…I’ve been too busy learning and exploring to post!

So, I’m now home and writing the last blog about this adventure. I had meant to write every day, but I simply ran out of time. Luckily, I did hand write some of the days, so no worries! I still remember what happened!

Sunday, August 5th 

Happy Birthday, Dad! 

Today was a great day. I mean, every day has been a great day. But today is picnic day! It’s not a designated day, even though it sounds like it. Me and some of the Development Policy group banded together and decided on an outside picnic at Alter Zoll. It’s a little outdoor area near the Rhine river where you can play frisbee, eat some food, buy some beer and enjoy the company of others.

It’s also an area where you can fight off wasps. We had one sting today.

Have you ever heard of a Indiaca Ball? It’s this thing to the right and is super fun and kind of played like volleyball, except we didn’t have a net to play it with. But boy, it was a blast!
Food, Friends, Music, Games and Beer. What else do you need?

The Rest of the Week 

I could go through each day like I did the previous day and talk about what happened and the specifics of what I learned, but I think some things I want to keep to myself.

Each day started off in a relaxed way, with coffee, a bike ride and quick conversations.

The middle was rich with conversations, exploring the world, problems, issues and solutions. Some were more exciting and applicable  (like Migration Policy, Economic of Development and learning about NGO’s that work in development), than others. Regardless, learning about development in all areas gave an important overview of the field and why development is important for all communities.

The end was about dinner, hanging out with friends, Trivia Night, a pool party, dinner on the river, or Karaoke. Yes, we did all of those things. It’s incredible that we had long intellectual days and would work so hard, but still had the energy to do group activities!

I was appointed community activity coordinator and it was a lot of fun to find things to do and get everyone together to go and do it. Sure, we could have gone to class and gone home, but what fun would that have been?

Where does the time go? 

I would easily go back to Germany in a heartbeat.
The public toilets have stall doors that go all the way to the ground. People. There are no weird gaps in the doors when you pee! Even in the WC for the bar, there was a tiny, non-awkward gap. I honestly can’t stop thinking about the bathrooms.

After this experience I realize that I have so much to learn and that my Arts Leadership Degree, and my Social Enterprise degree, and all of this other stuff on my tool belt are setting me up to do work in an NGO. I have a strong foundation, and now need to find some experience in an international NGO. For now, that means finding friends, or professional networks, that work in human rights, humanitarian efforts and other cultural programming initiatives for my Master’s Practicum/Thesis. If you know anyone who works with refugees, in migration policy, immigration, resettlement and/or programming within those groups, please introduce them to me! It is a difficult job working to change the world, but just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s not work worth doing.

There are a lot of words for the work that I want to do, but basically I want join communities together through art, music, dance, food and fun. We are more alike than we are different.

In the end . . . 

This experience has taught me so many things but primarily this:

  1. Never stop learning, asking questions and finding solutions.
  2. Go outside more! Ride your bike! Hang out with friends.
  3. Enjoy coffee. Take a second out of your GD day and enjoy a cup of coffee.
  4. Eat breakfast. It really does set you up for success.
  5. You can make at least 29 new friends in under two weeks.
  6. It’s really not that hard to get to Europe. The most expensive part is the plane tickets.
  7. I have no idea why feminine hygiene products are twice the price in the U.S. than in Europe.
  8. Journaling is good for you. I knew this, but still have to be reminded of that fact.
  9. Work is important, but not the most important thing in your schedule.
  10. Flying is fun. But, I guess when you are gone from the U.S. for over two weeks, when you come back you will go through extra screening for every step of the process. So plan for extra time.  (Leaving Iceland I had double security screening, plus “go into another room and talk to these people” extra screening. And then going from Boston to D.C. they searched and checked my suitcase. Fun!)

Thank you to everyone who donated, asked questions and wished me luck on this adventure. While it may have seemed like a once in a life time trip, I am determined for that not to be the case. While borders are becoming harder and harder to cross, I will continue to fight for an open and inclusive world. A world where we can be friends with people from 16+ countries. Where we can go to different countries and make friends, talk about music and enjoy a meal together. Is it hard? Yes. Is it impossible? No.

I encourage you to be open to other cultures, communities, religions, backgrounds and people. I encourage you to take a step out of your comfort zone and see what you may not have been able to see in your box. I encourage you to get out of your rut, to find a way and to find something new. I encourage you to be tolerant of others, to put yourself in the shoes of someone else and see where they are coming from.
In the end, aren’t we all just trying have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Thank you for reading my blog.
I hope to add more in the future, and perhaps during my practicum.

Melissa Anne Bassett Graetz

To the Development Policy Crew:
Seriously, I love you guys. Enough said. See you at the reunion.

The last week in photos – Click on one to see the full image