Monday, June 30, 2014


 Everything here in Saarbrucken has been going extremely smoothly.  The city as a whole is extremely beautiful and has great culture to it.

Here is a picture of the building myself and all the guys are living in. It's one of (at least) three buildings that make up the Hotel Weller. The rooms are big (especially compared to Millennium's dorms), but unfortunately there isn't a single kitchen or refrigerator for any of the guys. In order to store food, cook or anything we have to pester Amanda, and I'm sure that is annoying for her.

This is a quick picture of the HBF or Hauptbahnhof. It is the main train station in Saarbrucken. It's nice and not a far walk from the hotel. 

Below are some pictures of Saarbrucken I took while walking around the city. 

Here are the guys taking pictures.

Sprechen Sie English?

The first week in Germany has been nothing short of an adventure filled with beautiful sights, new friends, and enjoyable antics. The Drexel group was joined by 2 University of California: Santa Barbra (UCSB) students named Caroline and Nico. So far we have traveled to Luxembourg and Heidelberg on day trips. As the summer progresses we plan to go further and longer to places including Berlin, Hamburg, Barcelona, Paris and potentially Milan and Venice.

In addition to awesome traveling we have begun to become accustomed to the INM and our jobs. All of us have has reading to prepare for our assignments and surprisingly, although technical, it is much more enjoyable than class reading. Maybe it is the excitement that is causing it to be enjoyable, I am not sure.
The INM and KIST (Korean Institute of Technology), both located on the Saarland University's campus are both enjoyable and easy to get to. The INM in particular has fantastic amenities such as a library, and for those who enjoy it, coffee machines. 
The hardest adjustment to Germany in my opinion has been the randomly finding people who don't speak English very well or at all. These people for some reason have been found in unexpected places like the ID office and downtown. More importantly however, for some reason a lot of the international student paperwork here is written in german. Although it should have been more expected, I found that to be the hardest adjustment. I only wish I had learned more Germany before coming and would suggest that to anyone coming here in the future. Even basics such as numbers can be immensely helpful to do things like, you know, purchase things, order things, etc. 
Oh, the other surprising thing I have found here is that stores including grocery stores are not open on sundays. It isn't something bad just a shock at first. Additionally, stores and banks here close promptly (banks by 6pm and all stores by 8pm). I am very curious about it because people still work from 9am to 5pm so I wonder when the general public grocery shops.
love from Germany,

p.s. I highly recommend eating ice-cream everywhere you go. It has lent to some fantastic discoveries such as sculpted ice-cream in heidelberg.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fathers Day in the Fatherland (and the week that proceeded)

Tim Reppert
I don't really know what to write for this blog, so I'll just ramble about the previous week until something intelligible surfaces.

After a solid twenty-two hours at home thanks to finals, I made my way to the airport to meet people and await departure. The plane ride was decent enough, followed by a scenic train ride through Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland. Everyone immediately crashed for six hours which allowed me to meander about the city of Saarbrucken alone and explore.

The Gang at Luxembourg
Monday through Wednesday was chock full of exciting bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo where we went all over Saarbrucken trying to fill out paper work written in German. To our chagrin, we only accomplished half of the items on the list, but were later told that we physically could not.

Thursday, we wandered through Saarbrucken in an attempt to better our knowledge of where everything was located. On Friday, we took a trip to Luxembourg where we hit every tourist destination in their book, except Fort Thungen, which we could not find despite our efforts.

Saturday, we had to obtain supplies for the impending Sunday closure. We made sure to get food and other important things, then hung out by the river and watched some soccer at a public viewing event. On Sunday, we took a day trip to Heidelberg where we attempted to be the least tourist-like people there, although we did have Gabby with us.

Real work started Monday, where we all showed up ready to work, only to receive a heaping stack of literature that we had to read first. Some of us had the opportunity to get some hands on lab work experience in the first couple of days.

A lot of discord came out of being together too often. This was lessened when we started to work and had time away from one another.
The cooking situation is something that is taking a while to get used to. One kitchenette for nine people is difficult to manage, especially when it's in someone's bedroom.
The laundry situation is currently being looked into. Some people have resorted to buying more clothing in order to bide their time.

To recap the experience:
Germany is awesome. There is great food, great experience, and insanely intelligent people working on even more insanely mind-blowing projects.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Week One

It has been an interesting first week here in Germany, for a number of reasons. The obvious one of course being that we flew halfway across the world to live in a foreign country for the summer. What's been really interesting is how we've managed to incorporate ourselves into the culture.

The Thursday during the week of our arrival was a national religious holiday, so most people end up taking the Friday off for a four day weekend. As a result, our first week ended up being very relaxing and allowed us to adapt to our new location. In our group of seven, I am the only one who speaks German, so I ended up putting my skills to the test when I needed to find shops or communicate with locals for everyone else.

What's been particularly exciting is experiencing the fervor amongst Germans around the World Cup. We are lucky to be here while it's going on. Since the weather has been so nice, just about every bar or restaurant carries large TVs onto the streets to show the World Cup games. Even for the games starting at midnight, there are always people gathered around watching at a bar.

For our first weekend, we ended up exploring Saarbr├╝cken and traveling to Luxembourg and Heidelberg. In the upcoming weeks I hope to get a bit farther away and explore the rest of Germany. My goal is to reach at least the major cities of Hamburg, Berlin, and M├╝nchen for one weekend each.There's still so much to see that it's hard to decide where to go.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

First Few Days

Jonathan Fink
It has been quite a journey to Oulu, Finland, taking 3 flights for a total of 12 hours of flying, and 20 hours total not including the 7 hour time difference. Nevertheless, it has been an incredible couple of days as we have been introduced to a very different culture and environment.

The five of us here are staying in an apartment complex just walking distance away from the university itself. Jeff and Burim and on the first floor, I am on the second floor with Alex, and Ashleigh is on the eighth floor.

One of the first differences many of us noticed upon arrival is the astoundingly high number of trees here in Oulu.  We are basically located in the middle of a forest, and it is Finnish policy to minimize the number of trees cut down and cut down only the trees absolutely necessary for the project.

Other interesting aspects:
1) They enjoy reindeer meat and pineapple. Especially on pizza.
2) Coffee is an integral part of Finnish culture. There are practically mandated coffee breaks at 9AM and 2PM at our lab at the university. (And the coffee is delicious!)
3) The elevator doors swing out like a car door, and it almost appears as if the doors move down as you travel up the elevator; it is one continuous door that scrolls as you rise up the floors.
4) In terms of travel, people bike everywhere. Typical places will have 10 or more bikes located outside, sometimes locked but often unlocked.
5) Downtown Oulu, interestingly enough called Center City, looks nothing like a major city in the States. It has cobblestone walkways and does not have very many cars. Instead it is extremely green and has just a couple thousand people.

In terms of research, Ashleigh and I are working in the Environmental Engineering lab at the Mass and Heat Transfer Process Laboratory. She will probably write about her specific project, but mine is titled Catalytic Oxidation of Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds. This week I am reading papers on the subject,next week I will start preparation of experiments, and then the following week I will be running the tests.  Currently, Ashleigh and I both share an office equipped with computers to conduct research online.

Overall, it has been a great week with many new experiences, and many more to come!

Welcome to iSTAR 2014!

Hello, all!

Welcome to your iSTAR summer experience for Summer 2014 and to the iSTAR blog! We would like you to take full advantage of your time abroad by immersing yourself in the research and the culture in which you find yourself. And while you are doing so, we want to hear about it!

Please make time to post something on this blog at least once per week. These blog posts can and should be about any/every aspect of your time abroad - your research, your experience abroad, your travels, your challenges. Let this be a space for you to reflect on what you are experiencing and to connect with students who are participating in the same or similar experiences. And - of course - please use this as a place to upload LOTS of pictures!

So, in short, you are being asked to:  

  • Post at least once per week to keep us and others updated about your adventures
    • There are no hard and fast rules about how long these posts should be; really, they should be as long as you need or want them to be to adequately convey your thoughts and ideas to the rest of the iSTAR cohort and other readers.
  • Comment on other students' posts to make this an interactive discussion forum 
    • Most of you will have the opportunity to connect with the other students who are at your iSTAR location, but remember - there are two other locations! You're all going through the same experience - research abroad - in very different contexts, which will make for interesting conversation.  
  • Upload pictures so that we can see what you are seeing
    • If we can't be there with you, let us live vicariously through you! 

- The Office of Undergraduate Research