By Jacob Broehm (AYF 21-22, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
I remember being fascinated by every little detail of Freiburg on September 1, the day I arrived in town. The train station seemed so big to me, the Straßenbahn and its stops felt so modern, and my WG on Händelstraße was much bigger than I had anticipated. I felt completely lost in this new world with only imagined familiarity of sites around Freiburg that I had seen on Google and using the paper directions provided by AYF staff at the train station. Thanks to my prior Google maps research, I was able to identify the Platz der alten Synagoge, the Münster, and my WG building during my first Straßenbahn trip.
The following month gave us many opportunities to branch out with each other, the extensive AYF alumni network, and the AYF staff, all of which we have come to adore. We took a guided tour around Freiburg with Manfred from the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft, took a hike around nearby Schauinsland, traveled down to Basel for a day trip as well as so much more. My favorite experience was at the Greiffenegg-Restaurant on Schlossberg where we were able to meet with the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft members. Not only were the conversations fruitful, but the restaurant also had a beautiful view of Freiburg and the Münster where we were able to get this group photo.
Although the first days and the first month were exciting and new for all of us AYFers, it was also extremely tiring for many of us. Once Covid became a reality in the United States, we all adapted to a lifestyle of Zoom classes, few outdoor gatherings, and too much time with family.
Even when abiding by 3G, 2G, or 2G+ rules, many of us were able to experience and do more in person in Freiburg than in many months before combined. We were able to communicate and get to know each other through participating in excursions and activities together in person, a much more enriching experience than conducting these events online. After meeting many different fellow students and groups at UW-Madison only online, meeting people in person is without a doubt something I missed greatly during the pandemic.
While this stark transition to our daily schedules in Freiburg was a shock, it was also welcomed by AYF students as it brought back memories of pre-Covid times. We were able to enjoy the Freiburg September weather, the Münster market, and even karaoke nights once a week. New restrictions due to rising Covid numbers and the new Omicron variant may be annoying and irritating, but all of us AYFers would rather undergo 2G+ in order to continue in-person classes, have German study nights, and experience Germany to the fullest.