Author Archives: Maddie Kindig

About Maddie Kindig

Senior at IU South Bend. Graduating in May 2015 with a BA in German and a minor in history. Starting fall 2015, I'll be attending The Ohio State University for my Masters of Arts in Germanic Languages and Literatures.

4 Crucial Tips for Study Abroad Preparation

With warmer weather just around the corner, many students at IU South Bend are gearing up for study abroad trips to Costa Rica, Florence, Oaxaca, London, and Edinburgh during spring break or summer break. As a student who traveled on a study abroad trip last summer to Berlin and Prague, the main advice I can give to these students and any prospective student is an old standby: preparation, preparation, preparation. How exactly can our IU South Bend students prepare for their study abroad trips? How can preparation and organization make other students want to study abroad, too? These questions are going to be answered in four ways that I believe all students should know before they study abroad.

1. The first preparation tip should be the most obvious and most important of all: the passport. Do you need a passport to travel to your destination? If so, make sure to apply for a passport about three to six months in advance of the departure date of the trip. Not only that, but make sure to have copies available of your passport with you in case of an emergency. Keep your passport, passport copy, and personal identification card on you at all times during your study abroad trip!

2. The next tip is one that should begin around the same time as acquiring your passport. When preparing to travel to your specific location, you must first become familiar with the place you will be visiting. Researching the location will help you to better understand local cultures and differences between your home country and a foreign country. Two of the most fun aspects to research, in my opinion, are local delicacies and the country’s language. Although you may be tempted to revert to English, make sure to learn a few key phrases in the country’s native language.

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IU South Bend Students in Costa Rica, 2014

3. As a chronic over-packer, my biggest issue was deciding what to pack and what not to pack for my trip. The essentials are appropriate clothes (for layering in case of warmer and/or cooler weather), comfortable shoes, plenty of socks, underwear, or swimwear depending on your location, cell phone/cell phone charger, basic and minimal toiletries, and any books you know you will need for your time overseas (i.e. English to foreign language dictionary, books to read on the plane, sketch books and/or journals). It is extremely important to keep in mind that although it might be tempting to bring all your own toiletries along, most locations will be able to provide you with cheap and small versions of your favorite products. Keeping enough space in your luggage for souvenirs and goodies to bring back home is key when deciding on how much to pack into your suitcase.

4. Lastly and equally as important, when you prepare yourself to study abroad, you must go in with an open mind. Traveling to a foreign country can seem exciting and frightening all at the same time, but just remember that you will learn to grow as a student and as a person when experiencing a new culture and gaining lifelong experience with internationalizing your education. The most important piece of advice I can give you all when preparing for study abroad is this: put yourself out there and have fun!

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IU South Bend students in Prague, 2014

Need more preparation tips and advice? You can find a few fantastic resources for study abroad and traveling here, here, and here. Do you have any study abroad advice or stories? If so, let us know in the comments!

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The German Club’s Trip to Christkindlmarket in Chicago

During the last weekend of November, the IU South Bend German Club traveled to Chicago to take part in a unique and festive holiday extravaganza: The annual German-American Christmas festival aptly named Christkindlmarket. As president of the German Club this year, it brought me great joy to be able to provide students campus-wide with the opportunity to be exposed to German culture and a tradition that has an expansive history and is still immensely popular in Germany today. The main goal of this trip was to welcome students to come along with us to an off-campus event that not only strengthens the German Club and German program here at IU South Bend, but provides students with the opportunity to further internationalize their education with a long-standing German tradition made me, as a German major and the club president, happy to share my enthusiasm about German language, culture, and history.IMG_2225

Christmas markets in Germany have been a pre-holiday tradition starting as early as the 17th century. In fact, Christkindlmarket in Chicago models itself after one of the most famous and largest Christmas markets in Nuremberg, Germany! Spanning from late November up until Christmas day, Christkindlmarket Chicago attracts visitors right into the heart of the city, and there is certainly no shortage of traditional German Christmas food, gifts, and an overall cheerful Christmas atmosphere here.

With many vendors from both the United States and Germany, there are numerous booths in which you can satiate your appetite when visiting Christkindlmarket. The smell of pretzels, crepes, Döner, Schnitzel, bratwurst, strudel, roasted almonds, and many other traditional German foods can be detected blocks before you reach the market itself. Christkindlmarket in Chicago also provides visitors with being able to indulge in one famous and delicious German beverage traditionally served at Christmastime, the warmed and mulled Glühwein. But if the giant hanging gingerbread cookies and wall of German gummy bears don’t entice you enough, then the German trinkets and products are sure to grab your interest. Christmas ornaments from Käthe Wohlfahrt of America, advent calendars, cozy scarves and hats made from Alpaca, beer steins and boots, or even the beautifully handcrafted artisanal glass ornaments from Bavaria are just to name a few of all the expansive options for traditional German Christmas products available.

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Overall, the German Club’s adventure to Chicago, whether it be catching the train as a group or being able to incorporate our experiences into our German education, was a priceless event that I could not have imagined being any more fulfilling at my last year here at IU South Bend. As the proud president of this club, I hope to see a legacy of education and excitement by making this trip to Christkindlmarket an annual event, open to not just the German Club, but to all students on campus. Off-campus events like this are what not only strengthen the German program on campus, but they help to deepen the connection of our bright students to their studies.

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Graffiti in Berlin: A Feast for the Eyes

While traveling this summer on IUSB’s study abroad trip to Berlin and Prague, one of our assignments was to create collage journals. With these collage journals, we were afforded the opportunity to have free rein to recreate our memories as we saw fit, being able to reflect back on the impressions both cities had left in our memories. One of the most striking and inescapable themes I decided to pick up on and highlight in my journal was while I was in Berlin. This theme was the graffiti found on walls of buildings, stairs following down to Berlin’s many U-Bahn stations, windows of various shops, and anywhere else there seemed to be an uncovered canvas. No matter where you turn in Berlin, there is graffiti waiting to be found just around the corner.

But what I did not realize at first was just how taken aback I would be by all this graffiti. When you think of the term “graffiti,” you tend to think about buildings being defiled and explicit words being strewn across a city for all to see. The graffiti in Berlin, however, is unlike any other I have seen. The artistic quality and the time it must have taken for these pieces to be completed reflect creative expression and impassioned attention to detail.

When I show my personal photos of various pieces of Berlin’s graffiti, I always say, “Berlin itself can be seen as one giant art exhibition.”

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Because the majority of our time in Berlin was spent in the former Communist East part of Berlin, it was a constant reminder of how the former GDR’s economy and livelihood was seen as “stunted” by those in the Western part of the city. Run-down buildings with shattered windows and tattered apartment doors seemed to be the places where the most, and often most vibrant, graffiti could be found. In my opinion, that is a testament to how those Berliners took back the city as a whole in order to revamp and reclaim Berlin, and Germany overall, as a unified place. More than anything, the reminder of the former East Berlin is present by having not only part of the Berlin Wall still standing, but having pieces of the Wall erected around the city with the same artistic graffiti covering the pieces from top to bottom. Unfortunately I was not able to get my own picture, but one of the most famous pieces of art on the Berlin Wall is “The Fraternal Kiss” between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.

Berlin, East Side Gallery

Berlin is often described as a gritty, harsh, and rough-around-the-edges city. Even the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, described Berlin as “poor, but sexy.” After spending one week in Berlin, I must admit that Mayor Wowereit is definitely correct in his explanation. Although Berlin tends to be a whirlwind type of city, one thing is certain: Berlin is a city that is sure to captivate your senses.

(c) Maddie Kindig (All photo credit of graffiti belongs to me, except for the one “kissing” picture)

Summer Session I Trip to Berlin and Prague: Histories of Both Cities

Panoramic photo of Prague from the Pražský hrad ‘Prague Castle’ gardens

Self-taken panoramic photo of Prague from the Pražský hrad ‘Prague Castle’ gardens

I can safely say that this short whirlwind of a study abroad trip was the most fulfilling and adventuresome experience I have had in my life thus far. If I had one word to describe my trip it would be this: magical. Prague and Berlin have momentously different histories and I was unable to overlook the juxtaposition in how both cities showcase their pasts and presents. Prague and Berlin showed me one main theme that I will never be able to forget: the way they embrace or ignore their history. It begs the question: What are these cities proud or ashamed of?

Prague has a nearly 1,000-year-old, rich history, and you are surrounded by this reminder of the past as you walk down the cobble stone streets and gaze up at the Gothic architecture. Prague is a city that screams, “Look, there’s history here! And here!” The two sites in Prague that help to explore the answer to this question are St. Vitus Cathedral and the Jewish quarter. St. Vitus Cathedral has been a central monument in Prague since the early 1300’s and its Gothic architecture and grandeur are something that Prague is most certainly proud to display. However, the Jewish quarter has a much different historical feel. In the Jewish quarter, you can see the revered Old Synagogue and the magnificent and morbid Jewish cemetery with its layers and rows of Hebrew inscribed tombstones. Alternatively, the strange aspect of the Jewish quarter is that it now has been turned into a swanky, upper-class shopping district for the wealthy tourists of Prague. To me, the Jewish quarter is the most glaring evidence of the Czech people not being so proud of their history.

In comparison with Prague, Berlin has a much different historical feel. Berlin is not nearly as old as Prague and has had a much more recently tumultuous past of destruction and subsequent reconstruction. Two sites are literally feet away from each other and could not be more polar opposite in remembrance: The Holocaust Memorial and Adolf Hitler’s underground bunker where he committed suicide. The Holocaust Memorial is located right in the heart of Postdamer Platz and next to the Brandenburg Gate. This site for the murdered Jews of Europe is impossible to ignore and I believe that is a reflection of German memory and willingness to look at their terrifying past with World War II and the Holocaust and learn from it. Nonetheless, Hitler’s underground bunker is mere feet away from the Holocaust Memorial and is barely given a mention other than one short informative plaque. Clearly, this speaks to Germany’s willingness to accept and confront the two driving forces behind their guilt surrounding their most recently (in)famous history.

At the end of my travels, it is still hard to reflect on and remember all of what I had seen and experienced. Additionally, I know that both Berlin and Prague have aspects of their history that they are either not ready to fully confront or have immense pride in being able to remember and learn from. These magical cities will forever hold a place in my heart.