I was pretty excited to visit Jena–not for the city itself, but because we were staying with Miriam! I hosted Miriam two years ago shortly after I arrived in Abu Dhabi. She was one of my first guests, but also one of the sweetest. She even brought me sweets! I’ve been addicted to the German Haribo candies every since. They remind me of her every time I see a Haribo bag.
We didn’t end up doing too much around Jena during our time there, but that’s because poor Miriam has to study everyday practically 24/7 for her exams. It’s a hard knock life for German students studying Medicine. I’d heard this before from Anna and Yana in Loch Ness. The percentage of students who fail exams every year is shocking. And if they fail, they then have to make up the exams at the start of the following year, on top of starting their new classes.
It didn’t matter, though. Just seeing Miriam was reason enough to pay Jena a visit. She’s one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. And she’s very smiley. I like smiley people because they make you smile.
Jena is a beautiful little university town. The campus buildings are really nice and inviting. You feel the presence of Friedrich Schiller University everywhere thanks to the young population seen walking, biking, and gathering all around the city. According to Wikipedia, about 20% of its 110, 000 inhabitants are university students. It feels like a lot more, though. And being in the valley of the Saale river, guarded by the beautiful trees with their Autumn leaves really gives the town a feeling of a secluded oasis.
The evening that we arrived in Jena, Miriam met us at the station. We walked to her apartment, where she proceeded to make a wicked pumpkin soup. I knew I was going to enjoy my stay here. We passed the evening in good company in the kitchen with her roommate, Kevin, and his girlfriend.
Alas, we had to get to bed early, as all these poor students had to get up for class in the morning. I did not envy them at all. In fact, the more and more I heard about the daily life of a Medical student, the more I wished I’d brought Miriam a bottle of wine as a thank you gift instead of a simple Icelandic fridge magnet. My hat is off the Medicine students everywhere, along with anybody in the field who survived the gauntlet that is Medical School. All this made Miriam’s warm, sunny, and positive disposition all that much more endearing and inspiring.
Trevor and I spent most of our time in Jena either researching travel-related things and catching up with the blog in the mornings while Miriam was in class, going out for lunch with Miriam and her lovely friend, Una, or hanging out in Miriam’s apartment with her and her roommates. It was a relaxing few days. I even introduced Miriam and Kevin to the ridiculous game of Dobble.
The two of them also sprung a tricky little riddle on me that I’ll pass on to you: How do you make four equilateral triangles out of six matchsticks? (This one is great for Primary Math teachers out there! I’ll definitely be using this one in the classroom in the future.)
We did manage to enjoy a nice little walk through Jena and up to the Napoleon Stone (Napoleonstein) with Miriam and Una on our first full day in the town. It was such a beautiful and warm sunny day that I would’ve forgotten it was already September were it not for the changing leaves on the trees.
After three nights, we sadly had to say goodbye to Miriam. I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of each other, though.