I am officially 314 days through my 347 days here in Germany. In the past few months since my last post so much has happened. As my inevitable departure date comes closer I have started reflecting on everything I have done and accomplished here.
I have often talked about my travels and adventures I have had while here, but one thing I haven’t talked much about is my classes and the courses I have taken here. My family and friends back home think that I only travel and basically do anything that isn’t school work. To be honest, that’s not entirely false. I travel a lot and I spend less time focusing on school work than I would normally have at Stout. As an exchange student, I am only required to take what equals 12 credits per semester so my course loads have been light throughout the year. Which has allowed me to travel as much as I can. It was hard to predict what my classes would be like before coming here, things get lost in translation and with only a handful of students coming to Darmstadt before me, I didn’t know what to expect. The last thing I ever expected was to be involved in a project that would quite literally go down in history and become one of the most defining experiences of my year abroad.
Last October when my classes started I chose to take a design course called “entwurf”, now, unfortunately, the original group I chose would be entirely in German and my professor thought it would be too difficult as I had only just started learning German a few weeks prior. So I joined another course unknowing of what it was going to be, but I quickly learned. In this course, we were going to design a logo for Deutsches Zentrum für Luft – und Raumfahrt (DLR, The German Space Agency). The logo was needed for an upcoming mission to the International Space Station (ISS). DLR and The European Space Agency (ESA) are sending Alexander Gerst a German astronaut to become the commander of the space station during the 57th mission to the ISS in the spring of 2018. This mission is really important for DLR because Gerst will become the first ever German commander of the ISS and the 2nd ever ESA astronaut to become the commander.
Throughout the entire winter (fall) semester we worked on this project individually and as a group. Presenting and meeting week after week developing our own individual logos to present to Alexander Gerst. At the end of the semester, the plan was to meet with Alexander Gerst and present to him our logos and he would choose one to go to space. As the winter (fall) semester came to a close in early February it was time to present our logos. Due to Gerst’s very busy schedule, we were not able to meet then, but he still was given a file of our logos and was able to discuss with our professor about them. We presented 8 logos in total to Gerst and he liked them all! Unfortunately, none were exactly what he wanted, so Gerst and my professor decided to create a new logo with parts of each of our logos.
We worked on the documentation for all of our logos and waited to hear about progress on the new logo. Soon all my friends from the first semester left and the new students for the summer (spring) semester arrived. I traveled and began my new classes, and in the beginning of May my parents arrived and I traveled with them for 10 days to Switzerland and a few other cities in Germany. Just a few days after my parents left I was back at the airport again for the 3rd time that month picking up one of my best friends who had been studying in Scotland for the semester. We traveled around the area and had some time to catch up on our crazy time abroad.
The month of May was very busy between friends and family visiting and traveling, my classes being in full swing for the summer (spring) semester, and there were many things happening in Darmstadt including a free music festival for the whole area. In May we finally got word that the logo was finished and we had been invited to go to the press release and finally meet Alexander Gerst at the end of the month. We didn’t have much notice so only me and one of the other 8 students in the class could go. We met with our professor and his assistant and we were able to get front row seats in the press release because our professor would be helping present the logo. The event was a mix of German and English and we were invited on stage to take photos with Alexander Gerst and meet him. After the event we were asked to do interviews for three different news agencies here in Germany. The whole event was live streamed as well as presented on the news later that evening on the main news station here in Germany called “Tagesschau”. At the end of the event we were told that Alexander Gerst will be taking each students logo from the class to space with him for all of our hard work we did we are still able to say that our logos are going to space even if none of them were chose.
All year I have wanted to share what I had been working so hard on for so long but I couldn’t until the press release when ESA and DLR finally announced the mission. The whole experience has been unforgettable. I am grateful for everything I have learned and experienced in this project, the good and the bad. I had the opportunity of a lifetime and I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I had not chosen to study abroad for this year. Even though my logo was not chosen, I created such a unique project to add to my portfolio that will set me apart from my peers at Stout. That is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to study abroad, to do something unique that others at stout haven’t done. Studying abroad can be a scary thing you don’t know what you’re going to experience, but if you have the opportunity I believe everyone should do it. Who knows what will happen, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be able to say that my logo is going to space, and really how many other students at Stout let alone people in the world will be able to say that.
Hohenzollern Castle – Bisingen, Germany
Photo Credit: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft – und Raumfahrt
The photo above is from the press release of the new logo, we were invited onstage to meet Alexander Gerst and to have the press take photos of us all. From left to right, Alexander Gerst, one of my German classmates, my professors’ assistant, myself, and my professor.
The image above on the left is the mock-up of my logo in its patch form. The image on the right is my logo and DLR’s slogan which means “Knowledge for tomorrow.”