Author Archives: brittneydurbin

Until next time

By Brittney Durbin

Well guys, this is it… My last blog post for the MU Study Abroad page.

I have to say that I am quite sad to be done with my adventures, but alas, it is time for another bright student to begin his/her travels around the globe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI cannot believe that this time a week ago I was still in Spain… It seems as though it has been an eternity. You see, these past few months have been the most amazing of my life.

I have to admit, I chose to study abroad for a full semester just to get away. Sure, I had to complete a term (summer, fall/spring or academic year) for my international studies major, but my parents really encouraged me to do a summer semester. Needless to say, me being me, I decided to go the full semester route. Without a doubt, I think that it was the perfect amount of time. I feel as though after six weeks I would have wanted to stay longer, but a year would have been much too much time away from home. There were times, like Thanksgiving, that I really, really wished I could be home, but those rough times were outweighed by the great times.

I don’t want to diminish this point though: There will be days that you’ll want to go home. I felt really unprepared for those days. I think that a lot of people expect study abroad to be spectacular every single minute of every single day, but you have to realize that some days will be bad. Whether it be a holiday without family, or that you simply want to eat American food and sleep in your own bed, there will come a time that you wish, in that moment, you were home.

However, this should not keep anyone from going abroad, because you gain so much. The places you go, the things you see and the people you meet make it all worth while.

London, England

London, England

Within the past five months, I have been in five countries: the United States of America, Spain, England, Germany and Austria. If I had stayed at Mizzou, or just gone abroad for a summer term, I guarantee you that I would have never made it to all five places. I would have missed out on the opportunity to see Big Ben, or the Christmas Markets in Germany and Austria.

However, I have to say the things I saw cannot be compared to the things I learned.

I left America a very interdependent person. I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing, but as I embark on this last semester of undergrad, I think that it was time to be pushed out of the nest a bit, if you know what I mean. Living on a different continent gave me a new perspective on making decisions on my own, and especially on spending money. (That conversion rate is no joke.) Incidentally, it also proved how important it is to have a support system, and how much I really appreciate my loved ones. Like I talked about on my Thanksgiving post, it took being more than 5,000 miles away from my family to see how much they do for me, and how grateful I am for them.

Living abroad also reminded me of how great I have it in America, and more importantly, how I need to be more thankful for what I have. I had a rude wake-up call when I arrived to Spain. For me, one of the most annoying and difficult parts of living abroad was public transportation. In London and Munich the subways were fine, but in Alicante you had one option: the bus. Oh, the notorious 24 Line that seemed to always be crowded or late. The thing is though, I only had to tolerate it for four months, while the people who live there ride it whenever they need to go somewhere. Also, on a more serious note, many homeless people roam the streets of Alicante, and many others are without jobs. I was not expecting to see how much the economy of Spain was struggling, and how it affected it’s citizens.

Dachau

Dachau

Without a doubt, I can say that the visit to Dachau was a top five life-changing experience. Perhaps to some this sounds extreme, but if you have been to a concentration camp, or any other place of evil, you understand. There is no way you walk out the same as when you walked in. It makes you appreciative for the very breath you breathe in, makes you grateful for the life you have and the times you live in.

One of my favorite childhood characters, Winnie the Pooh, once said, “Goodbye? Oh no, please can’t we go back to page one and do it all over again?” I have to say that in this moment, I wish I could. Being back is wonderful, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences abroad for anything. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

To my parents, Cecil and Jeannette; my sister, Nickole; my boyfriend, Zach; my wonderful new friend,  Kelsey; my adviser, Miguel Allyon; the MU International Center as a whole; those who sponsor the George C. Brooks scholarship;  and many others who shaped my study abroad experience, I want to say, “Thank you.” Without you my time abroad would have been completely different, or perhaps not even a reality.

You each helped to give me the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to have the world at my fingertips.

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Until next time.

Day 3: A hop, skip and a jump away!

By Brittney Durbin

So day three of our Germany adventure actually didn’t take place in Germany because….

We went to Austria!

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Salzburg, Austria, is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Munich, so my friends and I hopped on the train to add yet another country to our passports! (Hypothetically of course, because you don’t get another stamp if you stay in the EU).

Anyway, it was a very easy and carefree travel day. You see, for about 30 Euros you can buy a Bayern pass, which allows up to five people to travel together on one ticket. We hopped on the train at the main station in Munich, and in about two hours arrived in Salzburg. The train itself was very nice, with comfortable seats and everything. Plus, the scenery was BEAUTIFUL! We passed by many quaint, German towns, and at one stop these little kids were even having a snowball fight with train! It was quite adorable, really.

The Alps!

The Alps!

Also, passing by the gorgeous, snow-capped Alps was incredible. Its not like I’ve never seen mountains before or anything; I have been to Colorado and also went skiing a couple times while I lived on the East Coast. But these mountains, the Alps, really gave the ones in the U.S. a run for their money. It was just so breathtakingly gorgeous, and spectacular, that seeing those alone made the trip to Salzburg worth it.

Now, I say that light-heartedly because Salzburg itself was also amazing! I’ll continue on with the sharing, so you can get a little taste of Austria too.

Yum!

Yum!

Speaking of taste, the first thing my friends and I ate when we arrived was a Mozartschmarrn, which is this delicious dessert with a ton of chocolate and marzipan. And when I say a ton, I really mean it. The guy serving us loaded this thing up with chocolatey goodness. He also gave us some sort of sauce to put on it as well. He was so friendly, too!

Now, I should back-track a bit and discuss where we got this wonderful dessert. If anyone has ever been to Germany/Austria it will come as no surprise that we were at the Christmas Markets! Not to play favorites, but I like the one in Salzburg much better that the market in Munich. I suppose that the Salzburg market was more like what I pictured them to be in the first place.

Welcome Sign!

Welcome Sign at the Christmas Market!

You see, in Munich the stalls just line the main avenue in between where all the big stores are. So you can shop H&M, for example, and then walk outside and buy a handmade ornament or other Christmas Market item. However, in Salzburg the Christmas Market is in the City Center, and it is decorated and has a big Christmas tree right in the middle. Plus, the market in Salzburg seemed much bigger than the one in Munich, and with more things to choose from.

River running through Salzburg.

River running through Salzburg.

We roamed around the market for about two hours, and then went and grabbed some hot cocoa in a cafe to warm up a bit. By the time we finished, it was already starting to get dark outside. So, we ran around taking a few more pictures before the sun went completely down (like this one).

Unfortunately,my friends and I did not have enough time to see all the interesting Mozart places, such as his house. Or any of the “Sound of Music” spots. The last train left the station at 9:09, but to play it safe, we jumped on the 8:09 train and returned back to Munich.

I decided that one day in Salzburg is definitely not enough, and if given the opportunity, I would love to go back. It was a beautiful place, and the people were so friendly.

The next day we woke up, caught the bus and then the plane. We ended up having an hour delay because it was snowing so hard, but my friends and I ended up falling asleep as soon as we sat down. All that traveling and sightseeing makes a person tired!

It is hard to believe that was only a little over a week ago! Time has been flying, and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that in less than 48 hours, I’ll be on a plane back home!

This has truly been the most amazing experience, and although I am so ready to be home, its bittersweet to see this adventure come to a close.

Between all my packing and such, the next post will likely be from my parents’ living room!

Until next time!

Day 2: Dachau concentration camp

By Brittney Durbin

It was a consensual agreement between me and my three friends who joined in my adventure to Germany to visit a concentration camp while in country. I’m not really sure who thought of it in the first place, but needless to say we all walked away from the experience with changed perspectives.

A short thirty-minute train ride and quick bus trip later, we arrived at the visitors center. Technically the area is now a memorial, but for explanation purposes I’m going to refer to it as a concentration camp.

Anyway, it is free to visit the grounds, but for only three euros you can participate in a guided tour. I really suggest that if ever given the opportunity, because our guide was fantastic and without her I don’t think I would have taken as much away from the experience.

Gates of Dachau.

Gates of Dachau

The tour began at the front gates of the concentration camp. It is a little hard to see, but above the door it says, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which translated means, “Work makes you free.” This was because, originally, Dachau served as a working camp, intended to reform political opposition to the Nazi party. However, as the war continued to progress and worsen, it became a concentration camp where Jews were sent as well.

Where the barracks once stood.

Where the barracks once stood

The bunks where the prisoners slept.

The bunks where the prisoners slept

Open area where roll call occurred.

Open area where roll call occurred

Uniform of a former prisoner.

Uniform of a former prisoner

One of the tools used to beat the prisoners.

One of the tools used to beat the prisoners

Those are just a few pictures I took, but I have to say I almost felt like I was invading the privacy of those who once suffered at Dachau. I went to visit and take pictures and learn, while many others, less than 100 years ago, were injured, beaten or never walked back out of those gates.

Memorial for those who killed themselves in the electric fence. It is supposed to represent that the people became part of the barbed wire.

Memorial for those who killed themselves in the electric fence. It is supposed to represent that the people became part of the barbed wire.

In total, we spent about two and a half hours walking around with the guide, and about an hour of it was outside. I believe that it was about exactly 0 degrees Celsius, aka 32 degrees Fahrenheit, with snow everywhere. In fact, later it started really picking up…. Now, imagine this: I was wearing hunter boots (made for the snow/rain), insulated socks for said boots, another pair of socks, a pair of leggings, jeans, two shirts, a scarf, a heavy-duty/double layered North Face, gloves and a hat, and I was still freezing. The prisoners of Dachau were forced to stand outside, in only their underwear, in conditions worse than it was that day as a means of punishment. Some found it so unbearable that they would commit suicide by running into the electric fences.

Now, the pictures I am about to share are those from the crematorium area. This was by far the hardest part of the tour, so exit the tab now if you do not wish to see.

The actual Crematorium building.

The actual crematorium building

Our tour guide said that "brausebad" means "bathhouse". However, this was the room where they would gas prisoners.

Our tour guide said that “brausebad” means something along the lines of “bathhouse.” However, this was the room where they would gas prisoners.

Brausebad.

Brausebad

This picture alone speaks volumes.

This picture alone speaks volumes

Walking through this building, in the same rooms where people died and were cremated was utterly horrific. It’s something that I had seen in textbooks or from watching movies in history class. But to see it with my own two eyes, to stand where so much evil took place was a feeling that I can’t describe to you. It is a feeling that haunts you to your very core.

Area outside the Crematorium.

Area outside the Crematorium.

The sickening thing is that this camp was located in a place so beautiful, with a quaint little river bordered by trees.

I forget what the exact number of people who died at Dachau concentration camp, but I know it was something along the lines of at least 30,000 people.To put this in perspective, imagine if someone came to Mizzou and murdered the entire study body…. It’s unfathomable.

On a brighter note, at the end of the war when the death marches occurred, the U.S. Army was able to save 16,000 people who were previously at Dachau. The camp apparently had rounded up as many prisoners as they could, and started to march them to the Alps to murder them. Thankfully, they were intercepted (and the Army goes rolling along). Another thing that I found very tragic was that the state of health of these prisoners was so bad that when the soldiers gave them candy to try and raise their spirits, some died because their bodies could not digest it (I think it had to do with the sugar content).

This trip to Dachau concentration camp was a very strong reminder of how one person with so much evil can influence others, and in turn influence the entire world. This was a devastating time in history, and one which I hope never repeats itself in any form or fashion.

However, the harsh reality of life is that bad things will continue to happen. Not even a week after my visit to Dachau, the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary occured and the lives of innocent people, innocent children where taken.

Peace sign outside the crematorium area.

Peace sign outside the crematorium area

Needless to say, this peace sign drawn outside the crematorium gave me a little hope. I thought it was very moving that someone took the time to put this outside a place that once housed so much fear and death, with no peace. It gives me hope for a better future, hope for a time when people don’t go into institutions and kill.

Maybe I’m being unrealistic, but that’s the beauty of hope and faith… I can aspire for a better world.

Until next time.

P.S. If anyone would like to learn more about Dachau, here is a really useful website: kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/index-e.html.

Day 1: Guten tag!

By Brittney Durbin

Hello friends!

This past week was super crazy with finals/traveling, but now that I am just about done with all my school obligations, I can finally share my Germany experiences!

My friends and I departed Alicante in the wee hours of the morning last Saturday, Dec. 8. This was an adventure in and of itself because I took RyanAir for the first time. Now if anyone is unfamiliar with this company, it is famous for having amazingly cheap flights. In fact, I paid less than $100 dollars round trip, but yet again it was one of those “you get what you pay for” type things. The seats were super uncomfortable, they have very strict guidelines on the bags you can bring, and they PACK these planes full. Although it was not as horrible as I had expected, it definitely wasn’t like riding U.S. Airways or another big airline company.

City Center!

City center!

Once we arrived, we had to take an hour and a half bus ride to Munich, which was nice because it meant I got to sleep more (yay!). After walking a bit we finally made it into the city center, where we were greeted with Christmas Markets and this lovely building! It was simply amazing, and I now understand why everyone tries to go to Germany around this time of year.

After shopping a bit, my friends and I made our way to our hotel, which was a little bit outside the city. Public transportation was easy to maneuver, especially since it was very similar to the London Tube type of system. Plus, everyone was very helpful and the people at the information desks even spoke English!

While on the topic of language, this was the first time in my life that I visited a country in which I had no clue what anyone was saying to me. In Spain, although my Spanish is far from perfect, I understand enough to get around or to be able to ask someone for directions, and in London everyone spoke English (obviously). However, this was not the case in Germany. It was really interesting and delightful to hear something unfamiliar, and, despite being unable to understand the people, we managed to have a fabulous time.

Anyway, back to the more exciting things.

IMG_0982That night my friends and I ventured over to the Hofbräuhaus, which is a famous attraction in Munich. Between its traditional manner of eating, as well it’s mouth-watering German food, this place exceeded my expectations! It was really neat to scout out a table, and then just join other people for dinner. The family next to us was celebrating the son’s birthday, so they were delightful company.

IMG_0980After finishing dinner, we made our way back to the Christmas Markets/city center to see what it was like at night. Boy, was it beautiful! This tree was so tall! It took my breath away (or that could have been the cold…). Nevertheless, my friends and I roamed the center looking at all the crafty things, and well as enjoying even more food! I myself loved the crepes, which had Nutella and banana in them. Also, the bratwurst was spectacular! I discovered that I am a huge fan of German food, as well as just the general atmosphere of the restaurants.

Unfortunately, my camera batteries died early on in the trip, so just about all of the photos are from my iPhone. Honestly, I probably would have taken the same number of pictures even if it had been working, because it was so cold that my fingers would freeze after snapping just a couple!

Tomorrow I will write about day two, but I must warn you that the post will not be as fun or lighthearted as this one. You see, my friends and I decided to visit a concentration camp, and I think that it was one of the most horrific and eye-opening experiences of  my entire life.

Anyway, I’ll elaborate more on that tomorrow, but I just wanted to give a heads up.

Until next time!