to my bank across the river and make a withdrawal (our school required us to have accounts as students). If we were going on a Sunday trip into Bavaria and I forgot to change money on Friday, I didn't eat, since there was nowhere to do it on Sunday.

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293 posts

@ Fred - YESSS, the 5 vitals! Ha! Had them all, just as you described, Eurail pass, 2 months/2nd class, Hostel card, etc. First time away from home, solo, fending for yourself.

@ Nigel - Oh, your image of people pushing suitcases through the open windows of the trains - my first European train ride from Paris Gare du Nord at 10 o'clock at night, steamy summer evening, those long train whistles blowing and the locomotive engines idling - using trains as hotels - covering Italy by first going SOUTH, then next night going NORTH, then next night SOUTH; Hostel woman: I had the one in Zurich at sun-up (yes, proper hostel with 20 bunks in a room) shouting "Guten Morr-rr-rr-gen!"

@Debbie - yes, it helps to be twenty years old! Did you ever tell your parents of your hitchhiking stories? I have never told mine!

@Nancy - calling home, exactly as you said - requesting a cable to the USA, waiting to be connected. And if the banks were closed, you didn't eat. Oh, I was just at the Uni Salzburg on July 9-11, visiting a young Geology student. Her parents and I were dorm mates in 1976.

And all these things help to grow you up. Even if my kids do this, I sort of feel like they won't get an authentic experience...it will all be so slick and easy....aha - that's going to be my next topic!

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293 posts

Do you think American kids today, going over for their junior year abroad, are getting an "experience"? Do you think their experience is as rich as those of ours in the 70's? Today the University cafeterias are like gourmet restaurants, with Vegan counters, Gluten-free choices, juice carafes on ice - oh when I think of OUR mensa - you got a wurst, a broetchen, a soup bowl, and no drink at all.

Well, maybe if they were to study at one of the Eastern Universities - like University of Prague, or somewhere east of Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czechia, maybe there would be some, you know, effort needed to get that experience.

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12084 posts

I kept a record of every hostel I have stayed at in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, all part of DJH/HI....no private, independent hostels then. One thing back then you could be almost 100% assured of finding a bed in the hostel by just showing up at the time of check-in. Much simpler then, no one reserved, you just winged by making sure you got there during the time of registration. I always got a bed at the hostel, never reserved in advance, as I have to do now. There were a few times when kids were turned away arriving at the hostel at 2300. I did see that.

On taking the night trains: I did that three times in the '70s. Also much simpler, no need to reserve. I did reserve one time when I got a sleeper using the Eurail Pass on a 24 hr train ride from North Sweden to Malmö direct. It was all right, my only experience with a sleeper in Europe. The other times were sitting in the 6 seat compartment or in the general seating area.

Perpignan to Munich...that's some ride, bravo !

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23251 posts

You're right, Fred - no reservations. Just show up around 5, if I remember correctly, of course the doors were locked all day, I never got turned away from a DJH hostel. And they were fun, even with the curfew. Just the one day of 14th July in Paris getting turned away from everywhere....

I still have a very torn copy of the youth eurail pass map, folded small, with yellow tape on the torn folds

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12084 posts

@ Nigel...The doors at the DJH hostel being locked all day depended on the hostel. After breakfast was over at 0900, there was lock out (Reinigungssperre) , ie, everyone out so the hostel could be cleaned. Then 1230 it was open for check-in at which time you were given the room number and bed number, and lunch, the hot meal. was served. I saw a couple times the mistake made by the Registration assigning two guys to the same bed. You probably saw that too. Each guy pulls out his receipt to check the correct room and bed number. Seeing that you were just glad that did not happen to you. True, some hostels' Registration didn't open until 1700 to check-in if you didn't arrive at noon. The hostel was open, only the Registration was closed. Of all the DJH hostels I stayed at pertaining to the rooms, only one I thought was less than satisfactory, ie, you just put up with it. That was in Köln in Aug 1971 , five bunks facing each other, full occupancy. Therefore, including myself, there were 20 guys in that room, struck me as a hospital ward. I don't recall any other DJH hostel like that in Köln.

BTW, ..."Hang Ah" is still in SF but recently, ie the last year or two, the decor of the place has been changed. For ages, decades it had the same decor and photos on Chinatown social history.

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How can you remember that years ago I mentioned Hang Ah? Memory like an elephant!

I never stayed at a hostel in Köln. I used Köln as my base because my girlfriend was spending the summer staying with her aunt and working in the zoo and I was always welcome (at the aunt's, not at the zoo!!). That made the summer even better.

Favourite hostel for me - the stables in Nürnberg.

Thanks, Shelley, for such an off the wall and fabulous topic!!!

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760 posts

Yes, thanks, Shelley for this topic. It gave me little breaks from work all day.

No, I never told my parents of my adventures, not in detail, anyway. I think my mother may have found that too distressing.

Perpignan to Munich: I had the luxury of a train pass. My boyfriend accomplished the same trip by buying a moped - a very old, used moped. I think it took him two weeks to reach Munich.

I am happy to say, my program is still going strong. In fact, it recently struck me that I could visit when I am in Munich. I think I may. I also just located some of my classmates from Mu. They are now both language scholars. Yikes. My motivation always was to travel, not the scholarship.

And the gift keeps giving: after an absence of European travel for many, many years, I took my first RS tour, 7 days in Venice, in 2005, It was over U.S. Thanksgiving. Afterwards, I took the train (my favorite) up through Bolzano to Munich. This was my first solo travel venture in donkey's ears. No one seemed to speak English. I had to dredge the German back up. The day after arrival, I took the cable car up to Oberbozen and walked around. Lovely, snowy, no one around. I finally encountered a man shoveling his walk. He asked me a question that I responded to in German. At first he thought I was Italian. When I said American, he asked what was an American woman doing in the Bolzano mountains speaking with a Bavarian accent. It still gives me thrills!!. What I say may be simple or grammatically inaccurate, but the accent is there. Yay.

Thanks again for the topic. Debbie

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12084 posts

No one else mentioned here a specific place like that in SF ... Hang Ah. In July 1973 I stayed at the DJH hostel in Nürnberg, an older building in terms of style. Staying there served as springboard for going to Prague by train. Only after you had your CSSR visa attached to the passport.