NASHVILLE, Tenn. – During the final few days of Tennessee State’s study abroad program in Germany, the students met with the Mayor of Magdeburg and saw more sights including the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
Upon returning to the States, it was easier for those involved to put the 10-day trip into perspective and sum up their experiences.
“I tried new things, met new people, and looked beyond what’s right in front of me,” honors student Rebecca Moore said. “If you let it, traveling will change the way you see the world and allow you to embrace our worldwide diversity.”
Americans will always think of the Nazi-era when someone brings up Germany, and reminders of that time are literally plastered on the Wall in Berlin. However, students visited the Topography of Terror, a museum that chronicles the Hitler regime, on the final day and it changed their preconceived notions.
“There is no avoiding what happened to this country years ago, and they are reminded of their history every day. And with that constant reminder, they have more of a desire not to allow history to repeat itself,” Moore lamented.
Even after the sightseeing, plays and sporting events, the trip’s main goal was a learning one- and one that earns college credit.
So, on Monday it was back to the classroom on the Nashville campus in preparation of a final on Tuesday.
Day 7: Taking in German Athletics
MAGDEBURG, Germany – During the final few days at its sister school in Magdeburg, the Tennessee State student-athletes saw how sports are played on the other half of the world.
On Sunday, after attending a genuine German church service, the study abroad group went to see a handball game in the local arena. The home side came out on top by a wide margin and the contingent was impressed with the foreign game.
“I was surprised at how similar the handball atmosphere is to that of a big-time college stage,” said Athletic Director Teresa Phillips. “The amount of enthusiasm that everyone in the stadium had was invigorating, and led me to think that athletics are about the same no matter where you go… it felt like we were in America.”
Even though the TSU Tigers are a nine-hour flight away from Nashville, and only one can speak more than a few words in German, they are starting to feel more at home even at a cultural level.
“It is sometimes hard being an African-American in the United States, but this trip has opened my eyes to how hard it must have been for those that were persecuted during the Holocaust,” volleyball player Jamie Cooper said. “Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germans have become more open-minded, to where I no longer automatically think of the Nazis when someone talks about Germany; now I realize that they are just like us.”
On Monday, the group toured the Magdeburg Olympic training facilities, soccer field and met with German students who were playing sports at the high school level.
The 29 representatives will meet with the Mayor of Magdeburg on Tuesday before heading back to Berlin for two final days.
The Tigers quickly found out that, outside of an ocean, the newly met scholars did not have much that separated them from each other.
“I was surprised that nearly all of the students spoke almost perfect English,” TSU football player Robert Myers said. “It was cool that we could still talk to them and find out that they were into some of the same stuff we are back home.”
The first night in Magdeburg culminated in the delegation traveling to the theater for an authentic German play.
“The play was interesting, even though it was all in German,” said Myers who performed in many plays during high school. “It was very dramatic and probably more like how it was supposed to be performed.”
The increase in German cultural awareness has been an ongoing theme during the lectures by Dr. Dark and in the day-to-day activities of the group. The students have had their share of fun on the trip, but its main purpose is the “study” in study-abroad.
“I am so pleased with the start and the progression of the trip, as the students are learning a lot from the classroom discussions, German historians and guest speakers,” Associate Athletic Director for Academics Dr. Johnnie Smith said. “I am inspired and impressed with our student-athletes’ involvement and interest in learning about a culture different than their own.”
The group will sail down the river in a paddle boat later today, before being honored guests at a cookout sponsored by the Vice Mayor of Magdeburg.
Day 3: Classes Commence
BERLIN – Classes started early Wednesday morning for the 16 students attending Tennessee State’s study abroad in Germany and among the topics covered was the history of the Berlin Wall which also happened to be the first destination on the morning’s itinerary.
“The purpose of the trip is to learn about German history and culture,” Associate Dean of Liberal Arts Dr. Dark said. “But is to also to help the students think about their own identity in the world.”
The group of TSU scholars and representatives boarded a train headed towards Alexander Plaza at the nearby station, and then took the subway to reach what was left of The Wall.
Dr. Dark filled the crowd in with further insight on the construction and eventual destruction of the barrier, before taking the class towards the Capitol Building.
After seeing the capitol and grabbing lunch, the contingent decided to ride out beyond Berlin to one of its suburbs to see a concentration camp, Sachsenhausen, firsthand.
It seemed everything in Germany was new and different, and it all had a unique story to tell.
“All of the buildings and churches are really pretty,” TSU women’s golfer Natalie Spicer said. “You can see the history just by walking past. I am so excited to see more, take a lot of pictures and learn about the German way of living.”
Outside of the new sights, a handful of students had to rely on their senses of taste and feeling when they ate at the famous Dark Bar on Tuesday night. The restaurant was pitch black to where diners could not even see the food being served to them.
“At first I was skeptical and scared about eating without seeing, but I eventually got the hang of using your fingers to feel around for the utensils. Also, being able to talk to our group while dining helped calm me down,” Spicer said.
Classes will continue on Thursday and the delegation will visit Humboldt University and see the Brandenburg Gate.
Day 1: From Nashville to Newark
NEWARK, N.J. – After arriving at the Nashville airport at 4 a.m. for a six o’clock flight, the 29 Tennessee State representatives arrived in Newark to await a connecting flight to Berlin, Germany.
The small passenger plane, which barely had enough room to fit the traveling party, touched down at 9 a.m., but not before giving glimpses of the Statue of Liberty and MetLife Stadium. The group then went to eat at the airport food court and look forward to going to the final destination in eight hours.
In the meantime, students and administrators will play games, sleep and read to try and kill the time before the nine hour flight.
This page will serve as an update for the athletic department’s study abroad trip to Europe. Be sure to check back for updates every couple of days including pictures of many historical landmarks.