*** Reprinted by permission from the Virginia Intermont College alumni magazine, Winter 2010. ***
Every September, Virginia Intermont students encounter the bright, neon green signs hanging on Humanities' off-white halls - some with interest, and others, confusion. For me, that invitation to study abroad in Germany with the Worrell Honors Program becomes a familiar, welcome - and necessary - sight.
I remember the day well: May 12, 2009. Munich's early morning light greeted my tired eyes, forcing my caffeine-less senses into gear. Armed with a small artillery of German phrases, I felt ready to converse and connect with the country's past and present, its places and its people.
That feeling resonated throughout the entire group. Under Dr. Riviello and Dr. Copeland's guidance, Samantha Bible, Claire Almon, Cassie Farley, Gigi Good, Wanda Gortner, Kacey Wilson and I spent the spring semester preparing for the three-week program, which focuses on environmental law and political science in a uniquely German, yet simultaneously international, context.
From Regensburg to Landshut, Landshut to Munich, we soaked in the sights and sounds. Each day guaranteed new experiences: Dr. Rampp's BMW seminar, dinner with the Bavarian Parliament, a somber visit to concentration camp Dachau. I became a sponge - eager to listen and interact with each moment.
A visit to Green City only deepened that desire. Its name conjures images of Oz's Emerald City, but this volunteer-driven, Munich-based environmental group has its feet firmly on the ground. Publicist Svenja von Gierke introduced us to Green City's climate change and sustainability-driven initiatives: the Streetlife Festival, an annual, two-weekend celebration of a "Car- Free" Munich; and the Walking Bus, a program designed to cultivate pedestrianism, or reduced vehicle use, in Munich's youth.
I walked away with more than a renewed respect for Germany. I desired to do something with it.
Upon our return, I eagerly shared my experiences with Leah Ross, my former internship director at Bristol's Rhythm & Roots Reunion.
Many miles separated us from Green City, yet the organizations' similarities rang clear.
The Reunion, an annual music festival, gives downtown Bristol three car-free days. As an ever-growing event, its food and energy waste inevitably increase. I related recycling ideas to a receptive Leah, recalling Green City's conservative motif.
Germany remained a constant companion, its memory intensifying in September, as I regarded those familiar flyers, the feeling, bittersweet. September, however, has its surprises.
Dr. Riviello, Studies Abroad director, agreed to allow three alumnae of the 2009 program (Gigi Good, Cassie Farley and me) to return for its 20th anniversary in 2010. I wanted to capture this unique experience - for my peers, their parents and future students.
As an English major, words are my greatest gift. They can neither replace Regensburg's cobblestone underneath tired feet nor Munich's early morning sunshine on sleepy skin, but with them, I can give back - and sustain the experience -- in my own way: blogging.
Join me on a virtual journey at www.vic.edu during May Term 2010, as I post updates on lectures, culture and life in Germany.
About The Writer: Sarah Tollie is a senior English major with a literature and creative writing concentration. A 2009 alumna of the Worrell Honors Program for Studies Abroad, Sarah will return as both student and blogger to the program for its 20th anniversary. Check www.vic.edu daily in May 2010 for Sarah's updates on lectures, culture and life in Germany. Her additional work can be found at online music sites, Frequency Magazine (frequencymagazine.net) and Honest Tune magazine (honesttune.com).