Freiburg Green City

 Holland Cathey is a current 4th year student who studied abroad in Germany for Environmental Studies and Sustainability in the spring of 2017. Check out her experience below!

Okay, I know I’ve said this about a million times, but Freiburg is SO GREEN!  My first impressions were very positive—I knew that the culture here was much more centered about environmental stewardship and protection, but I had no idea exactly how far ahead Freiburg was until we started my class, Freiburg Green City.

Hotel Victoria’s rooftop solar and wind panels

My classes here are formatted in three-week modules, so we really have a chance to focus on one at a time.  For the first part of the day, we have lecture and in the afternoon we usually go out and see the things we talked about in lecture!  A few days ago, we went to Hotel Victoria in the city center of Freiburg, one the most sustainable hotels in the world!

 This hotel has been green since before being “green” was good for business.  The energy used to power the hotel is renewable—from wind and solar mostly.  To heat the water, they burn the byproduct of the local logging industry—further preventing the creation of waste.  There are multiple parking spots under the hotel, all with the capability to charge electric cars.  And, to promote the use of the fantastic public transportation that Freiburg offers, the hotel provides guests with a free unlimited pass to the regional public transport while they are in town in addition to bike and electric car rentals.

Landfill covered in solar panels!

The next day, we visited a landfill that’s been sealed for years now, so that the city can harvest the methane gas that’s produced by the decomposition of the waste.  This gas is burned and used to heat an entire district of Freiburg! I find it absolutely amazing that waste is used so often to create energy here. Oh, and the entire mound is covered with solar panels, because why not??
My favorite part of sustainable Freiburg is a district called Vauban.  The former French military barracks were turned into an ultra-sustainable and Hotel Victoria’s rooftop solar and wind panels autonomous housing community; it’s super unique.  The citizens of Freiburg decided that they wanted to rebuild this area as a relatively dense, urban area that feels like a forest oasis.  There are trees and playgrounds everywhere.  Bikes and playing children dominate the streets because very few people that live here even own cars. Those that do, must park their cars in one of the three parking garages on the periphery of the district, so that more space is left open for living!
The result is a gorgeous, cohesive, and friendly district where citizens have had a significant say in the planning and upkeep of their community. It’s practically impossible not to fall in love with Freiburg after seeing the kind of autonomy the citizens have and the standard of life they enjoy.  Now, I just need to

The streets of Vauban

figure out how to bring this back to the states.  One of the biggest differences is that the community is the driver of environmental change in Freiburg.  The citizens of Vauban are the ones that asked for parking to be limited on the periphery.  In fact, people overwhelmingly support laws that make it more difficult to own and drive cars in the city.  Most of the downtown area is a pedestrian zone, so cars have been replaced by efficient trams, safe bike paths, and good walking paths.  For those rare times where a car is necessary, you can easily participate in car-sharing and use an electric car.

When I come home, I think I’ll have an interesting perspective and critical eye for city planning.  I didn’t even realize how much space cars took up until there were no cars to be found! I’d love to try and implement some of the ideas that I’ve observed here in Freiburg and especially try to get the community involved.  People often have this antiquated idea that “green” energy and lifestyle is more expensive. But if done right, it can save a significant amount of money in the long run!  Our lifestyles are often unnecessarily wasteful, and living here has made me realize just how many things we could change to make a difference.
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Drop everything and study abroad.

Holland Cathey is currently studying abroad in Germany for Environmental Studies and Sustainability. Check out her first blog post below.

Guten Tag!

I’m Holland and I’m studying abroad this semester in Freiburg, Germany!  I’ve been planning my study abroad experience as long as I can remember and I honestly cannot believe it’s finally here!!  The countdown is on and there are just 18 days until I leave.  February 27—once a far away and distant date, just 18 days away!

In these last few weeks before I leave, I find myself hyper-aware of all the things I anticipate missing like seeing familiar faces every time I walk past the Corner, all my friends in HackCville and in AXO, and even big events like Foxfield!  I’ll miss the creature comforts of home and the ease of constantly speaking my native language.  At the same time, I can’t wait to put that on hold for a semester and just GO!

Freiburg is a notoriously green college town on the edge of the Black Forest.  Just a few miles from the borders of both France and Switzerland, it’s perfect for a semester of new experiences!  I’m studying global sustainability and German with a minor in environmental science and chose this program (IES Freiburg: Environmental Studies and Sustainability) specifically because of all of the amazing classes I will have access to and the culture of sustainability in Freiburg.  I get to immerse myself in a culture where environmental stewardship and sustainability is a lifestyle, rather than a distant fact we have yet to come to terms with.  If what I’ve read is correct, you can earn some pretty nasty looks from other students if you fail to separate your trash correctly in Freiburg!  Even at the fairly progressive UVA, I couldn’t even get my first year roommate to use a re-usable water bottle!

I’ll take ecology classes in the shadow of the Swiss Alps, snowshoe through Liechtenstein, and learn about sustainable energy first hand. While abroad, I hope what it is about Freiburg that makes it so “green”—and bring that knowledge home!  My goal is to use my experience from both Freiburg and Charlottesville to gain a unique perspective on sustainability and environmental issues and ultimately help solve related problems in the future.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it’s about more than academics.  Improving my German and studying sustainability is important to me, but what I’m personally most excited for is exploration.  Freiburg is located within an hour or two by train to France, Italy, Switzerland, and even Liechtenstein! It has always been my fantasy to study somewhere where I can hop on a train and explore whatever city I happen to get off at.  I find myself visualizing an idyllic semester packed with weekend trips, gothic cathedrals, and the picturesque views of the Schwartzwald, but what I am looking forward to most are all of the moments that won’t be caught in a photo.  I can’t wait for the first time I successfully have a conversation with a local—in German! Exploring a new city, culture, and language is all about meeting people and getting lost—and that’s what excites me the most!  I can’t wait be lost in Freiburg, absorbing new sights, sounds, smells and experiences.  I’m ready to throw myself into a brand new situation and see what I make of it.  I’m ready to see everything and feel anything.  A semester abroad is so much more than the photographs—it’s a life changing and inspiring time and I’m ready! Right. Now.

 

Guten Tag from Braunschweig and Berlin!

Kelly Miller is a 1st year, Biomedical Engineering Student studying on the UVA Engineering in Germany: Global Ingenuity 21 program.

This is one of the largest Catholic Churches in Berlin. Surrounded by a large lawn where people gather and hang out when the weather is nice, the bells begin ringing 5 minutes before the hour and fill the air with the ringing. The picture depicts the beautiful sun set behind the towering steeples

This is one of the largest Catholic Churches in Berlin. Surrounded by a large lawn where people gather and hang out when the weather is nice, the bells begin ringing 5 minutes before the hour and fill the air with the ringing. The picture depicts the beautiful sun set behind the towering steeples

The iconic gate and entrance to the city is topped by the victory statue, at first meant to symbolize freedom but after WWII, symbolizes victory to the city.

The iconic gate and entrance to the city is topped by the victory statue, at first meant to symbolize freedom but after WWII, symbolizes victory to the city.

A church that had to be rebuilt after bombing during WWII. The catholic church has a beautiful stained glass window.

A church that had to be rebuilt after bombing during WWII. The catholic church has a beautiful stained glass window.

This is a replica of the sign that was displayed at the border of the Russian and American sector of Berlin. Every person moving between the border had to pass through Checkpoint Charlie ( Charlie serves as the military code for C ).

This is a replica of the sign that was displayed at the border of the Russian and American sector of Berlin. Every person moving between the border had to pass through Checkpoint Charlie ( Charlie serves as the military code for C ).

During the divide of the city, the East Berlin side had different symbols for “walking” and “stopping” on the traffic lights. When the city was reunited as one, the East Berliners where very adamant about keeping the Ampelmännchen since it was a symbol of their side of the city. To this day, one can tell where they are ( West vs East ) when walking around the city based off of the walk lights.

During the divide of the city, the East Berlin side had different symbols for “walking” and “stopping” on the traffic lights. When the city was reunited as one, the East Berliners where very adamant about keeping the Ampelmännchen since it was a symbol of their side of the city. To this day, one can tell where they are ( West vs East ) when walking around the city based off of the walk lights.

The Elbe is the river that flows through Dresden. While up on the tower of the museum, the statues surrounding the church had the appearance of overlooking the river, as if protecting the city

The Elbe is the river that flows through Dresden. While up on the tower of the museum, the statues surrounding the church had the appearance of overlooking the river, as if protecting the city

At a local museum in Dresden, we were able to climb to the top of a bell tower and get a 360 degree view of the city. Though this is not a full 360 view, there are multiple churches and museums included in the shot, including the Catholic church.

At a local museum in Dresden, we were able to climb to the top of a bell tower and get a 360 degree view of the city. Though this is not a full 360 view, there are multiple churches and museums included in the shot, including the Catholic church.

Frustriert

Amy is currently studying abroad in Germany. 

It is really strange for me to think that I am just about six full weeks into my 26 week experience. The first month was that weird combination of time flying by, yet at the same time feeling like I had been here forever. However, I feel the sixth week has really brought up my frustration with the German language. German is hard and dumb (well just kidding about the dumb part). German is listed as level three difficulty (1 = the language you learn as a child, 2 = romantic languages, 5 = Mandarin) and I am just so frustrated with verbs, conjunctive, gender, all that goodness that you really need a textbook for to truly say right.

I guess I am at the stage where I no longer feel overwhelmed. I have been here for long enough that I am comfortable with the friends I have made. I want to be able to discuss things and talk about stuff beyond what I have been learning the last six years. I feel like my language acquisition (or lack there of) is just taking too long. I guess I just thought it would always “just happen.” So many people said, yeah one day you’ll just realize that you get it.

Well, when?!

Who has done this before? At what point does it click? My friends and co-workers say my German gets better every day and has drastically improved. But then again, they are some of the nicest people I have ever met so maybe they are just trying to be nice. Or maybe it is improving and it is just really hard for me to see myself. Maybe I am too critical and have been part of the “UVA you need perfection always” atmosphere for too long (although I feel like I have escaped that mentality for the most part).

I have started reading Harry Potter in German (specifically Happy Potter und der Feuerkelch… the best book) to help. I guess I am just impatient… and very worried about classes beginning on April 4th. For those who don’t know I am not doing a semester program like many American students do. I enrolled directly into a university as an exchange student. I will be there on my own. I will not be taking language classes, but rather comparative lit classes or history classes or whatever I choose.

Terrifying.