By Josiah Zintsmaster
Traveling internationally can be stressful — renewing your passport, getting through customs, sitting through a ridiculously long flight, and crossing your fingers while hoping nothing is getting lost on the plane are just some of the hassles travel brings. That being said, once you finally step out of the cramped plane and into a fresh, new culture, you suddenly realize how every single one of these stresses were worth it.
I recently flew over to Germany with my school for a short study abroad. The course dealt with the Holocaust, focusing on boarders both literally and metaphorically, structures of power, and how they all tie together and effect each other. We stayed in Meißen Germany for the majority of our trip, but also traveled around Eastern Germany and popped into Poland for a day.
The class was fantastic, and, as any tourist would, we made time to go around and visit the main attractions. While I loved all of this, my favorite part of the trip was learning little things about the way others live. Throughout the trip, I noticed things off and on: like how coins are way more useful than paper money, or how the driving style in Germany is very different than ours (to say the least), and that the architecture is simply stunning. Nevertheless, it’s hard to let yourself see past the blatant differences when exclusively sticking to your travel group.
Luckily, our trip was the perfect mix of both structure and freedom. After seeing all of the major attractions as a group, we were given a few days to do as we pleased. I spent this time walking the town nearby (Meißen), trying to find the town’s hidden treasures, talking to locals, and just experiencing living in a new city.
I believe that seeing how locals live their day-to-day lives gives us the best insight and mindset to understanding foreign cultures. This is the time when you realize why travel is all worth it: understanding people’s way of life, making friends with locals who you’ll miss dearly on the flight back, and of course, eating all the incredible food that you will long to taste again. Although it may be stressful at first, take every chance to travel that you possibly can; however, when you do, please don’t stick solely to the itinerary. Let yourself embrace your surroundings and try to understand the culture’s way of life.
All photos by the author