I love Germany. I must admit, I had a pretty low opinion of it for most of my life. But then last spring, I applied for a program called the "Bridge to Berlin" program. After visiting NYC after 9/11, Chancellor Schroeder decided that he wanted to bring 1,000 NYC high school students to Germany, to bring the two countries closer.
I applied for it. It was free; I didn't have other plans for the summer. It wound up being probably the best experience of my life. I lived with a host family in Stuttgart. We toured the Porsche and Mercedes factories (we got to pick any Porsche to go for a test ride in, and we went on the test track at the Mercedes factory) and did a lot of other fun stuff in southwestern Germany. Then we went to Berlin and met with Schroeder and toured the city. It was such a remarkable trip....And it totally served it's purpose.
The most amazing thing to me was seeing the influence America had there, and it made me hopeful that someday the Middle East will be like this. Everywhere there was Coke, McDonalds, Marlboro, heck even the USAF
patrolled the skies! Everyone spoke almost perfect English; music was all American. It was a lesson in globalization!
It made one American citizen--a person who has negative thoughts of Germany mostly from WWII--have a complete reversal of opinion on the country. And now I tell all of my friends and family to visit there and plan on going back whenever I can.
There should be lots of similar programs enacted. There is nothing like teenagers visiting a country and embracing it that can bring the countries closer together.
"Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon"