21 brave and sporty AIB students, faculty and staff teamed up to participate in the 2016 AIB Charity Run on Sunday, April 10 - as part of the annual Bonn Marathon - in order to raise money for AIB's affiliate Marol Academy in South Sudan.
Under sunny skies, six students courageously ran a half marathon of 13.2 miles, whereas the others formed relay teams covering the full marathon distance of 26.4 miles. All of them were carried on by the fantastic atmosphere in the city, with thousands of Bonners cheering on the sides of the streets.
In the end, all runners managed to cover their distances in great times and with a lot of fun.
And equally important: A total of € 750,- was raised towards Marol Academy to support their efforts in providing education to children in distressed South Sudan.
So - all around this event turned out to be a great success!
It was the first time we had seen a sunny blue sky appear in months and it was like greeting an old friend. With the sun at our side and a cool breeze accompanying us, all AIB students set out to perform, in the Aggie Tradition, The Big Event.
Since its introduction in 1982, The Big Event has become the largest, one-day, student-run service project in the nation. Each spring, tens of thousands of Texas A&M students come together to say "Thank You" to the residents of Bryan and College Station. For the past 3 years, the study abroad students at AIB have participated in this event across the seas by performing services to Bonn.
Water buckets and soapy sponges in hand, a team headed out to the city central of Bonn to clean the graffitied street signs. As the group worked, citizens would stop and curiously watch the students climb ladders or bend down to wash away the grime and dirt that had collected. Like the bright colors of the signs reviving once again, smiles started to appear across the faces of the onlookers. A little girl on the shoulders of her father pointed and read the words Hauptbahnhof making the students grin with satisfaction and her father nodding a "Danke" in return.
On the outskirts of the town groups of students shoveled and moved dirt around, planting new trees, flowers, and de-weeding the earth. While some constructed massive nests out of sticks and wood, others repainted benches and chairs. At Natur Freunde Bonn (nature friends Bonn), bumble bees seemed to buzz their gratitude as the smell of newly planted dirt and flowers became the fresh aroma in the air.
At a retirement community a group served the elders by raking leaves, planting a new garden as well as settling down to a charming lunch filled with stories of old and laughter. Across the town, a team organized clothes and supplies for refugees, sorting them by size, gender, and season. These would later be placed in bags and given to provide comfort to those in need.
Walls were painted with a fresh coat of color at a local school in hopes that the transformation would bring excitement to the kids who would soon walk the halls.
The AIB students were even on the banks of the Rhine River, scooping up discarded waste and picking up trash left behind. A content feeling in the wind blew around the group as they stared out across the water at their work.
So like Spring excitedly arriving to the city of Bonn, the Big Event brought about new life and smiles all around. At the end of the day, we were proud to serve our community and give back to our semester long German home. As we Aggies say, "Thanks and Gig'em!"
This Saturday, our 80 American guest students will take action together to thank the Bonners for their hospitality. It is the third year that AIB will host the International Big Event to provide students with the opportunity to give back to the local community. The Big Event originates from Texas A&M University, our partner in College Station, Texas.
By hosting the International Big Event, we aim to encourage our students to get involved with the local community. Among others, a clean-up project in the city center and at the river bank is planned together with Stattreisen Bonn, as well as a gardening project with Bonns Fünfte, a local school. Another group of students will help the local volunteers in one of the refugees homes. Our students from Texas A&M, LMU and Penn State are looking forward to meeting their project partners on April 2, 2016.
We are eleven American students from Los Angeles, California studying at Loyola Marymount University. This semester we are taking a Sustainable Practices course, where we have the opportunity to learn about the many aspects of environmental sustainability and conservation. As a way to take the knowledge outside of the classroom, we partnered with Biologische Station Bonn/Rhein-Erft (Biostation) to work on one of their many ecological conservation projects. Biostation is an organization dedicated to ecological restoration and awareness in the City of Bonn located in the North Rhine Westphalia state of Germany.
"Our tasks range from the detection of wild animals, plants and habitats through the creation and implementation of care concepts in protected areas to advising farmers for a natural sound land use (cultural landscape program). One focus of our work is to support the Bonn protected areas and the implementation of conservation measures. We maintain wetlands and orchards, run organic landscaping, lead excursions and lectures, and more. The monitoring of selected plant and animal species is used in addition to the risk assessment as a guideline for maintenance concepts and the targeted protection of habitats."
Last year, in the Spring of 2015, a group of Loyola Marymount students collaborated with the Biostation to build multiple gravel pit ponds in a secluded and wooded area of Bonn. These gravel pits serve as an important habitat for several species of amphibians and reptiles. These species play an important role as indicator species because of the permeability of their skin. When there are changes in the environment, this can be observed through changes in population size of these species. Creating a shallow and clear pond is important to allow for spawning and development. Our mission for this project is to continue the work of the previous group by repairing the gravel pit ponds, and to remove trees and extra foliage surrounding the ponds which will increase sunlight to the ponds.
The main goal of this project was to restore breeding ponds and to ensure the safety the Natterjack, Green Toad, and Sand Lizard. Each species has distinctive features that sets it apart from more common species and plays a distinctive role in the ecosystem.
This past week students from the Texas A&M Biosciences program had the opportunity to observe surgeries at the Bonn Uniklinik. Once we arrived we met with one of the anesthesiologists who took us to change into our scrubs. At this point, I was more excited than I thought I would be. Some of us had observed surgeries before, but most of us hadn't. The only experience I've had with surgery is shadowing with veterinarians and what I've seen on Grey's Anatomy. I was eager to find out if the tv drama's depiction of surgery was accurate or not.
After we changed into our scrubs, we were randomly assigned surgeries ranging from cardio, ENT, orthopedics, general, and more. Shelby and I went into an OR with a man who had a hernia. We met with the anesthesiologist, Stephan, who would be our go to person for the rest of the day. Both the anesthesiologists and the surgeons themselves were kind enough to discuss what each of them were doing as well as go over basic anatomy and physiology with us. During our breaks, Shelby and I got the chance to ask others about the surgeries they saw and we got to share about ours.
The next surgery we got to see was a woman who had colon cancer and the doctors were doing an explorative procedure to see if and how much the cancer had spread. We got to see actual intestines! I know not everyone would have this excitement about seeing the human anatomy in person, but for us students, it was very interesting and exhilarating. I can also confirm that Grey's Anatomy exaggerates the amount of blood involved in abdominal related surgeries.
After the surgeries, everyone was eager to share what they saw that day. Two student saw a heart stop beating, others saw a boy get a belly button, and others saw tumors get removed. Many of us wish we could go observe another day in the semester and we were grateful that we had this opportunity that we might not have had if we weren't studying abroad here. Overall, it was a great trip filled with new experiences that left us with a new impression on what surgery entails.