When you suffer from depression and anxiety you always have a little bit of mixed emotions before taking on a big life experience. At their best, these experiences can be overwhelming and at their worst, totally destructive. But, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge, at whatever cost. I’ve typically found that when I put myself out there, the returns are greater than anything I might have paid emotionally.
Berlin: Since, I would be going as part of the ambassador program, my husband and I wanted to see if there would be a way to take more time there and see at least a couple of cities on our travels. My supervisor was able to connect me with a good friend of his, Udo Michallik. We met Udo for coffee upon our arrival in Berlin. Udo is the Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs. My educational background is foregrounded in education. It is something which remains a passion of mine. Out of all of the things that Udo and I talked about, what really stood out to me is that our concerns and our troubles aren’t so very different. Questions over the value of an education, its role in society, how we value our teachers, and technical education were something that Udo and I agreed very much on. I was also keen to inquire about the collegiate system, which in Germany is free. As a popular discussion point in American politics, I wondered his take on free college education system. What I learned from Udo was that as a policy, this could be particularly challenging to implement. Just as we face a problem in the United States with an underfunded public K-12 system, Germany faces similar challenges with their university system. In the United States, and in Ohio in particular, our funding model for public schools has been deemed unconstitutional, and yet, we haven’t found a means of fixing it. On this point, Udo and I were in agreement: from a policy perspective, there were important challenges to overcome before simply making college free.
During our stay in Dresden, we were hosted by a local family, Nancy, Ronny, and their son Anton. Staying with them for several days was way better than any hotel. Their kindness in opening their home to us was much appreciated and I am sure I cannot express enough gratitude to them. Part of the reasons we had a host family was because the Sisters Cities Exchange wanted us to be able to learn what it was like to live in Dresden, from people who lived in the community. It was a cultural exchange in every sense of the word. The Sister Cities Program arranged for us to enjoy several tours, including a river boat tour and a city tour. It was amazing to hear all about the strength of the city in rebuilding and the emphasis on peace after the bombing of World War II. Of all the different facts I learned, it was the rebuilding of Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) that was the most fascinating. Over 8,000 of the original stones were salvaged and used in the new church. The new cross at the top of the church was commissioned by a goldsmith in London, whose father was an airmen and had been a part of the bombings. Our tour guide expressed that this signified peace and unification that he would help in its reconstruction.
On my last day in Dresden, I took part in the Dresden Half Marathon. As a runner, the race is often the culminating experience of many weeks of training; yet this time the run wouldn’t even really make the highlights reel. It was beautiful to see the city on foot; I am grateful I had the chance to take part in doing something that I loved. This was also my third race on another continent, but at the end of the day, the race is not the story I would tell about my trip to Germany.