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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why German Eggs Would Be Illegal to Sell in the U.S.

If you are grocery shopping in the U.S., here is something you would never see when opening up a dozen of store-bought eggs:

Eggs in Germany

I distinctly remember my first time grocery shopping in Germany. I spent quite a while looking for the eggs in the refrigerated section before a friend pointed out that they found them near the bread. As if that was not strange enough for my American brain to process (I mean, who doesn't refrigerate their eggs?!), I opened the case to check for broken ones and found that they were all covered in feathers, dirt, and god-only-knows-what-else.

Over the past three years, I have learned to enjoy seeing the poop and feather-covered eggs. The German boyfriend says that it is a sign that the eggs are really eggs. They are created by hens, get laid onto a dirty ground, and we all enjoy eating them for breakfast. So it goes.

Eggs in Germany

However, I never really thought about the reason for this until I recently found an article about why American eggs would be illegal in a British supermarket and vice versa. You see, it is law in the U.S. that all eggs must be washed with warm water and a non-scented detergent. The issue with this, however, is that any moisture on the egg serves as a vehicle for pathogens to travel through the porous shell. Therefore, American egg-washers (is that a job?) must also make sure the eggs are thoroughly dried before shipping them off to the grocery store.

Since washing eggs is a delicate process, one can already start to see why it is illegal throughout the European Union to wash eggs before selling them. To top it off, the egg has a natural coating on it that protects it from contamination. Wash the egg, and you remove this coating. Therefore, European farmers are simply encouraged to keep the hen's area clean to ensure that eggs do not become completely poop-covered.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of having clean eggs? Or do you prefer seeing your eggs au naturel?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Confusing Process of Getting a Student Visa

After being accepted to graduate school in Germany, I posted a to-do list on my blog listing all of the things I have to do before the semester starts in Germany. I formatted it with nice little check boxes next to each item on the list, making it appear like I could easily just work my way through each item one-by-one until everything was taken care of.

Well, like all things bureaucratic in Germany, it has not quite worked out that way. You see, I have run into this annoying paradox as I have tried to procure three specific documents: the official student enrollment from the university, my student visa, and German health insurance.


Here are the documents required to get each of these three things:


Official Student Enrollment

- Visa
- Health insurance

Student Visa

- Official student enrollment
- Health insurance

Health Insurance

- Official student enrollment

Okay, so if each of these things requires at least one of the other, where does one start? Here is how I did it.

1. Sign Up for Health Insurance

After receiving my official acceptance letter from the university, I go to a TK office, one of the most popular public providers of health insurance in Germany. I show her my acceptance letter and tell her I need student insurance. She has me fill out the forms and gives me a letter saying that I am "signed up" for insurance starting October 1st.

2. Submit Paperwork to University

Next stop is the university. I hand over all of my paperwork accepting the spot in the program, along with my letter from the health insurance. Everything looks good so far.

3. Receive Temporary Enrollment from University

One week after turning in the paperwork, I receive a temporary student enrollment from the university. On the document, it says that it is only effective until October 13th, and that I can only receive my official enrollment once I show the university my student visa.

4. Officially Enroll in Health Insurance

Now that I have my temporary enrollment, it is enough to prove to the health insurance that I am a student. This means that I can now become officially enrolled in German public health insurance. I submit all of the paperwork along with a bio-metric picture of my face for my health insurance card.

5. Apply for Student Visa

After receiving my health insurance card in the mail, it is finally time to head to the dreaded Ausländerbehörde (foreigner's office) to apply for my student visa. I bring a letter of enrollment in German health insurance, the temporary enrollment card from the university, a bio-metric picture of my face, and a fistful of cash.

6. Show University My Student Visa

Once I get my student visa, I need to bring it to the university. Once they see it, they can issue me my official enrollment. Yay! We're almost done!

7. Show Health Insurance Official Enrollment

The health insurance provider is not very trusting, and they need me to prove one last time that everything worked and that I received an official enrollment. So, I bring this into the office for them to make a copy of. Now we are officially done!

So, that is how it should all work. I am currently between step number 4 and 5 as I wait for my health insurance card in the mail. Once I get it, hopefully everything goes smoothly in the foreigner's office. Wish me luck!

If you are an expat, have you ever run into such confusing bureaucratic issues?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

To-Do Before the Semester Starts in Germany

Now that I have been officially accepted to grad school in Germany, I need to get a lot of things in my life sorted before the semester begins. To give you an idea of all the things one must do before they can study in Germany and to help myself sort my priorities, I figured I share my To-Do List.

To-Do Before the Semester Begins


☑ Enroll in German health insurance
Now that I am a student, I can get public health insurance in Germany for the best possible rate

☑ Open a German bank account
I actually had one three years ago, but I stupidly closed it. It is time to finally open one back up again.

☑ Pay tuition/semester fees
Since I will be attending is a public university, there is no tuition! I only have to pay ~300 Euro/semester in fees

 Accept my spot in the program
I have to turn in the official paperwork before August 31st

☐ Get my student visa
As soon as I turn in the paperwork to the University and get my student ID, this should be pretty simple

☐ Purchase tickets to the U.S. for Christmas
The sooner, the better. This will be my first time going home in 1.5 years!

☐ Go to Marco's family reunion in Southern Germany
On the last weekend of September, Marco and I will make the 8-hour drive to Southern Germany for his bi-annual family reunion in the mountains

☐ New student orientation
As soon as we get back from the South, I will have some orientation meetings during the first week of October

☐ Start classes
Classes start on October 13th!

That is a lot of things on my plate for the next two months! Let's hope I can make it through this list with no snags, and start grad school in Germany on the right foot.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Accepted to Grad School in Germany!

It's finally official: I will be going to grad school in Germany!

Many of you may be thinking, "You are just finding out now? Doesn't the semester start soon?"

Yes, I am just finding out now. Technically, I got the response to my application at the end of July, but that response was a rejection. I had to work a little bit to get the decision reversed (it ended up being a mistake on their end), and I was officially accepted last Wednesday.

Picture from when I was mailing off my German grad school applications in May

The school year in Germany does run a little bit differently than in the U.S. as well. Here is how the two systems compare:

U.S.

Fall Semester: September - December
Spring Semester: January - May

Germany

Winter Semester: October - March
Summer Semester: April - September

Of course there are other systems in each country, but in general, that is how it goes. So, my classes do not begin until October 13th, although there are some kick-off events for new Master's students that begin on October 1st.

My program is Cultural Sciences with a major in Digital Media, and my classes will be in German. Does that make me super nervous? Yes. But I did take a German test, get accepted, and have the Dean of Students tell me my German is very good. So, that all has to mean something.

I still have a lot of things to do before the first day of classes, but it is nice to not have to sit around and wonder anymore...

Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Tour of Germany, Week 2

Summer Tour Through Germany, Week 2

Welcome to week two of my summer tour of Germany. This is a look back at my two-week vacation around Germany with my parents from July 11 to July 25. If you missed week 1, go check that out first.

Map of Germany Tour

Day 9: Bamberg


We started off week two of our summer German tour back where Marco's father lives with his girlfriend near Bamberg. So, since the few days before were quite hectic, we decided to have a relaxed day sightseeing around Bamberg.

Bridge in Bamberg

Bamberg Rose Gardens

Michaelsberg Abbey, Bamberg

Old Town Hall in Bamberg

We got back to their home around 6 p.m. so that we could enjoy a nice relaxed barbeque that evening.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin in Germany

German BBQ

Day 10: Nuremberg


For our last full day in Southern Germany, we traveled to Nuremberg. The first thing we did was take a bus tour to see all of the historical sights in the city. After the bus tour, we enjoyed a nice snack of some Nürnberger Bratwurst, and then we walked around the grounds of the Nuremberg Castle.

Nürnberger Bratwurst on a tin plate

My dad and I in Nuremberg

Visiting Nuremberg Castle

Visiting Nuremberg Castle

The view from Nuremberg Castle

On the way back to the train station, we also got to ride on one of Nuremberg's driver-less subway trains.

Nuremberg Geisterbahn (driver-less train)

Day 11: Back to Lüneburg


We spent much of the day saying our good-byes and packing. Then, at 6 p.m., we departed on the three-hour train ride from Würzburg to Lüneburg. Since we got home around 10 p.m., we then went straight to bed.

German ICE train

Day 12: Lauenburg


Looking to have a more relaxed day after so much travel the day before, we made the 20-minute drive to Lauenburg. I have written a post about this quaint little town before, so make sure to check that one out for more pictures.

Lauenburg

Lauenburg an der Elbe

We got home in the early afternoon, so we packed a picnic lunch to enjoy in Kurpark, a nearby park in Lüneburg. Since the park is just a 10-minute walk from our apartment, we spent the whole afternoon there walking around, visiting the salt wall, and playing frisbee.

Picnic in Kurpark



Frisbee in Kurpark

Day 13: Bremen


For day 13, we made our final excursion to Bremen, a city-state in Germany located on the River Weser. First, we visited the Bremen windmill.

Bremen windmill

Next, we headed over to the city center and an area called the Schnoor, which is the oldest quarter in Bremen known for its narrow streets and alleys.

Bremen Schnoor

Bremer Stadtmusikanten

We wrapped up the day relaxing by the riverside where my parents enjoyed some McDonald's apple pies (which they just had to get after I told them they are deep fried here).

River Weser in Bremen

Relaxing in Bremen

Deep-fried apple pies from German McDonald's

Day 14: Steak Dinner


This day mostly just consisted of relaxing and packing. Since it was my parent's last day, we also decided to go out to a nice steakhouse for dinner. I turned to the internet to find a new place to go, and I found that a nearby place called Zur Alten Schmiede had great reviews. Neither Marco nor I had ever eaten here before, but it definitely lived up to what I had read online. By far the best steak in all of Lüneburg.

Zur Alten Schmiede

Baked potato with sour cream

Best steak in Lüneburg

This was the view from our table.

View from Zur Alten Schmiede

Day 15: Departure


On day 15, we had to take off from the apartment around 6 a.m. to get my parents to the airport in time for their flight at 9 a.m. It was sad having to drop them off, but it was an amazing two weeks. I am so happy that they were finally able to see where I have spent so much of the past three years of my life.

Hope you enjoyed seeing pictures from our trip! 

What cities you would you visit if you were to take a two-week vacation through Germany?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer Tour of Germany, Week 1

One-week tour of Germany

On July 11th, my parents flew from Chicago to Hamburg to visit me in Germany. This was the first time I had seen them in exactly one year, and I had two whole weeks of activities planned.

I published a blog post just before they arrived with our planned day-by-day itinerary for their summer tour of Germany. For the most part, we kept to this plan. There were a few cities added to list, however. So, here is week one of my parent's summer tour of Germany in pictures.

One-week tour through Germany

Day 1: Arrival


We picked my parents up around noon from the airport in Hamburg. To my embarrassment surprise, all three of us were matching.

Me and my parents

Once we got back to our apartment from the airport, we made Wurstsalat for dinner.

Wurstsalat

And although my parents were both pretty tired from their journey, Marco and I managed to keep them up until about 10 p.m. by taking a walk through the woods near our apartment.

Hiking through the woods in Lüneburg

Day 2: Lüneburg


For my parent's first full day in Germany, we headed into Lüneburg's city center. We walked through Am Sande, where a Kinderfest was going on, and then through Marktplatz, where the weekly farmer's market was taking place.

Lüneburg Rathaus

Next, we headed over to the old water tower, which offers great views of the city. Oh, and if you are wondering: yes, the church (St. Johanniskirche) is a little crooked. It is not my bad photography.

View from the old Lüneburg water tower

On top of the Lüneburg water tower

Day 3: World Cup Finale


We started off day three with a delicious breakfast buffet at a local restaurant in Lüneburg. Since it was raining, we then just hung out at home the rest of the day until about 3 hours before the World Cup finale. Then, with beer in hand, we headed over to a local club to watch the game.

World Cup Finale 2014

Since they won (as if you didn't already know), we then stayed in the city center celebrating until about 4 a.m.

Germany wins the World Cup! 2014

Auto Corso after World Cup Finale

Day 4: Hamburg


Despite a hard night of partying, we got our butts out of bed the next day and got on a train to Hamburg. Just a short walk from the train station is Hamburg's main square, which is where city hall is located.

Hamburg

Hamburg Rathaus

We then took the subway to the popular neighborhood of St. Pauli, which is home to the infamous red light district located along the Reeperbahn. Marco and my dad went for a short stroll along Herbertstraße, which is a street that only men over 18 are allowed to enter...

Hamburg Subway

Herbertstraße

Hamburg is especially famous as the second-largest port in all of Europe. So, we also took the ferry along the Elbe to see all of the various ships and wharves located along the shores.

Elbe River in Hamburg

Ferry on the Elbe River

Day 5: Train to Würzburg


The next day, we took a taxi to the train station to catch our ICE (inter-city express) train from Lüneburg to Würzburg. The train ride was 3 hours long, and we arrived in Würzburg around 1 p.m. Marco's father and his girlfriend picked us up at the train station and showed us around the city.

Sightseeing in Würzburg

After some sightseeing in Würzburg, we brought the day to a close at a local beer garden just a short drive from their home near Bamberg.

German Biergarten

Day 6: Munich


On the morning of day five, all six of us made the nearly three-hour drive from Bamberg to Munich in an eight-passenger van. We had a hotel booked for two nights in Munich, meaning that we would be spending three days there.

We got in around 4 p.m. and then went directly into the city center for a little sight-seeing. We swung by the Rathaus to watch the Glockenspiel, and we ate dinner at the Hofbräuhaus.

Munich Rathaus

Hofbräuhaus


Day 7: Munich


We started off our full day in Munich with a trip to BMW World, which is located right next to Olympia Park.

BMW Welt

BMW World

Olympia Park, Munich

In the afternoon, we took a stroll the through the beautiful Englischer Garten and enjoyed a nice cold beverage (read: beer) in the beer garden.



When evening rolled around, we headed back toward the city center.

Munich Marktplatz

Munich Rathaus at night


Day 8: Nymphenburg Palace and Garmisch-Partenkirchen


For our last day in Munich, we drove to Nymphenburg Palace. Our parents took a tour of the inside of the residence while Marco and I walked around the grounds.

Nymphenburg Palace

Nymphenburg Palace Gardens and Canal

Originally, the plan was to drive directly back to Bamberg from Nymphenburg Palace. Marco's father and girlfriend decided to surprise us, however, by driving one hour further south to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This quaint little town in the Alps is located right on the border of Austria and is a popular skiing destination due to its proximity to Germany's tallest mountain, Zugspitze.

Streets of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

View of the Alps from Garmisch-Partenkirchen

What cities would you visit if you were to do a one-week tour of Germany?


Make sure to come back on Thursday to see pictures from week 2!


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