Picture it: A 180-year-old church; the palace of Frederick the Great; the cutesy charm of local European markets. And it almost didn’t happen – well, at least for me.
Do you know which city I’m talking about? If you guessed Potsdam, Germany, you probably paid too much attention in history class. But hey, you’d also be correct!
Universität Leipzig has a group for international students called WILMA, which stands for “Willkommens Initiative für in Leipzig Mitstudierende AusländerInnen.” I know that’s a lot, so please don’t hit the escape button.
Every so often, WILMA will take weekend day-trips to the surrounding cities of Leipzig, giving students the opportunity to explore said cities for a couple hours. Students are given an unofficial tour of the city on foot, then are set free to scare the locals (may or may not happen each time).
This was my first trip with the group, and of course I was excited because I was finally getting the chance to see a little bit of Europe without it costing an arm and a leg. Plus, I knew it would be a great chance to meet/hang out with people I’ve come to know over the past couple months.
Okay. So. Wake up super early on a Saturday? Check (worst part). Arrive at the main train station to meet WILMA? Check. Board local train with WILMA to Potsdam? Check. Okay, everything seems to be going well.
The weather’s kinda bad. Wait. The weather is actually really bad – raining, cold, lots of wind. The only thing missing is..ope, no, I said it’s raining, we’re good.
Aside from the weather, everything is going..wait. The train has just stopped, and we’re waiting.
And…you get the picture. But why have we stopped? Turns out, we were waiting for another train to use the track we were on, but of course didn’t know when that train was coming. So, we wait for over an hour.
Not a problem. Our plans are now altered a little, but that’s okay. Train is movi…okay, NOW what?? The train stops again, but this time, the conductor comes barreling out of his cabin and heads straight for the bathroom.
Look, I get it; when you gotta go. No, THIS time, someone was SMOKING in the bathroom, which is a big no-no. Now I’m thinking we’ll never get to Potsdam. Little did I know..
So, with all these unexpected interruptions, naturally some rearranging has to happen. We’ve already missed the other train we were supposed to catch to Potsdam, so the only thing to do is wait for another one to come.
We end up having a “layover” in the city of Magdeburg, and we’re told that we will have an hour before our next train comes. Great! This will be a good opportunity to eat/restroom/explore.
One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where you’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.
Just kidding, that’s a quote from “The Polar Express” film. But the thing about trains is, if you’re late, they don’t care. That statement almost became a reality for me. Almost.
So, I decide to go off with two people I had met earlier that day to see what we could get ourselves into. We pass some shops (*looks at phone for the time). We pass some historic-looking architecture (*okay, getting closer to having to leave). Oh, look the Elbe River! (*very-nervously thinking we need to get back to the station)
Our train leaves in seven minutes, and the bridge we are on taking pictures of the Elbe in the rain is definitely more than seven minutes away from the train station. Meanwhile, WILMA does not take a head count and will not politely ask the train conductor to wait.
The question now is not “if” we miss the train, but “when” we miss the train, WHAT WILL WE DO? We subconsciously agree that the only thing we CAN do is (insert my least-favorite three-letter-word here).
I kid you not, I am running so fast and so hard that I am having horrific flashbacks to middle school. It was like running the mile all over again, only this time, I had a backpack on and it was raining. Remember the awesome weather I mentioned above?
We are RUNNING through crowds of people, RUNNING through the busy train station, RUNNING up flights of stairs. My body has never felt more like jello than it does right now. At this point, I don’t even care if the train leaves, so long as I can catch my breath.
But by the grace of all that his holy, our train, for whatever reason, hasn’t left. We quickly get on board, and in all honesty, we don’t even know if it’s our train. All we know is that it’s better than nothing. (It was our train.)
We collect ourselves, catch our breath, and drink some water. The trip is still a go! And aside from that incident, the terrible weather, and the long delay, Potsdam proved to be enjoyable, not so much because of the sites (come back in the spring/summer when everything’s in bloom!), but because of the people I got to spend time with.
Check out some of the photos I took below when I wasn’t trying to cough up a lung!
Vince Woods received his Bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. He is currently a sophomore at UMKC, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Education with the intention of teaching German. Vince is spending the semester abroad with the MAUI-Utrecht Exchange Program in Leipzig, Germany.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.