It has been a month and half since I returned from Heidelberg, Germany. I was an exchange student as a German major through Oregon State Ecampus. I completed one last class upon returning from Heidelberg and am happy to say I will be graduating with my bachelors! I could not have done this without my experience in Heidelberg, which fulfilled major requirements for my degree. I am very happy that I was able to achieve a lifelong goal of spending some time living in Europe, alongside the long-awaited completion of my post-secondary education. It was a long and bumpy road at times and as a non-traditional student (I’m 30!) and first-time overseas traveler, I was a bit nervous! But Heidelberg proved to be a wonderful experience that I will remember throughout my life.
My first impression of Heidelberg was how familiar and comfortable it felt right away. The lifestyle is much more serene than what I have been used to back home in the Denver, Colorado area. The atmosphere in Heidelberg is more pedestrian and everyone bikes everywhere! Perhaps for this reason, although it is a college town, I noticed how little tech addiction the population seemed to have. Where I live, in the suburbs of Denver, everyone’s noses seem stuck in a smartphone, texting, watching videos and talking without end. In Germany, I saw people speaking with, spending time with, and simply enjoying the company of those present. Heidelberg is a city with a somewhat small-town feel. Because of its pedestrian-friendly design, it is much easier to feel connected and a part of the people around you. You are physically amongst them and seeing them as you travel about each day, as opposed to spending long commutes in stop and go traffic, isolated in cars.
Heidelberg is known for its stunning castle ruins, which I was able to visit the day before returning to Denver. I recommend taking the stairs up to the top, it adds to the experience! I also saw the historical student prison, shopped on the Hauptstrasse (main street), visited the Tiergarten (zoo) twice and had lots of Gelato! The Altebrucke (old bridge) which I passed over each day to get to my classes at Max Weber Haus had gorgeous late spring/summer views of the Necker river and street performers. I attended an African market at Universitatzplatz, the heart of Heidelberg for students, with its Mensas (cafeterias) and student services nearby. Street vendors and food trucks were plentiful (there was even Sri Lankan food!) and the Schloss (castle) lit up with fireworks several times throughout the season for holidays, although I unfortunately missed them! The bakeries sold delicious schokocroissants, (chocolate croissants) and it was always great to get an ice-schokolade (yeah I have a sweet-tooth!) and relax by the Neckar on the weekend. The river was located conveniently and directly behind my student Wohnheim (apartment), which was very quiet for student housing. Even food I tend to avoid in the States seemed quite tasty (I actually had a bratwurst – and I liked it!). I will miss the very reliable transportation and seeing everyone from children to businessmen in suits strolling by with ein Kugel Eis (ice cream cone) from one of the many Eis Cafes or Gelato shops on the main street. By and far everyone I met in Germany was very polite and accommodating. I hope to take my family (mom, sis and niece) to see Heidelberg one day in the near future.