Dulles to Darmstadt

Day 1 (Thursday)

Until I actually reached the airport, our Thursday evening departure always seemed so far off. Studying for my last exam, packing up my dorm, leaving Tech, doing laundry, and packing for Europe kept me very busy for the 48 hours before the trip, and also kept me from getting much sleep. I figured that my extreme lack of sleep over a two night period would guarantee a restful transatlantic flight. I was wrong.

Getting ready to fly to Frankfurt, Germany! and so the adventure begins..

When we all met at the airport, it really started to hit me; I was actually about to fly to Europe. With excitement in the air, we all talked about what the next 24 hours would bring while we said our goodbyes to our parents and let them take a group picture. The various lines we waited in were quite long, but we all got through without issue and long we were waiting at our gate.

Our flight left at about 7:00 p.m. and arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at around 3:00 a.m. EST (or 9:00 a.m. in Germany.) I love sitting in window seats (nothing like seeing a sunset/sunrise from above the clouds), but unfortunately I was in the middle seat section. The movies were enjoyable and the food was decent, but I could not force myself to sleep longer than half an hour. 

While my seat wouldn't have been my seat of choice, I sat next to Emily (who didn't want her breakfast!) and had a good time convincing her that the screen on the back of the seat in front of her was a touchscreen. She poked at it vigorously for ten or fifteen minutes while Meghan Chaney kept shooting back looks of annoyance. It was quite an enjoyable flight, but I paid dearly the next day for not sleeping.

Day 2 (Friday)

As we stepped off the plane, we immediately noticed countless differences: signs, menus, and speech was almost exclusively in German, and if that wasn't enough the beer in vending machines verified that we weren't in Kansas anymore.

I had slept less than six hours over the previous two nights, so I don’t think I quite yet fully appreciated the beautiful scenery and foreign culture. Needless to say, I was exhausted when we arrived in Heidelberg. It was a beautiful day, though, so after dropping off our bags at the hotel we all went to a nearby bank to withdraw euros, and then we all went to find lunch. There were all sorts of places, but a few of us went to a shop that had sandwiches, pastries, wraps, and soft pretzels. The food was delicious, and after relaxing in the shop for a while we headed back to the hotel.

Phase diagrams in Darmstadt!
We all met back outside the hotel at 2:00 p.m., and then went to catch our train to Darmstadt. When we got off the train in Darmstadt, we were met by two students from the university who would act as our tour guides. They showed us all around the city and the university’s campus, and eventually they took us to one of the labs. The people working the experiments showed us a number of large machines and explained in great detail what they did and how they worked. There were some very intricate experiments taking place at the lab, but I only gathered pieces of what was said. (This is mostly because I was so tired but also because I had not yet gotten used to the thick German accents.)

After visiting the University, all 27 of us (including the tour guides) went to a local brew-house where we sat outside. I ordered a dish of delicious white sausages with a soft pretzel on the side, and I could not have been more content. It was probably the second time (with the other being lunch) since we got to Germany that I was able to sit down, relax, and enjoy my surroundings.

My first day in Germany was both exhausting and thrilling. We hit the ground running just like we knew we would, and there was so much to take in that I could never put into words.  The people were very kind, all the food was delicious, and even figuring out how public transportation (and train reservations) work made for an adventure. After traveling back to the Heidelberg hotel, I took a nice long shower before I laid down, but when I did lie down I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.