Mika Houserova, German major at the University of South Alabama and International Education Ambassador at the Office of International Education, traveled to Passau, Germany in June 2013 and lived there for a year. Upon arrival in Passau, she was greeted with a flood and challenges she never would have preconceived, but has some great stories to tell now.
Since my mom lives in the Czech Republic, about four hours from Passau, she picked me up from the airport when I arrived and said, “I hope you enjoy your trip to Atlantis.” I was confused…until I saw the newsmen reporting from boats.
The flood was stated to be the biggest flood in 150 years, with water levels reaching 12.85 meters, or 42.2 feet, and surpassing the previously recorded historic flood level. The Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers converge in the center of Passau, causing quite a few challenges for me right when I arrived. I got to Germany about two months before classes started so I could have time to search for apartments and get settled in, but it was super hard to find an apartment during this. I had so many people respond that their places were flooded so they weren’t renting at that time. It eventually worked out and I found an apartment on a hill that the flood hadn’t reached.
As the water levels lowered, many volunteers gathered in the streets to help clean up so I bought a bucket and broom and helped clean up too. There was mud, debris and trash all over the streets of downtown. I helped with the street I lived on and then later I helped on the river walk. Sadly, I lost my camera to the mud when I was trying take pictures. Although the flood (and loss of my camera) was an unfortunate situation, it really gave me a chance to become part of the community in Passau. I met so many nice people (and it gave me something to do before school started).
Fortunately, the university and dorms weren’t flooded – keeping my classes on schedule and saving me from another challenge I might have had to face. In the end, I had an awesome year – with no more floods – and I really learned a lot about the German culture and language. It was really more of a culture shock returning to the United States after a year away than it was for me when I had just arrived in Germany.