Perspectives

Learning to appreciate change while studying abroad in Europe

June 14, 2018

Juxtaposition (n.) – The fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect. “Juxtaposition is an act or instance of placing two elements side by side. This is often done in order to contrast the two, in order to show the differences…”

This has become my word of the year. I wasn’t really planning on having a word of the year, but everywhere I go I find a juxtaposition of old and new. Europe is hundreds of years old, and it is not uncommon to walk down a cobblestone street older than our entire country with some high-tech structures on top of it. It always strikes me as funny to see such fundamentally different materials functioning together. Take the “Dancing House” (est. 1996) in Prague, for example. With the St. Charles bridge (est. 1357) in the foreground, it is a true juxtaposition of an old way that goes back a couple thousand years and a new way that was found from the knowledge gained across those many years. I find that to be the most beautiful part of it all — the juxtaposition comes from growth. We look at cities like this and are quick to say times are changing and mourn the change. We often miss former generations and romanticize the days of old. I think that goes for relationships, as well.  You see someone you haven’t seen in a while, and there is a sort of melancholy mood on departure because they are not the same as you remember.

TROY student Bailey Ann and a friend in Nuremburg during winter.

TROY student Bailey Ann and a friend in Nuremburg during winter.

When I came to Germany I promised myself I wouldn’t change. I didn’t want to become an unrecognizable character to my family and friends. That’s how I viewed change; I saw it as throwing out the old and creating something entirely new. I do not want to throw out who I am — honestly, I hate throwing out most things. I save things like ticket stubs, brochures, and stickers because I love to remember every tiny detail of life. I think it kind of feels like you are forgetting slivers of memories when you get rid of them, and I don’t want to forget anything. Change scares me. But with every juxtaposition I stumble upon here, I am realizing that change, as much as I thought it was, is not tossing out the old. Just like installing air conditioning in a 400-year-old castle, this change doesn’t get rid of the castle’s grandeur or definition. It is still a castle, but with a broader horizon. Now, in the summer when visitors are hot, instead of sitting in the heat, they could just turn on the AC. This is a change that came from learning. A change that came from growth.

When I first came to Nuremberg, it was just starting to get cold. As time went on, it became miserably cold; it started snowing at the beginning of November and the last snow fell in March. I could take walks around the city and never see a soul: it was a ghost town. By mid-winter I was beginning to think Nuremberg’s population count may have been wrong on Google! I first stumbled upon this church in the “Stadtpark” (pictured) in the winter. My friends and I had toured the Nuremberg Trial museum that morning and walked through the park after. It was a beautiful park — a light snow had just fallen, and the air was quiet, as if to respect the beauty around. It was the trees that really caught my eye. Being from Florida we don’t really experience too much change of seasonal scenery and these trees were completely bare. Looking at them blanketed in snow I didn’t think it was possible for these skeletons to ever bloom again. These bare bones were my city, this was the Nuremberg I knew. Then, over my semester break I was able to spend the entire month traveling around Europe, living out of a backpack and making up plans as I went along. It was incredible, and honestly, I have never had so much fun! When I arrived back in Nuremberg I took a bike ride to familiarize myself with my city again. While I was riding I was so surprised to see people everywhere. They were outside walking and sharing meals, playing games and sunbathing at the park. This wasn’t anything like the Nuremberg I had left only a month ago: my city had changed. In my mind there was such a stark contrast between Nuremberg in the winter and the one to which I had just returned. I started to get a bit sad because I was finally getting to call this city home and it had completely changed on me. I felt like I was fresh off the plane again. But, when I saw the trees in front of this little church, though, something clicked for me. The trees were very different; they had changed, but it wasn’t from getting rid of their branches- they had changed because they had grown. And life was just a little bit lovelier now that they had blossomed. It was then that my fear of change ended.

A park in Nuremberg in Spring.

A park in Nuremberg in Spring.

What would life be like if the branches were too afraid of losing their bare beauty to grow their billowing leaves? What if a seed, afraid to shed its outer layer, remained sunken in the ground? Change isn’t only letting go of what was. It is a beautiful juxtaposition of what you have been and who you are growing into. The beauty is in the contrast. The leaves are a fluttering masterpiece, but each one springs forth from a branch that braved the winter. Where I used to fear change, I now crave the growth that it brings. I am a tree that braved the winter, and I am not afraid to face more seasons, with the fruit of knowledge as my goal. I want to be a lifelong learner, willing to be wrong and to dive into new situations if that means I may learn just a little bit more about life.

I am confident that this is your goal too. I think we are all going through changing seasons. Maybe you are moving up to the next year of university, maybe your years at Troy are coming to an end and it is your turn to branch out into the great unknown. Maybe you are a professor or a parent or just a young adult trying to make it – at any stage of life eventual change is inevitable. If I have learned anything from being abroad, it is to accept each change with gratitude, regardless of the growing pains it will bring. Gratitude is the most fertile soil for growth. I hope, the next time we meet, we can both admire the way we both have blossomed, and appreciate the juxtaposition in our ever-changing lives, because we truly are all the better for it. And maybe we will be two completely different species of tree, but we both “root” for the Trojans!

 

I have loved finally being in a warmer season. My university classes are super interesting… I am even reading the “suggested” reading for one course (it is not even required, this is a big deal)! I love spending time with my friends and exploring Nuremberg, and I always keep an eye out for cheap flights and try to travel as much as possible! My final exams are mid-July, so I am looking forward to experiencing a lot of fun summer activities here and cheering hard for Germany in the World Cup!