German Adventures with Public Transportation: J-Term 2017 Part 2

It’s been a week since I arrived in Berlin with my classmates and professors for my J-Term trip. I’ve learned so much, and we’re still in Germany! Already I’ve begun to consider the impacts of my daily actions on the environment.

Being the suburban girl I am, I did not have a ton of prior experience with public transportation. I’ve taken the light rails in Minneapolis and St. Paul from time to time, but I’ve never had to rely exclusively on them. When we first arrived in Berlin last Thursday, we all received a public transportation pass that we could use an unlimited amount of times during our stay.

We stayed in a very convenient location in Berlin; right next to the central train station. This was a transportation hub of the city, and from there we could catch the various types of public transportation offered in Berlin (buses, trains, subways, and street cars). I really enjoyed figuring out how to plan adventures utilizing various types of public transportation and with limited resources (ex.: limited wifi, language barriers).

Our use of public transportation has got me thinking about a major decision I’ll have to make soon: buying a car. I don’t currently have my own car, but I’ve always just assumed I would buy one after college. However, on this trip I’ve started to think about whether or not I’ll even need a car. If I wind up in a metro area that has a good public transportation system, I wouldn’t see the need to have a car. However, if I am in a suburban or more rural area, not having a car wouldn’t be as feasible. Using public transportation rather than personal cars reduces carbon emissions, even though it does not necessarily run on renewable energy. There is some renewable energy in the energy mix for Germany’s public transportation, Deutsche Bahn.

To me, the main benefits of having a car include convenience and flexibility. Not having a car would decrease my carbon footprint, eliminate expenses associated with having a car, and would likely force me to walk or bike more. Another option that is more eco-friendly than a regular car but not as good as relying on public transportation would be an electric car, but those are still quite a bit more costly. Buying a car is definitely something I will have to consider thinking about in the future, and I don’t think it will be an easy decision. However, I have now experienced how easy it can be to use public transportation.

Overall, I am really enjoying my trip so far! We are now in Niebüll, a town of 9,000 people near the Germany-Denmark border. On Saturday, we leave Germany and head to London to begin our time in the United Kingdom.


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