How to Survive a Pandemic in Germany by Mikaela Franco
When I wrote my introductory blog post I had no idea how deeply the coronavirus would impact my time abroad. Despite the recommendations from the College, I decided to accept the risk and board the plane for Stuttgart—I received the email in the airport literally minutes before boarding began, so it was really a spur-of-the-moment decision. And although there have certainly been some disappointments and difficult times along the way, I would not go back and make a different decision if that were possible.
Although my first few days in Bamberg were pleasant, things soon got rough as the city began shutting down due to the pandemic. The most basic things turned into difficult, drawn-out processes—registering with the city took me over a month and had to be done entirely through email, while enrollment at the University of Bamberg had to be done through snail mail. On top of all this, exactly a week after my arrival the state of Bavaria issued a mandatory lockdown, which threatened to cut me off from the few contacts I had made.
However, one of my contacts took quick action—a young family with whom I had been in contact before leaving the States. Through some mutual friends, they found a couple who lived in a nearby village and explained my situation to them. The couple welcomed me to stay with them until the lockdown ended, and although we were yet strangers, I accepted their invitation. The young family assured me that they were wonderful people, but if I didn’t want to stay for any reason, they would come and get me.
This turned out to be another decision I could never regret! Friedemann Decker and his wife, Andrea, adopted me as their “American daughter,” taking me on hikes and bike rides, or just walks around the village or nearby woods. We worked in the garden, cooked meals, and watched all the government broadcasts together, waiting nervously to find out what the next step would be. As it turned out, the lockdown was extended multiple times before finally ending after almost two months and being replaced with a slightly less strict “contact ban.” The Deckers graciously welcomed me to stay with them for as long as I wanted to, and so here I am still!
Although studying Middle High German at the Otto-Friedrich University has been a dream come true, my experience staying with this German family has been the best part so far of my visit. Although there are many things canceled or delayed due to the coronavirus—the Passion Plays of Oberammergau being by far the greatest disappointment for me—there have still been so many wonderful things to do and experience here. In the pictures you can see some of the things I have been doing, from hiking in the beautiful Bavarian countryside to cooking with my adopted German family.