Post by Dana
August 10, Thursday
After my “tourist” like week in Europe, I was still a stranger to the every day lives of Germans. But the week which passed was by far outstanding! I managed to see Belgium, the Netherlands, and other cities of Germany but was unable to come to the understanding of the so called German culture. This of course was an issue I wished to resolve; however, my mind was focused on the coming exam I signed up for. The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a medical exam one takes before applying to any American Medical School. Unfortunately, this test isn’t given in Palestine so I decided to take it in Germany while on this exchange; and thankfully everyone here was supportive of the idea.
I had to go to Frankfurt to take the exam and with the help of a friend I had my bus booked and a place to stay. Going to the city by myself was no problem, I pretended I knew what I was doing and subconsciously felt it as well. I love the concept of public transportation here. The trains and buses are always available and rarely does any one ask for your ticket. It’s as if they all trust the people entering the train/bus. Again, I was still not used to the ideology of people in Siegen let alone Frankfurt, but youth and foreigners were always willing to help! At around 10 pm, I finally arrived to the shop of the couple who was letting me sleepover for the night. They were a mid-aged Muslim Pakistani couple who had no children and where living in a tiny apartment by the train station. We stayed up until 1 am, discussing cultural issues and the transition of being in a ‘well-fed’ country (to our deprived homelands). I couldn’t sleep that night; my insomnia was growing ever since I came to Germany but of course exam anxiety always aids in disclosure.
August 11, Friday
The women knocked on my door at 5 am to make sure I was up. After I prayed and got ready, she offered to take me to the train station so I can make my thirty-minute ride up to Eschborn. Once, I made it to the Eschborn train station, I pulled out Google maps and walked to the New Horizons test center. I was shocked with how easy it was to get around and how alive everything was in the pouring rain. I arrived at around 7 am and went through a thirty-minute identity check. Only two other students were there taking the MCAT, when we started it was 7:30 am and I (being the second to finish) left the test center at 3:40 pm. I always thought that after I’d complete this 8-hour exam I would mentally be dead and emotionally enraged. However, it was the opposite; my emotions were succumbed by the sequestering thoughts to analyze. I had four hours left tell my bus came so why not take notes!
At the Frankfurt/Main central station, I explored the area for a good two hours; I was enchanted by the station setting since it reminded me of something from a movie set! I later went around the city, analyzing the different people and even linking certain medical cases I was studying, to what I saw. For example, there was this one man who looked around thirty and was sitting on the bench besides me. He was jittery, unhygienic, and speaking to himself. By the needle spots on his arm and from his hallucinative behavior I correlated a recent case I read about to his situation and elaborated on it. This was the first time my brain was actually free to examine the people around me and to try to understand what they comprehend. In Palestine, I feel or I think I know why people act the way they act, since of course we were all similarly brought up. But to try to regulate what a totally different person does and to add that to what they think, is indeed completely new to me. Besides being able to take the MCAT, the experience of analyzation for completely undefined subjects (people you have a blank slate of) is one of the most important things I’ve gained while being here so far. This is something I’m sure to carry with me pursuing my medical career.
August 12, Saturday
I think I’m beginning to finally understand the overall perception of certain things to the German culture. However, I have yet to define what exactly German culture is. Every time I feel I know what it is, a deviation arises which mediates the growing definition and places it back to the rudiments from which it came. Of course, one cannot label a specific culture based on the bias which is interpreted through out a month, this sort of defining takes years, even generations to conceive and can only be made by the group holding the culture. But I did come to this one point, which can be seen by the majority but not understood by the lot. Every one here is owned by a systematic route which is implanted in their thinking from physiological development, a route of order and rules which is embedded to insure safety and regulations. With the growing diversity, there’s always a halt in outside cultural influences by this same system, the system is followed even from the outsiders for stemmed living in return. Kind of like John Locke’s concept of giving up natural rights for assurance.
I am not implying a negative stance to the whole ideal but simply stating something I clearly see coming from the outside. In Palestine, this whole ‘systematic route’ is only present in lab experiments and in theory. We gain no assurance and are forced to give up natural rights for nothing in return (or at least something highly degraded by the other). It is this that I’ve finally managed to perceive as the main difference between the two cultures. Just from this basic foundation all other cultural ideologies are derived and instituted in the minds of the people retrieving. It might be this same systematic blockage which is making it hard for me to understand the outright concept of German culture yet hard for them to completely comprehend the acceptance for us and Palestinian culture. I guess both portray to the other connections of apophenia which will always come off as abnormal to either side. It took me about two weeks to come to these assumptions but of course with differences comes similarities and Germany (along with the people here), continues to intrigue me and shape my understanding.