July 19 – Alexa

Today we traveled from the city of Brussels Belgium to Cologne Germany. In order to get to Cologne we had to take a 2 hour train ride. Once we got to Cologne we went to the famous Cologne Cathedral. It was very beautiful. On the outside, the cathedral was very large and majestic. We then went into the cathedral and we had a tour with a man who told us the history of the cathedral. In the cathedral, there were many stained glass windows. I thought the cathedral was very powerful because the tour guide explained how many people from across the world support this church, this shows the impact of religion across the world.

July 20 – Kagan

Today is the second day in Cologne. We participated in two workshops, Europe Meets Schools and EU Crash Course. In Europe meets schools we learned about this program which coordinates a European exchange program which brings foreign exchange students to Germany to organize cultural projects. In our second, the EU Crash Course we discussed issues surrounding European history, EU institutions and current political issues. I liked the international aspect of the Europe Meets Schools program and the interactive part of the EU Crash Course. I thought both workshops were very educational and furthered my knowledge of Europe and the EU. In the evening I enjoyed the sunset over Cologne.

July 21 – Chiarra

Today we took a guided tour of Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, it was a museum featuring items from cultures that had previously been oppressed by Europeans. I personally really enjoyed seeing all of the items from the different cultures and am sad that we didn’t have a lot of time to continue exploring. After that we took a 5 hour train ride to Berlin. I thought it was a beautiful train ride purely because of the rolling hills and quaint towns. I’m from Hawai’i so seeing landscapes like these make me love the German countryside even more. When we arrived at the Berlin hostel we got comfortable and then continued the night with dinner and a presentation on the history of West Berlin. This has been one of my favorite days because I was able to spend time with my friends on the train and arrive in Berlin, the city I have been waiting for this whole trip.

July 22 – Effie

This morning, we attended a workshop that gave us the opportunity to reflect on and learn more about the issues of migration and asylum. We discussed our personal origins and travel experiences, comparing our stories to those of refugees who fled their home countries. I was shocked to learn that in 2018, 70.8 million individuals were forcibly displaced due to forces such as war or political persecution. At the end of the workshop, one of the presenters said something that really stuck with me: “movement is part of the human experience.” I think this is true; while media may often portray the  current refugee crisis as a bane that suddenly arose to threaten the unity of Europe, we should not ignore the fact that throughout history, humans have constantly moved for various push and pull factors. Hopes of economic opportunity driving American westward expansion, for example, or the 20 million Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims who migrated for religious reasons during the partitioning of India. With historical context in mind, I wholeheartedly agree with the German slogan that was referenced during the workshop: “kein mensch ist illegal,” meaning “no human is illegal”. I am thankful that the workshop provided a space for me to deepen my understanding of migration and asylum, especially in relation to history. Once I return home, I hope to initiate more discourse in my community regarding these issues.

July 22 – Linnea

Our first full day in Berlin was so much fun. We had an interesting workshop that truly puts the image of refugees in a new light. But where I really learned about how a refugee really lives was with our tour of Berlin from the perspective of a refugee. I found it extremely interesting learning where a refugee would live once they arrived in Germany and how hard it was for them to get to Berlin. The most moving thing about it was his reason for visiting one of the world war II memorials and how it was important for the refugees and and how inspiring it is for those who see it to remember all those that have fallen, not only those in WWII but as a reminder of all the people who are still fighting to stay alive. It was moving to hear our guides story. Before that we saw the wall, which was something amazing to see especially for me because I love history but you actually see it in real life was amazing. It was something of a dream for me to see it and now that is a dream that has been achieved. Something I found to be interesting was that only the west side had paint and graffiti and how that really showed the two sides of Germany so close to each other.  Also something that was impressive to see was for sure the Brandenburg gate, one of the dividers with the wall between east and west. It was truly a sight to see.