Megan Massa

"We'll live to die some other day."

fulbright scholar '14-'15.
bowdoin polar bear '14. hths '10.
nerd. scientist. atheist. feminist. anti-bias.
...i'm currently rebuilding my faith in humanity

LinkedIn BrandYourself
shameless plug
*Disclaimer: the views expressed on this site are my own, and they do not reflect any official view of Fulbright or the IIE*

19.09.2014 - Bochum Day 1…Confidence and Delirium

So I don’t have internet for the time being, so welcome to weird formatting and phone-edited photos!

RUB has this great rule that you can only get the key to your apartment between 9 and 11 in the morning, so my friend (who will also be in Bochum for her Fulbright) and I caught a 4:30 cab to the Marburg Hauptbahnhof. While waiting for Amanda, I spoke with the Taxifahrer exclusively in German. The fact that I could comprehend and speak while super tired gave me much confidence in my “getting around” abilities. He even complemented me on my language for how little real formal training I had!

So we got to RUB, got our keys, and dropped our clothing off. The rooms are super nice (pics to come in the future), and the apartment building is right in the middle of the Uni-Center (filled with shops and resturaunts and Sparkasse…not Deutsche Bank) and also right next to campus (can you say “Mensa”?!). The only downside is how far it is from Bochum’s town center. Oh well. Guess I’ll be getting good use out of that semester ticket!

After a minor freak-out (new place, no room internet for now, no sleep, and a room to organize), I started feeling optimistic about the whole ordeal. My roommate is super nice, from Brazil, and speaks Deutsch at my level…but doesn’t speak English! Practice buddy!

With my room set up and dinner I’m my stomach, I’m ready for a long-overdue shower and a day of exploring the city! Note to self: they weren’t kidding about German bureaucracy…

18.09.2014 - Marburg Day 44…The Last Supper

Being our last day in Marburg, our teacher had us all bring in food for a class breakfast party.  This was a welcome before my final day of packing.  I’m happy to report that, even with more things (books, papers) than before, I was able to fit everything in.  Just barely, though.

Tonight I had a wonderful dinner with my German friend from my floor.  We made past and conversed in both German and English.  When she first came in, she gave me a farewell gift: a bottle of wine from her home Lande and a sweet and thoughtful postcard.  I was so touched.  We’ve only known each other for about 3 or 4 weeks, but in that time we have taught each other so much and had so much fun.  I’m definitely going to miss our dinners and our long conversations.  I hope we do, indeed, visit each other during my year in Germany and it’s not a “Oh we should meet for coffee!” scenario.  

Thanks for the ride, Marburg.  Next stop: Bochum!



You know when a fast angry song comes on that you know every word to and you’re in just the right mood that your eyes light up with the fire and angst of a thousand punk rockers and you just feel so alive


(via onlylolgifs)

17.09.2014 - Marburg Day 43…You’re Liberal Arts is Showing

For what is for many of us our penultimate day, a bunch of us went to 5 Jahreszeiten (5 Seasons) for dinner tonight.  Overlooking Rudolphsplatz from the Oberstadt, we gathered up a group of people, got dressed up, and had a magnificent dinner.  It was great conversation, great company, good eats, and good spirits.

On the topic of conversation, a few of us eventually got into the sensitive topic of race, racism, and what constitutes as such.  I know it’s not very polite table conversation, but Germany has different rules of society (such that meaningful discussion is preferable to small talk, despite how uncomfortable the former it may be), so when in Rome…

I was pleasantly surprised at how diverse opinions were.  It has been a while since I was in the presence of a large group of highly intelligent people thoughtfully and respectfully discussing a sensitive topic with varying viewpoints.  I’d been so used to the Bowdoin’s “preaching to the choir” culture, where the majority of students have similar views with minute deviations.  This conversation was a very welcome change, especially since, again, everyone was thoughtful and respectful. 

At one point in the conversation, a friend who had attended Pomona for her Bachelor’s looked at me and said, “When you talk, it’s so familiar.  I can just hear the liberal arts college dripping out.”  

It seems we’ve been indoctrinated into a cult.  And though not unwittingly, that comment snapped me into a mode of deep self-reflection: why do students from liberal arts colleges tend to come out thinking alike with regards to “social justice” and the like?  The human side of me wants to think that “we’re right and you’re wrong” (how primal).  But the analytic side of me realizes that I’ve been trapped in a bubble with little to no intellectual and political diversity for the past four years, and that this has skewed my perceptions of how the majority of people think (thanks liberal arts…now that’s irony!).  

People tell you that college is really the last time that you’ll be completely surrounded by people as smart as or smarter than you.  But I don’t think that’s necessarily correct.  In my case, I think what was more true is that college (read: Bowdoin) was probably the last time that I’d be completely surrounded by people that think like me, especially seeing as we were being educated at the higher level by the same professors at the same institution.  And I think that this culture is the same across liberal arts colleges in the U.S.

And while that’s a decent environment to learn in, I’m not quite convinced it’s the optimal environment to grow.

16.09.2014 - Marburg Day 42…Ich bin fertlg mit meiner Prüfung!

For the morning  class, we had our final examination for the A1 level.  After all the difficult grammar and vocabulary we’ve used throughout these past six weeks, the exam was a cake-walk.  I don’t know my results yet, but I have a feeling that they’ll be better than I expected yesterday before bedtime!  

In the afternoon, we watched Friendship!, a German tragedy/comedy (very Shakespearean, actually) about two friends from the GDR (or DDR) who travel to the US during the late 90s.  They only have enough money to fly into NYC, but they wish to make it to San Fran, so they end up hitchhiking their way across the US and getting themselves into all sorts of “stereotypical American” debauchery.  It was quite hilarious and, in the European style, concluded with a very abrupt and sad ending.  And our teacher only had to stop the film three times to explain what was going on!

Later on, we had our Fulbright farewell party / second mingle, where we had dinner and drinks at the Studentendorf’s very own Schwarz Weiß.  Funnily enough, I met a kid who grew up near MetroPark and swam fly for St. Joseph’s, so he knew almost all the RBY/CBA boys by name!  It’s crazy what a small world this is.  It almost reminded me of that time during my freshman year at Bowdoin that I ran into someone I met during my sophomore year in high school when going to a CBA prom.  We mixed, mingled, drank, and ate spätzle.  AND I began packing.  It was a very successful day.

15.09.2014 - Marburg Day 41…Renewable Energy

Germany is known for its eco-friendly lifestyle (almost overly so…re: tampons), so our Fulbright coordinator got two people from Marburg Stadtwerke to show us around Marburg’s own alternative energy source electricity generators.  We went inside a wind turbine, entered a solar farm, and saw the new wood-chip burning plant.  We learned that Germany used to have a program whereby the government would encourage the purchase and installation of renewable energy devices.  Unfortunately, this law has changed within the past month so the government subsidies aren’t as attractive anymore.

At night, we had dinner with the rest of the German research Fulbrighters.  It was fun to have a change of pace and see some new faces (and of course to have a free meal!).  

Sorry for the kurt entry…I have a test in the morning!  Press your thumbs for me :)

13-14.09.2014 - Marburg Days 39 & 40…The Domestic Life

Sometimes, you just need to sleep the day away.

Saturday was characterized by sleeping, grocery-shopping, dinner-cooking, and pre-gaming.  Till Dawn was hosting a 90ers party, and it was outstanding.  Because we’re in Europe, we mobilized to leave for the club at 12:30am (eek!), but it was totally worth it.  The club had three rooms: one playing 90s pop music, another playing 90s hip-hop, and the final one playing 2000s music.  As soon as we got there and checked our coats, the 90s pop room started playing Cotton-Eyed Joe.  Obviously I began doing the dance.  But the Germans, while knowing the song, did not know the dance that our pre-teen hearts fondly cherish.  So while I was (solo) dancing, a group of people started watching, clapping, and cheering.  Then one girl came up beside me and bounced with the music, trying desperately to watch and mimic what I was doing.  So of course I went up to her (hoping she spoke English) and yelled over the music, “Front front back back side up side back!”  My teaching skills were a hit, and a couple of other Germans joined in before the song ended.  It was definitely one of the highlights of my night life.  While the rest of the party/dancing was super fun, the next big moment came when I requested the Cha Cha Slide.  Another song whose choreography the Germans didn’t know, they all watched us intently as the 10 or so American Fulbrighters started following the song’s instructions.  A few did try to join in, frantically looking over their shoulders when the successive quarter-turns left them “in the front,” so to speak.  It was so funny and cool.  Cultural ambassadors ftw.

This morning, we had planned a brunch.  Though we began at 12 noon, we didn’t finish cooking the hash browns, eggs, french toast, pancakes, muffins, and bacon until 2:30.  It was hectic and stressful (especially since it took place in the kitchen on my floor!), but it ended up being super tasty and fun.  AND I learned some new dishes to cook!

Towards the end of our brunch (linner?), some of my new German friends joined us (I had talked to these girls for close to 5 hours the night before!).  We sat around talking before we decided to make Momma Crabb’s Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle cookies (3 cups of flour, 1 cup of white sugar, 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 eggs, 2 sticks of butter, 1 tsp each of vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda).  The result was delicious!  

And I realize, looking back on my day, that I spent most of it in the kitchen.  This, while exhausting, was quite a nice change of pace!

12.09.2014 - Marburg Day 38…Cafe Trauma

After class, I decided that I should focus on finishing everything in my fridge before I leave on Friday, so I went home for lunch.  There, I was able to have a wonderful conversation with a girl on my floor!

At night a group of us went to Cafe Trauma, a local venue where, last night, local musicians came out for a “jam sesh.”  These artists may have known each other, but all the music was improvised.  Even some Fulbrighters joined in, bringing their guitars and saxophones into the mix.  It was super chill and so much fun.  

And what a surprise it was when I went to the bathroom and saw a shout-out to Tumblr!  The German text is a response to the “You look fine!”, and reading, “Thank you, but we here are not on Tumblr.  I am ugly.”

And note to self: Malt beer is too sweet and low in alcohol (read: alkoholfrei) to be worth the money.  Vita-Malz is a no-no, despite the cheap price.

11.09.2014 - Marburg Day 37…While We Never Forget, Life Goes On

Today was a bit of a rough day.  It was one thing being up in Maine, away from my home and my family, on September 11, but being out of the country was something else entirely.  There were no memorials, no flags at half-mast, no moments of silence.  Part of that has to do with being out of school, but most has to do with being in Germany, where the country’s riddled history has caused the younger generation to leave nationalism by the wayside (except, of course, when it comes to soccer).  It felt like no one knew what day it was; I felt so alone…

After our double session of class, a small group of us headed to the Institute of Virology for a little tour/information session.  There, we had presentations on the current Ebola outbreak (did you know that it’s hypothesized that Fruit Bats provide a reservoir for Ebola?! The outbreak pattern across Africa even follows their migratory pattern!!1!) as well as what it means to be a BSL 4 lab.  The Marburg lab is part of the European Mobile Lab project.  This project, along with several other universities, sends in teams to areas with viral outbreaks to collect samples and perform experiments.  They study these diseases with the hopes of finding vaccines and preventative treatments.  Being a BSL 4 lab, they work with viruses that are lethal and have no current medical treatment, such as Ebola, SARS, and the Marburger virus.  Overall, the topics were interesting; it was refreshing to have some science thrown back into the mix.

When we got back, we had a little down-time before a Fulbrighter pianist performed for the rest of us.  She specializes in a contemporary repertoire (as stated on her YouTube Channel) and is a simply amazing piano player.  The concert was wonderful.  She performed four pieces, providing us with background on the music style of the song and its composer.  She played with such passion and grace.  It was simply astounding…

I logged on Twitter at the end of the day to find a moving video posted by the NYT.  It provided me with the comfort (and good hearty cry) that I needed; I hope it provides you with the same.

09-10.09.2014 - Marburg Days 35 & 36…Movie Central Up in Here

These past two days have been filled with class and more class.  But last night I went with a couple of people to see the “Sneak Peak” at the local cinema.  ”Sneaks,” as they call them, are when the German theaters show a film that hasn’t been released in Germany yet for a low price (in Marburg 4 Euro!).  The catch is, when you purchase the tickets, you only know whether it’s going to be in English or German…you don’t know the movie.  We ended up seeing Million Dollar Arm, which was entertaining, but, like most Disney movies, super problematic (re: glorification of Indian poverty, white savior trope, white-man-learns-culture trope, failing of the Bechdel test, and just overall blatant racism and misogyny).  But I digress.

Today we had culture class regarding the economics of the Eurozone.  As someone who has never taken an econ course, the professor did a wonderful job breaking down everything into digestible and understandable terms.  We saw how the Eurozone responded to the ‘08 crisis and how the Eurozone attempted (but failed to) effectively separate monetary and fiscal policy.  It was a very interesting and informative discussion.  And this dude was by far the best culture class presenter we’ve had.

After a hectic night last night, I decided that today after class was all about self-care.  I splurged on blueberries, ate some chocolate, and watched a movie.  For the record, She’s the Man, if you “tip your critical thinking hat to the side” as Bowdoin Prof. GM Foster says, is a hilarious, feel-good, and empowering movie. 

Now excuse me while I move on to Legally Blonde!