Winter in Oestrich

Guten Abend from Germany! My name is Jonathan Sevy and I am studying for one semester at European Business School in Germany. I am a junior accounting major at UofL, minoring in International Business and Chinese Studies.

I can see my colleague Jennifer Schramm has already posted a great review of a semester here at European Business School (EBS), so if you want a good review of the school and helpful tips scroll down a few posts. To avoid redundancy in my posts, I’ll try to highlights unique aspects of my semester and travels here to complement Jennifer’s post.

Winter in Oestrich

The biggest variation between Jennifer’s and my perspective is one of timing. Jennifer studied in the fall of 2011 and I in the spring of 2012. I hear Oestrich is quite the sight during the autumn. The vineyards that stretch across the neighboring hills are vivid green; vines sag under the weight of next year’s wine. The local Rheingau area is famous for its Weißwein, and every space not occupied by a quaint German house is used to grow the grapes for these white wines. It reminds me of the tobacco fields back home that were once a ubiquitous part of our Kentucky landscape, and more recently the fields of corn and soy that have replaced them. Oestrich in the fall is warm and bustling with life.

In the winter, the warmth and life of Oestrich becomes a bit harder to find. Many of the older residents of the town flee to warmer climates for vacation, and many of the degree-seeking EBS students elect to fulfill their mandatory study abroad requirement during this semester. The town is left in a half-empty slumber for these months, though the bright houses still display the cheer of their absent inhabitants.

Oestrich is not unlike the myriad of other such small towns that dot the fruitful hillsides of the region- a close-knit but welcoming community, isolated from the metropolitan life of cities like Frankfurt, which is just an hour’s ride east by the convenient trains serving the area. Oestrich is a harbor for students looking to study away from the distractions of the big city, but is close enough to still utilize the resources and opportunities found in the financial capital of Germany.

I arrived in Germany on the second of January, an anticlimactically grey and quiet Monday. After sharing a car pool with a few other new EBS students from Frankfurt airport to Oestrich, I was dropped off at the door to my apartment. My landlord had ceased answering my emails a few weeks prior, and I was a bit unsure when- if ever- he would arrive to meet me. I stood in the rain in front of the apartment building and gazed at the door and then down at the wet pavement. It was littered with the exploded shells of spent firecrackers, the sodden cardboard lingering proof of recent New Year’s celebrations.

As the driver pulled away, I began doubting the chain of decisions that had led me to this unfamiliar doorstep. My choice to study abroad was based on the obvious and numerous benefits, but had I been too hasty when I decided to leave my home and university behind? The impending threat of homelessness weighed on my mind as I waited in the cloudy drizzle. After about fifteen minutes and a few telephone calls around the town, my landlord at last materialized out of the narrow, winding streets and gave me a heartfelt greeting. I had a key. And a home.

The next two months are not overly interesting, so I will skip over most of it. January and February passed in many respects like a typical spring semester at UofL- cold, wet, too-little daylight, early classes. The only really remarkable part of this period was the people I met. You have probably read about the meaningful friendships, cultural understanding, and new perspectives attained by other bloggers on this site, and I can confirm this is a major benefit of study abroad.

The group of international students (or Tauschies as we’re called) here at EBS is especially tight-knit, perhaps due to nature of the school. As a private school in Germany, EBS caters to a more affluent student base than the free public universities throughout the country. The high ratio of hoity to toity found in many German EBS students may be off-putting to newcomers at first, but the majority of German students are decent enough once you get to know them. Regardless, the international students tend to be wary of the copious amounts of high fashion wafting from their German peers, and the exchange students form a thriving community for mutual support while at EBS. Anytime an exchange student is having a problem with an assignment, trouble with travel, or is looking for the next party, other Tauschies or sometimes German students are there with the answer. I have never felt so connected to a community than with the people I have met here in Germany. We travel together, eat together, party together, study together. I am rarely lonely here because I can always reach out to someone within the community.

And that is the warmth of Oestrich in the winter- the people. Even on cold, snowy mornings, I can make the trek through the vineyards to school knowing I will meet familiar faces along the way. People come from all across the world to this tiny wine-making town to study business at EBS, bringing warmth and life with them. As winter turns to spring and color returns once more to the vineyards, I can only imagine what adventures are yet to come.

Go Cards!

PS: If you’re interested, I ocassionally post pictures of my travels on Tumblr: