16 July 2010

My Internship - The Last Chapter: "Was nicht zur Tat wird, hat keinen Wert"

(rough translation of title quote from Gustav Werner "What does not become an action, has no worth.")

It hardly seems long ago that I walked through the doors of the old brick Krankenhäusle back in February to start my first day at the Projektgruppe Stadthalle. Now, almost 6 months later, I am saying my goodbyes to a team of coworkers that have become another sort of family to me here in Reutlingen.

As I reflect upon my time at PGS, I am amazed not only at the plethera of jobs I have done while a co-op intern there, but also how much I have learned technically, linguistically, professionally, and personally. A glance at my resume gives a surprisingly thick list of new skills that I've aquired from the variety of jobs I was given over the months:
· Assisted in writing presentations for the project manager.
· Translated technical journal articles into German or English for assistant project manager.
· Acted as official translator for site tours and presentations for international visitors
· Took photos and managed documentation of project construction and public tours.
· Assisted in communication with firms regarding public advertisement around the site.
· Wrote and contributed to online “Blick Hinter den Bauzaun” construction photo gallery.
· Edited layout construction plans and change order documents.
· Wrote billing and minor contract statements for contractors.

...and much more :-P

Behind this list stands a million lessons learned and challenges faced, though. For me, the biggest worry I had when starting this co-op was the language. Learning a foreign language at university is one thing - living and also working in the language is a totally other matter - certainly not a typical experience for an American either. It was for me a true test of the linguistic skills I had been acquiring over the past 4 years of school - and I was unsure of how well I would succeed. It was a tiring and frustrating first months, especially for an expressive person like me, as I tried to break through the language barrier to show myself and who I was as a person to the group. I had several milestones language-wise, though, like...

...when I found I could space out and still understand the conversations around me.
...when I answered the phone and my immediate words where in German.
...when I couldn't figure out if I was thinking in German or English.
...when my coworkers started correcting me for my dialectal accent and NOT for German.
...when I knew what the technical words were in German, but couldn't remember what they were in English.
...when I tried to write interview notes in English and ended up writing German.

and the best:
...when a German schoolteacher lady asked me "so you're German, right?"

I can truly say my German would never have improved as much as it did without this job and the help and patience of my coworkers.

Along the way, I have also learned to solve problems that I don't always understand, to look past personal differences and work together, to make deadlines even with tight schedules and stress, and to bring a cheerful and willing spirit to difficult situations. I now have a greater certainty in my skills as an engineer and my value to a team. More importantly personally, I feel more confident in who I am, what I can do, what I want, and - as I told the group - I feel as if I have "come into" myself.

The last week at PGS was no less busy than usual, and even though I wished the days would go slower, time passed quickly and it was soon Thursday, when I had my "going away" party. I prepared most of the food - snickerdoodles (Herr Eder's favorite from my baking), cherry chocolate chip cake (Herr Kessler's favorite from my baking), fruit salad - and the drinks - coffee, orange juice, apple juice, Sprudel (seltzer water) and the requisite Sekt (sparkling wine)....but the group suprised me with the set-up - USA and German flag decorations, which made it feel like a belated very German kind of 4th of July celebration - and a few gifts too. The party was a way for me to thank them for the chance to work with them, and for us to be able to enjoy one last time relaxing and talking together. I went home with my own specially-made bookbag, a book of Reutlingen, a strong recommendation letter, and with warm feelings on both sides.

In closing, when I came to PGS, I was and felt like a Praktikantin. Now - thanks to my wonderful colleagues and my experiences working six months with them - I may still be a Praktikantin in title, but I leave feeling like a Mitarbeiterin. For that, I have much to be thankful for.


Some quotes that came to my mind when thinking about this Praktikum (fittingly from Goethe):

"We don't get to know people when they come to us; we must go to them to find out what they are like." ~ Goethe

"Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting." ~ Goethe

"How shall we learn to know ourselves? By reflection? Never; but only through action. Strive to do thy duty; then you shall know what is in thee." ~Goethe

14 July 2010

Just Because

There's not alot, and it's really just a random assortment of photos of flowers, things around town, the construction site, and so on...but I thought I'd give you the pictures anyway, so you can see what has been of interest for me and my camera of late.


My Internship - Conquering the Crane

Yup. That's right. That's me. Just chilling at the top of a huge crane. You know, a normal part of a normal day's work :-D

Well, not exactly. But Herr Eder (our assistant Project Manager) and I had been wanting to go up to the top of that crane ever since it was set up a couple weeks and figured we'd wait to climb it until after the cornerstone-laying ceremony, when things would be less busy. Typical of what happens in our group, we planned on Wednesday morning to climb the crane, but then a presentation came around..and a meeting...and another meeting. So yeah, it was Wednesday still, but about 4 pm before things freed up for the two of us to go to the top of the crane.

And wow - it was exhilariting. As I told Herr Eder on the climb up, my fear of exposed heights is great, but my desire to get to the top of this thing is greater!! It kindof felt like climbing a kid's huge K'nex model...with the perk of it being real, and bigger. I kept looking at all the steel connections and oo-ing and ahh-ing over them (I took Steel last semester and will be taking Advanced Steel Design in the fall...I know, I'm crazy :-D ), which distracted me from the fact that I was on a glorified step ladder definitely more than "just a few" feet above the ground. I can't imagine why the rest of our group wasn't as enthusiastic as we two were about being that high (*wink*)

In anycase, at the top, the view was fantastic - I've got a pictures from where we were, and also from the bottom, so you'll get an idea of how high we were up in that amazing man-made stork (or giraffe)of crane.

All I can say is - Being a CE is awesome. :-D


11 July 2010

My Internship - Cornerstone for the Stadthalle, Milestone for Me

The past two weeks have been long and full - everyone at my office has been working overtime preparing for our huge cornerstone-laying ceremony on July 2nd. The ceremony itself is only about 1 hr, but we've spread it into an all-day public event, complete with construction site tours and an open house. It is good publicity for the project and ended up attracting lots of people, despite it being 36 degrees Celcius and blazing hot. Working as official photographer for the project group meant I was all over the place, but basically, as I told our Project Manger, I was going to be his shadow, because I figured wherever he was, the important stuff was going to be. And boy, was there alot going on...Here's an overview of my day looked like as far as photos:

Meeting No. 1 - Architects from Max Dudler in Berlin, the Erste Oberbürgermeisterin Frau Hotz (First Mayor; she's in charge of construction projects among other things), and other big shots. Tactic: Hide in the back. Don't talk. Try to blend into the non-existent wallpaper. Photos - Check.

Meeting No. 2 - Tour of Construction Site with formerly stated important people. Tactic: act like you've been on a construction site before, so people don't ask why you don't have a hot and annoying helmet on that obstructs your view with the camera...oh wait. I have been on a construction site before....Photos - Check.

Meeting No. 3 - Opening of our exhibition "Stadthalle und Bürgerpark" in the first floor of our office building. Big speech from the Oberbürgermeisterin and Max Dudler, the architect. Tactic: Smile, avoid talking with the big shots. Just taking good photos here, people, that's all. Photos - Check.

Cornerstone Laying Ceremony - long speech from our Oberbürgermeisterin Frau Bosch, the regional president, and Max Dudler... Tactic for these photos: hold camera prominantly before you, take lots of photos really fast, and pretend as if you know what you're doing. You'll fool 70% of the people into thinking you're actual press (the other 30% being 90% of the press people themselves) - Oh, and another tip: Being small is a *huge* advantage as far as squeezing in between actual professionals to get the best shots. Photos - Check.

Construction Site Tours and Austellung (Exhibit) - lots of people. A few important ones. Hot and dusty construction site. Mildly less hot but shaded indoor exhibit rooms. Tactic: AMPAP (as many photos as possible). Follow the important people so you can get good shots of them. They usually don't mind being in the spotlight. Follow the normal people, but discretely - unlike the big shots, they get nervous and scare off easily when they see you taking a photo of them. Construction site tours - if the lady wants you to delete that supposedly unattractive picture of her with a safety helmet on, do it. Just don't delete the other photos along with it (like I did the day before - oops. Good news - they were recovered) Photos - Check.

Short summary: I took over 500 photos in less than 5 hours, was broiling in a black T-shirt, and had hardly a break to sit, so I was tired, hot, thirsty, and my neck and head ached at the end of the day, but it was well worth it. Even though I am only an intern with the project group, I felt incredibly proud to be here at this huge milestone in the project - which by the way, is not only on-time as far as the construction timeframe, but also within budget. For a project that was started during the financial crisis and orginally met with only about 60% approval in Reutlingen - that means alot.

For me, the day was also significant, but in a different way - for the first time, our Project Manager introduced me as a Mitarbeiterin (coworker) - not a Praktikantin (intern), and said they would miss alot when I left. For one thing, most Germans don't give compliments frequently and certainly not our PM. For another thing, Germans usually distinguish professional position descriptions more strictly - a Mitarbeiter/in is used to describe a full-time paid worker at company, and a Praktikantin...well, that's just an intern, and NOT a Mitarbeiterin for sure. So hearing him call me a Mitarbeiterin sent the signal that he considered me to be a full contributing member of team, who produced amount and quality of work that a full-time worker would, not just a Pratikant level. Probably the most subtly-delivered, but yet consciously-stated complement I have received the entire 6 months. It was well worth the wait.

So there's lots of photos, but I've cut it down quite a bit from what I had (think of the 500 plus - your response: *sigh of relief*) I have tried to put in enough description so you know what you're looking at, too. :-D Hope you enjoy! It's the masterpiece from my long day's work.


My Internship - From the Island to the Continent

A year ago, I never thought I have come so far with my language skills that I would feel comfortable working every day with German colleagues and speaking German 98% of the week. Certainly, even as recent as 5 months ago, I would have never seen myself in the position I was on June 16th....acting as an official interpreter for English soccer players from Reutlingen's partner city in England. Yup. I was a bit intimidated by the idea of translating in a formal capacity for a group of people who were not my family or friends - not to mention the mayor was going to be there and I was going to be translating her welcome speech alongside other colleagues that had more experience with these things than I did...and were probably 10 years older.

I shouldn't have worried. Yes - it was challenging. It is one thing to translate a presentation or research paper in writing for someone to read (passive translating); quite another thing to do simultaneous translating for someone who speaks and doesn't give enough break times for you to catch up(active translating).....

The group of men from England that I was going to translate for were terrific, though, and put me at ease immediately... they had been here to Reutlingen several times and said if I had any troubles with translating, they wouldn't notice anyway - "just cut out the boring stuff and leave in the interesting parts; it'll be better and we won't fall asleep that way." We kindof lost the group when we went for the city tour, which meant finding the meeting place for lunch on our own with a the Swiss group who was also there. Oops. :-/ We eventually got there, ate our food, and then they convinced me (it wasn't difficult) to come along and watch the World Cup game with them (Germany slaughtered their opponents in that game). It must have looked amusing, a little woman like me tripping around town with a bunch of Englishmen, all of them offering to share their umbrella, and then sitting with them in the bar, ordering their beers for them. Ha. Well, it was a good time - but I was tired, so after the second time of nodding off over my drink, they sent me home with good natured hugs and compliments - apparently I was the "prettiest looking smart young interpreter they had ever had" I think I'll call that a good first translating experience :-D

Reutlingen website newsletter with pictures from day. Sorry folks, it's in German, but go to the pictures and look for a girl with a burgundy cardigan and polka dot blouse (me!; Pictures 6 and 19): http://www.reutlingen.de/ceasy/modules/cms/main.php5?cPageId=2310&view=publish&item=article&id=1830

26 June 2010

Tübingen Rosenfest

I had been looking forward to the Tübingen Rose Festival for a while, ever since I stumbled upon the information about it while working online, which was way back in April. The weekend came, and not surprisingly, it was rainy (we've been having a cool and rainy long spring). But by mid-afternoon when I was in Tübingen it had stopped raining and cleared up enough so that I could enjoy the festival without being soaked :-D

As someone commented, it was a very "Erin" festival. It certainly was ;-) Anyone who knows me well knows I absolutely love roses and have since I was little (Beauty and the Beast remains one of my favorite movies still) And this festival included anything and everything having to do with roses - from the normal - roses themselves, garden equipment, planters, etc. - to the luxurious - rose scented soaps and lotions, rose print dishware and cloth and stationery and clothes - to the interesting gatronomical - rosepetal ice, rosehip tea, rose pepper and salt, rose and raspberry torte, rose truffles or cappucinos, and rose petal sparkling rosé wine. Yup. I tried all those cuisine items. In case you're wondering, the sparkling wine smells like roses and tastes similar to what I imagine rose petals would taste like. I still am not sure if I like it....in anycase, it was amazing to see such a variety of roses spreading over the whole of the park. Orange, red, white, grey-purple, candycane, snow white, peach, salmon, yellow, lemon, cream, burgundy, black-red, pale green yellow....I could go on and on. I was absolutely in flower heaven :-D and could not stop taking pictures (until my battery ran down on me - darn.) And by the end of the evening, the sun had come out and there was a gorgeous sunset...All in all, it was wonderful festival day!


Graffiti and Flowers Downtown

Despite the cold and rain, flowers have popped up and spread around the downtown over the past two months. Although I spend most of my week busy with work, my job of daily photo documentation has given me the opportunity to see Reutlingen's trees, bushes, and gardens change from bare dirt with only snowdrops and tulips and early blossoms,to full in bloom with a variety of flowers and many variations of green decorating the trees. It has also been fascinating for me to walk through the streets and over the pedestrian bridges and observe the plethera of graffiti stickers or signs placed basically anywhere people will notice them. Some of them are odd, others thoughtprovoking, and still others pushing the limit with political statement. All of them I find to be really intriguing. Over time, I've collected a bunch of pictures of my favorite flowers and the graffiti I've discovered. I hope you find the photo album interesting!

Album: http://picasaweb.google.com/Smilegirlerin/GraffitiStickersAndFlowersDowntown#


25 April 2010

My Internship - "Picture Perfect!"

My work at PGS is always interesting. Wait. I take that back. It's not always interesting; like any job, it has it's low or boring points. So I'll revise that statement. My work at PGS is always full of variety. I am never quite sure what they give me next. For one thing, I am basically their office Jane-of-all-trades. That alone means I have a flexible job description. For another thing, there is still many tasks that I haven't done yet, so there is always something new to learn. The more I learn, the more I am able to assist the people in my office. Which, not surprisingly, is how I have found myself in the position of amateur photographer. Not quite the first thing I would think of when I hear the word "civil engineering intern" but, hey......When you are the foreign civil engineering intern, you take what you can get.

I can't really complain too much After all, the camera provides me a an easy excuse to be on the construction site. Without it, a random girl with a construction hat just watching the work might look a little out of place. With the camera, the workers don't give me much pause, except when they see me focusing on them, in which case, they usually give me a big grin and try to pose with the equipment. It makes me chuckle sometimes. But in all truth, I view the camera as my pass to free observation of the work around me.

It all began back in February. When I first started work, they had me take over the task of daily documenting the construction progress This means going out twice a day with the camera and walking around to the same 9 places to take panorama photos of the site. After a while, I began to be asked if I had photos of one thing or another, so they could use them in presentations and such. So I began to not just make the normal photos of the site, but also take more snapshots of individual workers and machines. Then, one day the assistant project manager, Herr Eder, had the idea to have a "photo wall" along the mail office hallway so visitors could have a glimpse of the construction work over the past few months. Then came the photo-of-the-week idea "Blick hinter den Bauzaun" (glimpse behind the fences) for our website.... The result being I spend part of my days learning the intricacies of a fancy Nikon camera and discovering the new joy and double reward in photography. Not only do I get to do something I enjoy - taking pictures - but I get to take photographs of something I love - civil engineering.

The fortunate side-advantage of this part of my job is that you, my dear readers, are able to take a peak into my work world, something that would otherwise be less possible. As for me, the next time I get bored at work, I'll be picking up the camera and hard hat and heading outside!

"Blick hinter den Bauzaun" (check back for a new one each week!):

My recent just-for-my-own-fun albums:
"Texture, Shadow, City"
"Construction Snapshots"
"Flowers and Rooftops"

04 April 2010


daffodils on the Chapel lawn at Valpo, early morning

After Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day, it was not so strange anymore to not be with family for Easter. I have discovered a sort of quiet enjoyment with celebrating the holidays alone. Besides, I am never really alone - I have the comapany and fellowship of other people. In that way, I especially love the church I have found here. From the beginning the people have been welcoming and friendly, so despite the language differences sometimes, I have experienced comfort of being in the presence of another kind of family. And the holidays - well, some family has invited me over for each one of them, so I am never left alone in my room to pass the day away as if it is any other.

Unlike previous Easters, I had no chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, dying of eggs, and all the usual things that accompany the holiday - though I did buy myself a large bouquet of pink and white tulips, which lasted through the holy week. Instead, this Easter gave me the opportunity to celebrate it not as merely a holiday, but a true time of remembrance and joy. Here Germany (and especially down south here with the large Catholic population) you get all the major (and many of the minor) religious holidays off from work, which meant I had both Good Friday and Easter Monday free. My first true break from work since beginning. Ahhhh....it was relaxing!

Easter Sunday I went to church and then afterwards, Jon Larson (the other VIEP person here) and I went over to Julie Sheetz' house for a late lunch. Julie participated in both the Reutlingen and Tuebingen program while an adult scholar at Valpo in the 90's and lived in the German House (where I'll live next year), during its first year. She now lives permanently in German and works for Reutlingen Hochschule. It was really nice eat a nice hot meal and just sit and talk with another Valpo person. Plus we got to learn all about how pear schnapps are made, ha. Apparently they really do tie bottles on trees to get the pears to grow inside of the bottles.

We spent Easter Monday with the Nehring family, the same family I spent Christmas Eve with. Michael and Lydia have a beautiful 2nd floor house in a small village outside of Reutlingen, in the Swabian Alps, and two great children, Hannah and Daniel, who are always fun to play games with. Last time we were with them, we also got to meet John Pearson, who is from the US, and his wife and children. Michael plays guitar and John Pearson the mountain dulcimer, which he brought over. With Jon Larson on the djembe, we spent half of that evening just singing songs together. It was so refreshing and wonderful!

We didn't get to play songs this time. Instead, Guenther and Elizabeth (more friends from church) went with us to the Nehrings, where we first had lunch and then took a hike up to a local cave. Lunch was oh-so-typical-but-delicious German Swabian - green salad, homemade maultaschen and potato salad, and wiener wuerstchen. Yum Yum Yum. I'll give you an idea of what it all looks like:


Maultaschen (I call it the German ravioli):

Potato Salad (Lydia makes the best!):

Dessert, Mohnkuchen (poppyseed cake made by Elizabeth):

...and Sauer kirschkuchen (sour cherry cake, made by Hannah):

The day was full - lunch, hiking, trecking through the cave, stopping at the Kinderfest (children's festival), coffee and dessert, playing many rounds of UNO, talking about various things.... I go to work again tomorrow rested, relaxed, and thankful for the many friends who have welcomed me into their home so many times over the past months!

Jesus truly binds all nations and peoples with his love!


My Internship - Surveying Class All Over Again

Look! It's grey and cloudy, there's snow on the ground, a bunch of people hunched over papers.....it must be the freshman surveying class at Valpo, trying to find the benchmark near the ARC!!!

....oh wait.....nope, guess I'm wrong. Let's try a better photo:

Yes, there *is* a brick building like the ARC in the background, but trust me, the photos are from the construction site here in Germany and the people in the photos are well-trained professionals, as opposed to the struggling beginners. I think my camera is the closest I get to surveying now. I suppose that's a good thing. Not that my lab partner and I did too badly back three years ago; between my awesome drawing abilities and his sweet skills with turning angles, we managed to yield quite accurate results. But I don't miss being exposed for three hours to the ever-changing pre-spring Valpo weather...snow, rain, ice, mud, puddles, slush, slop.....And we always had to lower the tripod for me, only to raise it again for him. Eventually one of us got tired of doing that, which meant either he was stooping down or I was on my tippytoes. Guess that's the price to pay for picking lab partners with large size differential.
Size seems to be a reoccuring theme here for me....ahh, the sad amusing realities of the short person. I suppose I should stick to my dirt. It's not as far away from me as say, the top of the tripod.

My Internship - Yay Dirt! *ahem* sorry "Soil"

The borer on site...
It has been really exciting for me to watch the soil borer in action here for the last few weeks. No matter the weather, it is out there, making massive anteater holes and plugging them up with concrete. Concrete, dirt, and big machines....can a girl like me be any happier?!

But wait - just when you thought it was cool already. Prepare to be amazed.

We now have not one, but yes, TWO soil borers on the site! Yes, I know; you can hardly control yourself, I know. It was like: look at one end of the site - soil borer....look at other end of the site - soil borer again! Yay!

As you will now agree, I am officially crazy about dirt. I looked at the soil and couldn't help wondering what the moisture content was and decided I would have to perform an in-field visual test of the soil....basically an excuse to pick up a clump of what-I-determined-to-be poorly graded gravel with clay fines, rub it around in my hands, and call it sophisticated geotechnical analysis. At least it cooperated and yielded better results than my German skills do for me sometimes...

Yup. I love dirt and dirt loves me :-D


My Internship - The Big and the Bright

Advertisement banners on fences along Konrad-Adenauerstrasse
So the title might be a bit odd, but as you can see from the picture, the advertisement banners are indeed big and bright....and did I mention incredibly annoying to put up? I always knew I was short, which most of the time I have no problem with and actually find pretty amusing at times too. But somehow my height seems much more of an obvious disadvantage as opposed merely a humorous sidejoke when it comes to putting up these massive banners on the higher-than-a-small-person fences that surround the construction site.

Background story behind these brilliant but massive nuisances:

The entire construction site is enclosed by the usual barrier fences (a very safety-conscious invention) which someone decided would be perfect to double over as an advertisement medium for firms. Not only do local companies get to tell you how great their sasuages, paints, tire services, etc. are, but we get to make money by renting them places along the fence and printing off the aforementioned banners, which are basically glorified heavyduty screens. They think they're cool because they've had paint laser-printed on them to make a pretty picture. It's a brilliant idea, but massively annoying for me, who has to help put them up. It's really tricky for a short person like me to carry those things, let alone put them up, especially when the wind makes them into large sails....Let me say, I much prefer my job as it relates to them in the OFFICE as opposed to outside.

As far as work with the advertisement banners "inside" is concerned, I have learned a computer program, CorelDraw, which I use to edit the plans when the fence gets changed. I take the plan and up-date it and a list in Excel so anyone at a glance can see the different firms we have advertised around the site. I also help Frau Mittnacht, the woman in charge of publicity and organizatin, return e-mails for her, and follow up on phone calls requesting information on the banners, how much they cost per quarter, positions open on the fence, etc. On the finance side of things, I write up the billing statements for the firms who have already signed up for a banner and quarter (s) and then give them to Herr Neukamm, the bookkeeper (among other thing), who looks them over before getting the obligatory signatures and letting me mail them off.

Hanging banners outside, playing with computer programs, editing tables, writing bills.....All in a day's work!


End of Winter!!

I find it hard to believe
Someone like You cares for me
You put this love in my heart
I tried but could not refuse
You gave me no time to choose
You put this love in my heart

I want to know where the bad feelings go
When I'm depressed and I get down so low
And then I see You coming to me and it's alright
I want to tell You right now
I'm not afraid to say how
You put this love in my heart
There are sometimes when I doubt
But You always find me out
You put this love in my heart
Cause when I see all that You've done for me
It's hard to doubt, I just have to believe
Cause You followed and proved it all of Your life

Well I know the loneliness I had before
Is gone now
I'll never feel it anymore

Cause Your love has released me
From all that's in my past
And I know I can believe You
When You say I'll never be forsaken
Your love is gonna last
There's so much more I should say
If I could just find a way
You put this love in my heart!!

My Internship - The Beginning

The old Krankenhaeusle, the project group office
To those of you who do not know, dear readers, I am working as Bauingenieur Praktikantin for the Projektgruppe - Neue Stadthalle Reutlingen.....*ahem* sorry, English translation: Civil Engineering intern with the project management group for the new city concert hall construction project in Reutlingen. The first few months have been an interesting mix of challenges and rewards, especially regarding my German skills, but as with any other job, it has given me the chance to grow and expand my understanding of not only engineering and German, but of myself.

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started. Other than my interview back in December, I had only been in contact with the secretary, and it was basically "give us a date and show up"...not very informative. The first week ended up being spent with general orientation - more reading than actually work. At the time, it made me extremely impatient. I'm one of those people who hates reading instructions and perfers to jump headlong into something...leaving the overanalysing, thinking, etc to *after* the fact. Yup. I love reading too, but I wasn't very happy sitting still - where was the work, the action!? Ahhh.....very typical Erin. Looking back, however, the first few weeks, although slightly "boring" and "unexciting" sometimes , were invaluable. The reading I did - presentations, brochures, proposals, reports, general information, etc. - gave me a chance to transition into the language while familiarizing me with the project on all different levels. In turn, the small workload of minor tasks gave me the time to adjust to the all-German working environment and get to know my co-workers. Considering we are a relatively small group, the latter was not very hard to do. Everyone was friendly and patient with my language skills, which I appreciated especially the first few weeks, when the German was a bit
overwhelming and it made me stressed.
The German aside, learning about the project has been absolutely fascinating. From an engineering perspective, the project is modern, innovative, and well...interesting! The construction idea is a classical-inspired modern concerthall-multifunction building. This will be surrounded by a community park extending along towards the river; an underground car garage is also planned to be constructed under the hall, which will increase the parking availability downtown. The location itself is quite ideal too - in old town, right across from the bus station and a close walk from the train station, so it will attract people from Reutlingen, as well as from the surrounding region. Regarding the Stadthalle itself, it will utilize many new technologies, like photovoltaic solar cells and cutting edge energy-efficient windows. Materials like the stone and wood come from the region and from local firms, so the project promotes the local companies and industry. The plot of land is also large enough that even after the hall is finished, there are room for plans in the future for a possible cafe and/or small hotel. It is exciting to see a project such as this; one that provides for the current needs of the city and stimulates the local economy, but also has a vision for the future and how to attract and encourage the growth of the city!

This is just a sneak peak into the first few weeks of the job...I promise there will be more to come, both about what I am currently doing and have done!

Pictures, My Internship at Projektgruppe Stadthalle - Part 1:

04 February 2010

Two Months Later.... ~ February 4th

Over two months later, and it looks like I've been neglecting my blog, ha. Sorry about that. So what have I been up to since my last post? Well....

  • Said goodbye to the Valpo group :-(
  • Christmas shopped at the Christkindlesmarkt

  • Baked Christmas cookies!

  • Took my first German engineering final

  • First big snow

  • Got to see a real Christmas tree from the Black Forest, all lit up with candles!

  • First Christmas away from home

  • Had venison stew for Christmas dinner

  • Ate lots of chocolate

  • Wandered around an empty dorm, got excited when I bumped into another person for the first time in three days.


  • Felt like a little kid at the Natural History Museum in Frankfurt am Main. Heehee Dinosaurs!

  • Went to a Gospel Choir concert at the New Years Eve Gala. WooHoo!!

  • Rang in 2010 with fireworks, champagne, singing, and wonderful friends

  • Read a 1000-pg book in 4 days. Gotta love Ken Follett.

  • Snow Snow Snow!!! for a week

  • Ice skating!! and climbed the Achalm

  • Visited Einstein's birthplace and saw the tallest church cathedral in the world (Ulm)

  • Spent a magical two days in Freiburg and the Black Forest
  • Flew off to Ireland

  • Laid siege to the medieval castle of Killkenny....ha. jk. Just ate lunch there.

  • Hiked over 20 km around the Killarney National Park

  • Went through Kinder chocolate withdrawal. Sorry Cadbury. You're not good enough.

  • Saw the western-most point in Ireland.

  • Splashed in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in 4 years.

  • Biked around the Aran Islands

  • Saw a 2000 B.C. fortress. Wow. Awesome!

  • Hung out with awesome people in my Inis Mor hostel (think thriller movies, awesome homemade chef-worthy dinner, rainy days, and story-telling over good Irish beer)

  • Watched the sunset over Galway.


  • Woke up at 4 am for my flight back to the continent.

  • Tried to fathom how it could be almost spring in Ireland but still deep in winter in Germany.

  • Woke up (literally) to a new roommate

  • Did massive amounts of laundry

  • Started on this blog.....

And here we are! There's a massive amount of photos I've posted on Picasa, but some of them turned out really well, so I hope you have some time to look through them.

Off for walk!


27 November 2009

"An American In Paris"

Herr Springer, our art professor, met us on Friday for our weekend fieldtrip to Paris, France. We got into the Louvre for free, and we presented there on different statues or paitings that we had researched beforehand. It was cool seeing all the famous artwork that I could identify, as well as visiting Notre Dame, and Eiffel Tower, at night.


Music thanks to George Gershwin and the movie "An American in Paris"

(you can view the regular photos without music under the file "20. - 21.11. 2009 Paris, France" in the main picture album directory)

Thanksgiving Abroad ~ November 26th

I actually had two Thanksgivings this year. The first one was on my floor, 5th floor Theodor-Litt-Haus, on Wednesday night. Even though we have only three Americans on this floor, the people somehow got the idea that they wanted to make their own Thanksgiving celebration. It was interesting. The whole thing started out with our floor speaker asking Hilary and I if we knew how to make a turkey and we just kindof said, "Uhhhh.....sure??" So that's how it we ended up in the kitchen on Wednesday afternoon, Hilary cooking the chicken and me making the stuffing. Neither one of us had any experience making this stuff, which I personally found amusing, since go figure - the first time we make a Thanksgiving dinner is when we're in Germany. Despite kindof just "winging it" and cooking everything by taste and look, the dinner turned out terrifically. The food everyone contributed was eclectic and it didn't really resemble the normal Thanksgiving spread, except for the turkey and my stuffing, which several people surprisingly declared to be really good (the idea of stale bread that you've poured herbs and butter over and then baked...not really a description that would actually sound appealing to the normal taste buds). But it was a Thanksgiving dinner nonetheless.

Thursday's celebration was for all the American students on campus. The turkeys and the stuffing were provided by the international office and the rest students made and brought. My dish evolved over time from being Mom's sweet potatoe casserole, to butternut squash, and finally to this odd mixed dish of vegetables that only an hour before the dinner I bought because they sounded like they would taste good together: squash, zuchinni, yellow peppers, tomatos, eggplant, and onions. I kindof just experimented, adding herbs, seasoning, and chicken stock according to taste, so all things considering, I think it was a success.

Although it was strange to not be with family, I got to talk them and some friends too. So other than that, and the German test we had in the morning and the store's still being open, Thanksgiving abroad was very similar to previous years: a chance to relax, eat yummy food, enjoy good company, and consider again how much I have been blessed over the past year.


Wednesday Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/Smilegirlerin/Thanksgiving15thFloor#
Thursday Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/Smilegirlerin/ThanksgivingIIAllOfUsAmericans#

My Birthday! ~ November 17th

I didn't really start paying attention to the fact that my 20th birthday was coming up until I stopped in Stuttgart on my way back from Hamburg (another visit to the Albrods!), and saw a flower shop in the train station. At first, I was just going look at the flowers, to waste time while I waited for my next train. Ha. I should know myself better. It is *extreeeeemely* difficult for me to resist buying flowers when I am surrounded by whole clusters of them. So I made my birthday my excuse this time, and broke down and bough six gorgeous roses - three rich velvetly dark reds, and three silky cream and ivory ones. My room automatically felt more cheerful and beautliful to me after I set them in a glass on my desk.

My presents arrived in stages all along the way. Grandma and Grandpa's card had arrived before Budapest, and then Mom and Dad's card too. Up in Hamburg, Gisela Albrod handed me a pink-wrapped package before I left their house...it ended up being her lastest art history novel, which I am now in the midst of reading. Then Tuesday, my actual birthday, dawned with beautiful pink clouds and a pale blue sky.....a gift in itself enough for me. I was lucky to have a break in classes to catch the Hausmeister in the half hour he was around, to pick up the package that had arrived the day before, from John W. That was a fantastic surprise. Lots of little things that I'd been wishing for for the past few months. :-) Less than a week later, Bri's present of soap and a *hand-knit* washcloth came for me. Mom and Dad's came, too, this week, packed with my Christmas presents too. I was excited enough that I woke the house back home up at 6 am, having miscalculated the time change, to tell them it had arrived.

Later on, my friend Melanie and her boyfriend took me out downtown for dessert and drinks. Good conversation and really good dessert (I had chocolatey rich Sachertorte). Another surprise came when I returned to the dorm, and was greeted by a bunch of friends from my floor, who sang Happy Birthday to me in first English, then German, and finally French, and between the five or six of them gave me a dozen little red roses (which are dried and are now next to my books)

All around it was an absolutely perfect birthday. I am happy.


Budapest, Hungary ~ until November 10th

After Berlin, our second class trip was to Budapest, Hungary, which is where the Valpo director here is from. It was interesting being able to see a former-Soviet block country and a part of Eastern Europe in general. We were there long enough to take it easy, see the sights, relax, and enjoy ourselves without having to rush to do everything.

My favorite day was Monday. Half of the crew were caving all day, so the rest of us wandered around the city, taking advantage of the one non-rainy day we had the entire visit. Kristyn, Paul, Austin, Ryan, Tristan, and I walked over to St. Stephen's Chathedral first, stopping to take pictures and then climb up to the top of the dome ~ really good views, since it was clear skies all around. On our way to the Parliament building (which we ended up missing the last tour for), we all got hungry, so Paul, Tristan, Ryan and I split ways with the other two to search for a good (but cheap) restaraunt. The three guys found this awesome little Hungarian restaurant, tucked away on a street off of the cathedral sqaure. It had a courtyard and we think it was actaully part of a hotel or something, but the prices were relatively low for such amazing authentic food. We all were stuffed by the time we finished and declared it to be one of the best meals we had had all week. Yum.

To make the day even better, I got to hear Mahler's 1st Symphony at the Budepest Opera House. The previous night, Jon, Paul, and I had went to see a Verdi opera there, but other than just the experience of being there, the performance hadn't been wonderful for me. Jon Larson and I got a box directly across from Paul's, except our seats were at the back of the box and the box was close to the stage, so we basically couldn't see anything at all. I thought, "It's an Italian opera. Ooops. Well, at least there'll be subtitles overhead...oh wait...they'll be in Hungarian." Net result: I had no clue what was going on during the entire opera. I still don't know what the plot was, other than something having to do with Israel and getting out of Egypt? or maybe not. In anycase, the second night with the symphony was much better. From the top balcony, I had a clear view of the orchestra....and wow. The hall has great acoustics. It was a fantastic performance.

After five days in Budapest, it was back to Reutlingen for me, so I woudln't have to miss my three-hour Alternative Energy lecture on Wednesday... unfortunately, all my trains were late and I missed one because of that and all total, arrived two hours late in Reutlingen, at 2 am in the morning. It was ong walk back to my dorm and then staying up even later to chat with people before finally crashing on my uber-comfortable, wonderful, BED.


Pictures from Budapest: http://picasaweb.google.com/Smilegirlerin/510112009BudapestHungary#

11 November 2009

"This is for all the lonely people..." ~ November 6th

"Rainbow in the Sky over Reutlingen"

It is hard to remember what light is when all you see is darkness. I can imagine the despair Noah and his family surely felt, holed up inside the Ark, the rain pounding down and the sky black…wondering if they would survive the forty days and forty nights. When left stranded, alone, tossed by life’s harsh waves, it is difficult to lean on God alone and trust that He will “leadeth ye unto still waters.” The enemy named doubt and despair creeps in and then what is left for you to lean on? You falter and flounder and begin to sink, the water overwhelms you…you cry “Lord, save me!” and seem to hear no answer.

Then Jesus reaches out his hand and catches you, as He did for Peter.

Yes, even in the angry storm, where you are torn apart and do not know who you are anymore or what the future holds…Yes, even there, “the voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of Glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters; The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the LORD is full of majesty…” And even there, God reigns supreme over all, “the LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King forever.” He gives his promise, his “rainbow in the clouds…the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

So be strong and take heart, you who are burdened and weary and without hope. God is by your side, He is “the saving strength of his anointed,” he is indeed your Stronghold, your Defender, your Protector, your Shield, your Comforter. Lean on him, trust in him.


Picture: taken from my window, in the afternoon of November 5th. dedicated to you, S.