Brian Messing, Managing Editor
One of the things that initially attracted me to Saint Martin’s was the study abroad opportunities available to all students. I remember the first time that I came to Saint Martin’s, I heard about a study abroad program that the School of Business had with a partner university in Germany. I instantly resolved to attend Saint Martin’s and go on this trip. It felt like destiny.
As we all know, it is easy to set a goal, but it is much more difficult to accomplish a goal. I nearly forgot about study abroad until the first day of second semester sophomore year. My girlfriend mentioned that there was a meeting about the study abroad program in Germany, and we decided to attend. I was once again impressed with everything I heard, including a presentation from the program director, and remembered my initial goal. Three and a half months later, I would depart for Germany.
I had never left the country for five weeks before. I wasn’t nervous, but rather excited. My great-great-great-grandfather, Sebastian Messing, emigrated from Germany in the 1860s. I had always wanted to see the country of my roots. Right before I left, my dad told me “you will be the first one of us to ever go back.” I realized to myself, “Wow! I better not screw this up.”
The flight was comfortable. After a long journey, I arrived at the Dusseldorf Airport to be greeted by a German student from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Andreas Frohlich. Frohlich is studying this semester at Saint Martin’s. He was kind enough to drive me from the airport to my hotel. I noticed that this was one of the “little things” that made my trip seem special.
The next day, I was introduced to the others in the group. There were 17 of us participating in the BEST Program, an economics and businesses study abroad in Germany. Four of us were from Saint Martin’s. The people I met in the program were the reason why the trip was so memorable. As a group, we bonded instantly. Every night we would eat dinner together at a restaurant, and usually end up at the same bar- Fahraman’s- drinking Konig Pilsner and playing darts until midnight. I can say without a doubt that I have never had so much fun. I even remarked after returning from a weekend in Paris, “It was nice to see the Eiffel Tower up close, but I love nothing more than returning to this pub off the beaten path for a game of darts.”
There was certainly a surreal feeling about being in Europe. It seemed like everywhere you looked, something important that affected the world had happened. I noticed this especially on the four weekend trips that I took while I was studying. I went to London on my first weekend and saw the houses of parliament, an item on my bucket list. The second weekend, I went to Paris and saw the Eiffel tower, the Arc d’Triomphe, and Notre Dame. On the third weekend, I went to Berlin and saw Brandenburg Gate and what is left of the Berlin Wall. On the fourth weekend, I went to Venice and stayed in a hotel just steps away from Saint Mark’s. I was amazed with the amount of ground that I was able to cover in such a short time, and I was impressed with all of this history that I was able to take in while abroad.
Perhaps the highlight of my trip was our visit to the Reichstag, the German Parliament in Berlin. We were guests of a member of the Bundestag (lower house of the German Parliament) who gave us a tour of the estate and whose staff gave us a lecture on German politics. As someone who has always enjoyed politics, particularly the politics of other countries, I found this exhilarating. We had to wait for a vote to finish for the member of parliament to arrive, so to pass the time, the staff member asked us how we felt about a variety of political issues. I was the only one with the confidence to speak up and we had a passionate discussion in which we were in agreement over a whole range of political topics presently facing the western world.
It was during this encounter that many people began to notice my great oratory skills. The program director invited me to give a goodbye speech at the farewell dinner. I, of course, accepted. The speech was a nice way for me to recap the experiences. It all felt so surreal. If someone had told me even a few months before that I would be in Europe studying business and economics, I would have called them looney.
After the speech we spent the last night at Fahraman’s as a group before we had our long goodbyes. Many people cried as we had grown so attached to each other. It is amazing how well you can get to know people over such a short period of time. It is equally amazing how lost I felt for a few days after I returned home to my family. I quickly readjusted and realized that this was an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime. No matter what I do or where I go, I will always have the month that I spent in Europe and the wonderful people I met along the way.