Marauders without Borders - A Semester in Germany

Marauders without Borders - A Semester in Germany

Marauders without Borders

A Semester in Germany with Aaron Jaffe

Hometown: Collegeville
Graduation: Spring 2017

It’s not so often that a kid that grew up in the suburbs of a major city gets the opportunity to travel to lands distant and far-fetched, places that could only be thought up in fairytale books, but that is exactly what I am doing. Starting on December 15, I will be living in northeast Germany – starting out in Köln (pronounced Cologne – yes, they invented cologne) and then spending three months in Münster (they’re not the inventors of Munster cheese). Then I’ll be traveling throughout western Europe with only my backpack as a companion.

To introduce myself, I am a speech communication major with a concentration in public relations. On campus, I am involved with The Snapper, UAB, Hillel, MUTV, the German Club and the Marauder Men’s Glee Club and I’m expecting to graduate in May 2017 – fingers crossed!

While in Münster, I will be interning for the University of Münster with their international office. Though going to work for 40 hours a week may not seem like fun to most people, I will be doing what I love: writing, graphic design and photography, in a country that I have always hoped to live in one day.

Though I am proud to say that I am no stranger to traveling – including five countries, 56 cities and 16 U.S. states, I have never had the level stress I am having now. I will be in Europe from December to May, that means two seasons worth of clothing and multiple occasions to pack for including going to the office, hiking mountains, skiing, exploring cities and more. The idea that I am limited to one checked bag (under 50 lbs.) and one carry-on item leaves me destitute in my options of what to bring with me. However, where there is a will there is a way!

I can’t lie and say that the anxiety brought on by the recent horrific tragedies in Europe has been dissipated by my eagerness to leave, but I firmly believe that just because these tribulations happen I can not stop living my life. I would rather cross the great divide doing what I love than having any regrets about my choices in life.

The next four months are going to be a new adventure for me as it would probably be for anyone. But as Ellie confidently calls out in the Disney movie ‘Up,’ “Adventure is out there!” and I don’t plan to miss a moment of it.

Posts are below in chronological order with the newest one on top.

Last Weeks in Europe

My last weeks in Europe have been filled with adventures. I've seen the Amalfi Coast in Italy and had lemons in all their forms, tried pizza original from Naples (Napoli) and rushed through Rome to try to see all the sights. Then I met up with my father in Nice, France to take a road trip down the French coast through Avignon and the lavender fields of Provence to Barcelona where I am now.

It has been a pleasure to write this blog, though j may not have written as much as I probably should have. My time in Europe has taught me so many things, but I think the most important is that being an American is an amazing thing and that we have a duty to make our country more of a global neighbor and friend than as the continuous leader of battle. I've met so many people on this trip and each one will tell you that going outside their home country to embrace a new one with a different culture and language gave them a new perspective on life and their (and their countries) place in the world.

Today I fly to India and I'll be there for 2 weeks before arriving back home. I will be ending my blog here so if you'd like to know how India went you'll just have to ask me when I get back to campus. Or...check Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (@its_jaffe).

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Vatican City

Vatican City



Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Tiramisu - founding city is Rome

Tiramisu (founding city is Rome)

Barcelona Market

Barcelona Market

National Museum Catalunya

National Museum of Catalunya

Doha, Qatar

Arriving in Doha, Qatar (layover) just after writing this post

Eastern Europe, the Opera and the Austrian Alps

These last couple days have been a whirlwind of culture shock as I travelled through Prague, Kraków, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg.

Starting out with Prague and Budapest, I realized the majesty of Europe as it was before WWII. Both of these cities survived the war with minimal bombings and other attacks from the Allied forces so they have become almost perfect representation of the glory days of European architecture and urban planning. That, plays the amazing food to be found in those countries makes them must-visit locations for anyone coming to Europe.

In Kraków I mostly just went to see Auschwitz, the primary death camp for Jews during WWII. The only word to describe the feeling from visiting a place where such travesties happened is...powerful. The camp was turned into a museum only 20 years after the end of the war so most of it is still perfectly intact. I went alone without a tour company and the tour guides that work at the camp (primarily locals from the surrounding town) are very passionate about the camp and provide an 'excellent' experience to learn and almost feel the energy given off by what happened there. Kraków itself is much more of a boring city. Because it was primarily destroyed due to bombings in the war, the Soviets, during the communist occupation that happened afterwards, had to rebuild most of the city. However, Soviet architecture is very boring -- mostly cement slabs put together to make buildings that were then later painted to add a bit of color to the drab and grey city.

After leaving Eastern Europe, I headed to the beauty of Austria and the prominent old Capitol of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna. Upon arriving I learned about the cheap way of experiencing culture in Europe -- standing room tickets at the Vienna Opera for only 3-4 euros. I managed to get a spot to see Puccini's Turandot and was at awe to see this internationally known opera for only 3 euros! The next day I took a tour of Vienna and learned about the power that Vienna had before WWI and that it was meant to be on par with Paris and Rome, then it fell to the wayside after the Habsburg family lost their empire. Afterwards, I boarded a train to Salzburg and saw the magnificence of the Austrian Alps and the scenery for the famed musical, The Sound of Music. Salzburg is a cute little city nestled in the Alps and is a good place to take a good break during your travels, sit at a cafe and watch the Salzburgers (half of them dressed in lederhosen and dirndls) and tourists walking by.

Today I will be taking a train to Italy and will be ever closer to end of my time in Europe.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Vienna Opera House

Vienna Opera House

Overlooking Salzburg

Overlooking Salzburg

Sound of Music Garden

Standing in a garden that was the scene for "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music


A Chimney (doughnut cone with Nutella spread inside and filled soft-serve ice cream) from Prague looking at the Prague Castle


From the hills of Buda in Budapest

On the Way to Prague

Over the past couple of weeks I have been hoping around Europe and seeing all that I possibly can. As I sit here on the train to Prague, I'm thinking about all the things I've seen and the places I've gone and how I'm not even half way through my journey!

I ate Kanelbulle with coffee in Stockholm, climbed the Eiffel Tower, sat in the seat of the Prime Minister of the U.K., David Cameron, reveled in the acoustic changing Copenhagen Opera House and got back to the homely Hamburg in Germany to sit and eat a pretzel by the Alster Lake.

Traveling definitely makes someone a much better person in the end, the people you meet, the cultural differences, the food and all the political and financial differences give someone a much wider perspective on the world and has definitely made me more aware of the United States' place in the world.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Hamburg Insignia

Hamburg insignia


At the Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

Ship in Stockholm

A ship in Stockholm, Sweden

Old City Square, Stockholm

A Kanelbulle in the Old City square of Stockholm

Hamburg City Hall

The city hall of Hamburg

Belgium and Norway

April 14

The last week I was going through Bruges, Atwerp, Brussels (all cities in Begium) and finally Oslo.

In Belgium it became extremely prevalent just how young the U.S. is. In Bruges, the city was too poor during the beginning of the industrial revolution that they were never able innovate. Therefore, the city still has original buildings and the original road plan (now a UNESCO World Heritage site) from the 1600's. Some of the bridges I went through on a boat tour were over 400 years old. In Brussels, the tour guide was telling of beers that have been brewed for over 1,000 years by monks.

The architecture is especially something that will give someone perspective. The original Gothic, Romanic and Renaissance designs in the churches and palaces are something that you don't find in its originality too often in the States. However, this cultural age has allowed them to perfect things that tourists now treasure (e.g. Chocolate, beer, wine and even social welfare programs).

Yesterday, I went on a tour through the Norwegian fjords and mountain range. It is definitely a must-go place for anyone visiting Europe or Scandinavia. 

I am now on my way to Stockholm, Sweden to experience more the over-taxed and highly expensive culture of Scandinavia.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Bruges, Belgium

Windmill on the canal in Bruges, Belgium

Antwerp City Hall

Standing in front of the Antwerp city hall

Brussels Memorial and Stock Exchange

The Brussels Attack memorial and the old Stock Exchange

Brussels Landscape

Looking over the landscape of Brussels

Street Art

Street art in Brussels from the famous comic 'Tin-tin'

Fish market in Oslo, Norway

Fish market in Oslo, Norway

Frozen Waterfall

At a (frozen) waterfall on the Flåm railway


Some guy helped me take this because of all the wind. Standing in front of the fjords representing MU.

My Week in Paris

April 11

I just spent one of the most amazing weeks of my life with my mom in Paris. Between the food, fashion, atmosphere and culture of Paris, it is definitely a place I would recommend anyone to go visit. However, be prepared to pay a lot for everything, but that's like most major cities.

We stayed in an apartment (a very wise choice when traveling with a group or alone, I prefer AirBNB) next to the Pompidou Museum in the 3rd district of Paris -- only a couple blocks from Notre Dame. My mom scheduled every day and it ended up being one of the best itineraries I could have ever followed. Thankfully, the high season for tourists has not hit Europe yet, so the museums and other tourist activities (e.g. Going up the Eiffel Tower, seeing Mona Lisa at the Louvre, walking through Château Versailles, etc...) were not as bad as it would be in May-July.

I am now off to Brugge, Antwerp and Brussels before my flight to Oslo, Norway on April 12.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame

My mom and I from atop Notre Dame

South side of Notre Dame

South side of Notre Dame


The Catacombs underneath Paris

Monet's House

Monet's house in Giverny, an hour outside of Parks

Baguette & Notre Dame

Eating a baguette in front of Notre Dame

London and Birmingham

March 31

I’ve finally started my trip through Europe and Asia. I left from Cologne last Sunday (Easter) and arrived in London where I spent the day wandering through the city to find out how many landmarks I could find in one day – ends up, it’s almost all of them.

From London I went on my way to Birmingham, the second biggest city in England and arguably the start of the industrial revolution. I have been spending the last few days with MU alum, Marie Le Gall where she studies in Birmingham. We have been exploring the city and others around it, including Warwick. It’s somewhat comforting yet sad to be back in a country where I don’t have to speak German every day and the culture is more resembling of that in America. It’s a good break from the constant differences, though it was exciting being in a nation where the culture differs so much.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for London again to spend a few days there, then off to Paris for a week.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Buckingham Palace

In front of Buckingham Palace

Red Telephone Box

Red telephone box by Downing Street

Big Ben

Big Ben

In front of Tower Bridge

In front of Tower Bridge

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle


MU alum, Marie Le Gall, and Aaron Jaffe in Warwick.

Almost Done

March 22

My second to last week has been a whirlwind. To start off, my sister came to visit and we had an amazing time exploring my city, she then went off to see the other major places around Münster including Cologne, Brussels and Amsterdam. Thankfully, Münster is very centrally located in Europe to the point that you can get to a lot of major cities without having to live in a major city yourself.

While she wasn’t in Münster, I was helping the new incoming international students in Münster get acclimated and enrolled in the University (academically and socially). In the University, there seemed to be an unequally high percentage of Italian and Turkish international students. Many of which study either law or medicine due to the University’s high reputation for those programs.

Thursday evening, I headed to the Leverkusen v. Villarreal (Spain) European Championship soccer match with some of the people from Münster and fellow Marauder, Irena Riley. The game ended in a tie, but the atmosphere of being at the game was inspiring – the enthusiasm and love for the game from the fans made me appreciate the sport more than I ever did before.

I’m almost done here in what has become one of my favorite cities to visit or live. This week I will be finishing up projects and assignments from MU for the internship, then I will head off to London to start my 2-month trip through Europe and India.

Here is a link to the route for my trip:

Germany vs. America: Grocery Shopping

March 03

While here I’ve started to notice the differences in German vs. American eating and grocery shopping habits. Normally, the American family will go grocery shopping once per week, however, the German culture differs in that they will commonly only buy what they need for that and the next day’s meals. This can be attributed to many other factors.

  1. While here I’ve started to notice the differences in German vs. American eating and grocery shopping habits. Normally, the American family will go grocery shopping once per week, however, the German culture differs in that they will commonly only buy what they need for that and the next day’s meals. This can be attributed to many other factors.
  2. Small villages throughout the country means that food shops (e.g. bakeries, butchers and generic grocery shops) can be found more frequently and in closer distances from the house.
  3. This is probably a cause of less food being in the house at once, but German houses, while commonly smaller, also have much smaller refrigerators to hold food.
  4. Stronger laws on food processing means that preservatives are not as common to find in food, therefore food cannot sit for as long waiting to be eaten.
  5. The push to eat more locally grown and organic food has been much more successful than it has been in America.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

German bakery

Bakery across the street from my apartment.

The rest of the pictures are from a bi-weekly farmer's market held on Wednesday and Saturday, only a 2 minute bike ride from my apartment

German Farmer's Market
German Farmer's Market
German Farmer's Market
German Farmer's Market
German Farmer's Market
German Farmer's Market
German Farmer's Market


February 11

Karneval – also known as Mardi Gras in the U.S. is celebrated around the world in different fashions through the different cultures it is celebrated by. In Europe, the biggest Karneval celebration happens in Cologne, Germany – located in the north-east just one-hour from the Netherlands and France. The city gets taken over by the people celebrating throughout the streets. I was fortunate enough to celebrate the festivities with some Kölners (locals of Cologne).

The main part of Karneval happens over a total of six days, from Thursday to Tuesday. Below is the way I was showed to celebrate Karneval like a local.


Though Karneval technically starts on Nov. 11, the main celebration that closes the holiday starts on Thursday. I made sure to arrive in the city early to get a good spot to watch the opening of all the clubs, bars and other party venues at specifically 11:11 a.m. to commemorate the beginning on Nov. 11.

The rest of the day is filled with going out to clubs and listening to Karneval music sang in Kölsch, the local German dialect and the name of their beer.

Fun Fact: From Nov. 11 and happening more frequently as Karneval gets closer, there are party tents that host shows and comedians. Though you may want to brush up on the recent events that have happened in the area, these party tents give you the real Karneval feeling that, as a foreigner and a local, can be really fun.


I was a bit of an ‘eager beaver’ and went out during the day – I really should have tried to sleep in. Most people will be getting over their hangovers from the night before, so the parties don’t start until about 8-9 p.m. Friday is basically another day to party and have fun.

There are Karneval parties happening at clubs all over the city and they are somewhat really easy to find. One place, Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld, is situated underneath the railways at the Ehrenfeld Train Station in an arched-tunnel. One side is filled with Karneval music and confetti and decorations strung about. The other side, for those that aren’t into clique Karneval music, is the regular club music you would find any other night.


Like Friday, most of the partying does not happen until 8-9 p.m. However, on Saturday there was the Geistezug (Ghost Parade). This parade travels through the entire city of Cologne on the west-side of the Rhein. The parade is made up of the people watching, as it passes you join along in the excitement of the music and the all-around atmosphere.


This year, Sunday of Karneval also happened to land on the same day as the Super Bowl. As a traditional American event, many Germans have embraced it and watch it live – with the 6-9-hour time difference meaning it started at 12:30 a.m.

I have also realized that American tradition of having hot wings while watching football is not so easy. The only place to purchase hot wings is the American staple, KFC.


Arguably the most important day of Karneval in Cologne, Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) is the day of the major 6-7-hour parade that travels from the south of Cologne to just a few blocks from the main train station. The parade consists of floats, bands, and carriages carrying the various Karneval clubs.

I was watching the parade from a bridge over one of the streets that the parade passed by. Eventually it got too windy and I ended up roaming about the city catching the parade here and there yelling “Kamelle!”

The various army men dressed in different colors represent different Karneval organizations. These fraternity-like organizations are only possible to join through deep connections with current members or being born into it. These organizations add to a lot of the festivities during Karneval and do public service for their communities and affiliated political parties.

Fun Fact: Karneval is also a time for the people to make fun of what has happened in the local, national and world politics. The various floats in the Rose Monday Parade satirize the various political leaders – most commonly the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.


This is the last day of Karneval. Most people have returned to work – however, there are still parties around the city. At the end of the day at midnight, the citizens burned hay puppets designed as people, which supposedly rids them of all of their sins that they have committed during Karneval that year.

The entire weekend was well worth going. As one of the biggest celebration in Germany – only rivaled by the Oktoberfest that happened in Bavaria, Karneval in Cologne is something that you definitely shouldn’t miss if you are studying/interning/traveling abroad in February.

Terms to Know

Kölsch: the local German dialect and the name of the beer made in Cologne. Also used to describe the “ethnicity” of the Cologne people (e.g. I am Kölsch).

Alaaf: (Translation: Cheers for Karneval) Though most people in Germany that celebrate Karneval (e.g. Düsseldorf, Bonn, etc…) will say “Helau!” the Kölners yell “Alaaf!” So, when someone says “Kölle,” you should respond with “Alaaf!”

Kamelle: (Translation: Candy) this is what you should yell when you want candy from the people in the parade.

Strüßje:(Translation: single or multiple flower bouquet) when you ask for or someone requests a Strüßje, it means to give a single or multi-flower bouquet.

Bützje: (Translation: kiss) like the Strüßje when you ask for or someone requests a Bützje, it means to give a kiss.

Kölsche Lieder: (Translation: songs in Kölsch, primarily played during Karneval) these are all the songs that will be played during Karneval all over the city. Some of the most popular include:

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!

Karneval in Cologne, Germany (06)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (04)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (03)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (05)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (02)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (07)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (09)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (10)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (11)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (12)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (14)
Karneval in Cologne, Germany (15)

Acclimating to the culture

January 26

Well I’m almost a month into the internship. Projects are going as planned. I have been using a lot more German than I thought I would be able to. Total immersion in an office that makes you speak German has helped exceedingly in my ability to communicate across the language barrier.

February 4-8 is the celebration of Karneval. I will be celebrating the Mardi Gras-esque holiday in Cologne – known as one of the largest Karneval celebrations in Europe. For those not aware, Karneval is similar to a mix between Mardi Gras and Halloween. The days are celebrated to engorge oneself in the pleasures of life before giving it up for Lent – starting the following Wednesday.

Note: For those that do not take the traditional route of studying abroad, it is still easy to get assistance in getting acclimated to the culture socially and otherwise. The universities are more than happy to help out anyone, whether a student there or not. The University of Münster offers all foreigners in the city opportunities to get involved and learn more about where they live, including: getting a visa, figuring out how to use local transportation, finding a place to live, etc…


January 19

And week two at the office is down. I have been getting a lot more involved in some of the current projects that the office is doing in terms of the communications and marketing efforts. It’s interesting to learn more about the processes that one must go through if they want to fulfill a project at a university – bureaucratic nonsense is not just restricted to the American workplace.

I also went to Berlin this last weekend to visit my Aunt who is there to design a Berlin art program for her university in Philadelphia. It is an amazing city and a “must go” if someone ever hopes to see Europe. As the biggest city in Germany and one of the biggest in Europe, there are endless things to see and do even outside of the over-touristy places.

For those who study, intern or travel in Europe, it is relatively easy to get around within Europe, especially compared to travelling within the U.S. They have created a business opportunity for airline companies to offer cheap flights between places without having to offer luxury in the flight. It is, in most cases, cheaper to fly between cities (e.g. Cologne and Berlin or any other European city) than it would be to drive or take the train. However, they still have bus services like Megabus that beat out all the others – though a seven-hour bus ride for only $20 less than a one-hour flight may not be the most ideal way to travel.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!


Berlin Wall memorial at Bernaber Straße


The US Embassy in Berlin


The Brandenburg Gate


Market in northern Berlin


Chocolate heart from the flight

New Traditions

January 7

The last couple of weeks have been filled with learning new traditions that I did not expect coming from America. First, German Christmas tradition does not include the coming of the Coca-Cola designed Santa Claus and the Christmas time lasts long past December 25th. There is also a much different way of celebrating New Year’s Eve, one including the ability to use fireworks where one pleases and not having one major fireworks show for the area. Though culture shock was getting to me from the small differences between the cultures, I am learning to adapt to be able to live here.

I have already moved into my new apartment in Münster. My roommate, an Italian exchange student, has been amazing! The first day I arrived she invited me to go to Amsterdam. The city has been welcoming with its small city and Germanesque charm.

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!


At the office.


My Italian roommate, Caterine.


In Amsterdam on a bridge over the canal.

Rheinland - Germany

December 20

So I finally got to the ‘Rheinland’ and I couldn’t have had a longer journey to get here. Let’s start out by saying that they had changed the train schedule only 2 days before I arrived, so most everyone around me was just as confused as I was, though in a way that is comforting.

After the nine-hour flight from Philadelphia to Frankfurt, I took a train from Frankfurt to Köln and then to the village where I am staying until Jan. 2.

It’s been a whirlwind of going to Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas Markets) and touring around the area, including going to a German university with my friend. In the Weihnachtsmärkte you are drinking Glühwein (hot wine), eating Reibekuchen (potato pancakes), wurst and French fries and just enjoying the feeling of the holidays – what more could one ask for. It’s also been great to come back and improve on my German skills. Total Immersion – putting yourself with people who generally will only speak their native language to you may seem alarming, but it works amazingly. I’ve only been here for a week and I can already hear myself getting back the skills I have forgotten from not speaking it for an entire semester and learning more than I could ever learn from my classes.

Christmas is on Friday and I couldn’t be more excited to spend it in Germany, though, of course, I do miss my family during the holidays. It’s guaranteed to be filled with good food, interesting people, new experiences and just an overall good time – especially because the family I am staying with will have people that don’t even speak English and some only speak French, it should be fun!

Full-size photos available on flickr. Take a look!


In front of the Aachener Weihnachtsmarkt 


Main entrance to the Aachener Weignachtsmarkt in front of the Rathaus (city hall)


The Aachener Weihnachtsmarkt in front of the city's cathedral


The Weihnachtsmarkt in Cologne