September 14, 2014

Is Home Where the Heart Is?

Post by: Desi Buchanan, AMBEX Fall 2014

This week marked the beginning of my school program at AmBex (short for American-Bavarian Exchange). It is centered in Regensburg, Germany, a beautiful city in the state of Bavaria, known for its iconic cathedral skyline and old city charm. I love this quaint city already — the old cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, ancient cathedrals and churches, all the cafes and restaurants…
When I met the group of thirteen students last Saturday at the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich, I was all nerves. We awkwardly learned the elementary facts about each other and saw a bit of the city before piling in large vans to make the two hour drive to Regensburg. We are living in Jugendherberge Regensburg, a youth hostel across the river from old town. Rooms are filled with bunk beds, a desk and maybe even sink or two. There are communal WC (water closet = bathrooms) and showers. It reminds me a lot of my dorm at The Masters College, except everything – classes, dining hall, bathrooms, showers, rooms – are in one building.
This week has primarily been an orientation week. We started the academic part of the semester with European Culture, Geography, and History, taught by the director of the program, Jerry Orr. His daughter Kelley has also been teaching us a bit of German, as well as the practical things like how to use the train and bus systems, where to shop for groceries, and taking us to the traditional regional fair. We have been on two tours of the old town part of Regensburg, which includes incredibly architecture, rich history, and the all-important gelato stop. My favorite part of the week was the canoeing trip. We went to a town called Kallmunz, where there is an old fortress from the Thirty Years War. From there we rented some canoes and took a trip down the river. Along the way we stopped at rope swing and took our turn swinging into the cold water. Definitely one for the books. (P.S. My clothes still aren’t dry!) 
As for the people in my group — they are amazing. We are all getting along so well even after only a week together. Our time together in characterized by laughter, deep talks, and memories that are sure to last long after we leave. Even simple things like going to the laundromat (called Waschsalon) in town hold the opportunity to experience and learn and laugh.
The highlight of this week was going to Nueschwanstein Castle, which is one of the incredible castles that King Ludwig built. This particularly castle provided Walt Disney with the template which he patterned the iconic Disney castle after. It was a steep mile walk to the castle and then we went on a guided tour of the inside, which included King Ludwig’s throne room, bedchambers, reading nooks, and much more. It was beautifully ornate and spectacular in design. The amount of detail in everything was overwhelming to take in. Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures of the inside of the castle, but I’m sure a quick Google search would suffice if you are curious. My friend Emily and I also made a quick trek up to Marienbr├╝cke, a bridge crossing the waterfall and river which runs in the Alps as a backdrop to the castle. All in all, a stunning scene.
Tomorrow we will spend our second Sunday at Lifestream Church. The services are in German, but still, it is such a fun time of fellowship. Everyone is welcoming and friendly, and I can’t wait to continue to cultivate new friendships, not only in the AmBex program but also with the people I meet during my time here. 
I have already fallen in love with Regensburg, Germany (my new home), but I miss my home in California everyday. I have decided that home can be a number of places, but most importantly, home is where the people are. Because my heart is drawn to people, it is in many different cities, states, countries, and now continents.    

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