IBH-Summer School – a great experience

Any trip to Europe is well worth it. Yes, I am willing to make this claim. This is especially true in my case. I had never left the confines of Ontario. Well, that’s not true; I had once vacationed to Mexico. But, that was for only a week. There were no culturally enriching opportunities. This is to say, I did not even leave the comforts of the resort. In stark contrast, the IBH Lake Konstanz (Constance) trip allowed me to explore the regions of Southern Germany, West Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This is because the lake sits right on the border.

One afternoon, my classmates and I tasted Riesling from a well-established, seemingly-quaint, yet marvellous winery on Reichenau Insel (Island). I remember running through the mild summer air to catch the Bahn- hardly a moment to spare since the train is never late. Then, upon arriving on the island, visiting a 12th century monastery and church. It is behind the altar where I viewed artefacts- including 11th-century texts- which were quite astounding. Upon our return, we strolled slowly along a path beside the lake. A field of sunflowers, as well as rows of various flowers complimented the crisp white clouds hovering in the beautiful blue sky. A small box rested beside the garden with a sign indicating that the owner trusted us to pick and pay a small fee for our favourite flowers. Odd vegetables existed as well; all of which were available for our enjoyment.

Liechtensteinexkursion_MalbunMoments such as these can be said to define my experience. The same seemingly-blissful transcendence was felt while standing in the hills of Liechtenstein. Belonging to the Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II, we- along with the citizens of Liechtenstein- were invited to the court yard of his castle to celebrate National Liechtenstein Day. It was here that we were offered delightful sandwiches, pretzels as well as our take of locally brewed beer. I wish I’d had dressed a little more formal for the picture that was taken with me and the Prince. The beer in his hand and his cheerful smile suggests that he didn’t seem to mind.

The city of Konstanz itself is other-worldly to a person who had only viewed medievalism through the lens of Hollywood. Because the cobble-stone, maze-like streets seem narrow, the structures of the Altstadt (old city) seem to tower over you. That said, it is nothing like the cathedral that stands in the middle of the city where the Rhine meets Lake Konstanz. Its architecture is nothing short of monumental- both inside and out. Atop the tower sits a lookout where the mountains in the distance beg of you to explore them in the most welcoming sense. Northern Italy sits close; so does Vienna, Switzerland and France.

The language of the locals wasn’t a barrier. Though German is the mother tongue, many people speak English. This meant that after a warm German “Hallo”, one could navigate the train system leading to your desired destination. Some of my classmates travelled to München (Munich), some rented a car and drove to Amsterdam, and others took an inexpensive, quick flight to Italy for the weekend. Everyone had some unique interest and all seemed willing to explorre.Deutschklasse L_C1

Classes were segregated based on an initial German test. Some people were well-experienced in German and others were newcomers. I sat somewhere in the middle. It is interesting how I met people from more countries than I can recount. Europahaus- my particular student residence- was incredibly diverse and everyone seemed to get along.

I cannot end this reflection without telling you what you can expect to gain from this experience. This special opportunity presented a chance to explore your passions in a very unique and beautiful part of the world. It also allows you the chance to venture beyond your perceived borders as a traveller, a learner and, perhaps, a soul-searcher. I learned more in this one month than I did in many other aspects of my life. I learned about myself and the world around me. Further, it solidified my aim to learn the German language, as you are immersed in the culture and cannot help but become infatuated. This experience had the potential to bring out the best in you.

By Paul Scala, 2014