July 13th, 2019
After two incredible weeks our time in Cologne came to an end. Our final day began with a classic hostel breakfast full of bread, cold cuts, and fruit. We all acknowledged that though we had complained about the repetitive meals during our stay, we would miss this routine that had become normal. Following breakfast we headed to the workshop room for our final DIVE session. We broke off into small DIVE groups where we discussed what we had learned and gained from this program. The counselors emphasized the importance of reflecting on this experience. They encouraged us to implement what we had learned, both in and out of the classroom, into our daily lives back home. This time of discussion and reflection was much needed after such a busy two weeks. We all had the chance to grow a little more and get the most out of the program.
When DIVE ended we headed to the first floor for the very last hostel meal. Lasagna, salad, and blueberry yogurt was served for lunch. As always, the hot meal was appreciated in between the meals of bread.
Similar to the morning activity, our afternoon was more time for reflection. Each of us wrote a letter to everyone. The letters ranged from simple sentences about what we thought of each other to lengthy confessions of love. Regardless of what was written, everyone had the chance to reminisce on their time in Cologne and the importance of the people they had spent it with. The letter writing lasted for hours as a total of five hundred six letters were written.
The schedule was empty until our goodbye party at 7:30 so we had a few hours of free time. A group of us headed to the city center for one last time. We got to the tram stop just as the tram did so we got on without checking that it was going the right way. All of us figured that eventually we would end up where we needed to be. We realized that this was not in fact true when we ended up four stops away in the wrong direction and had to go back to where we started to get on the right line. Ironically, this was the last time we were using the public transportation and the first time we had gotten lost. Nonetheless, we arrived at the cathedral and went inside for the first time. We were amazed by the building, but what we really wanted to do was take the stairs to the top. We asked a tour guide where to go for the stairs and she directed us to the side of the building. She also warned us that it was closing in five minutes and we needed to hurry. Rushing to the stair entrance we made it just in time and began the steps. The spiral staircase lacked any ventilation, and the masses of people making their way down forced us to walk on the inner corners of each step. After ten minutes of nonstop stairs, many complaints, and an asthma attack we made it to the top. The view at the top provided a perfect view of all of Cologne. It was a poetic moment as we could see everything we had done during our time in the program. We headed down the steps and back to the hostel just in time for the goodbye party.
The goodbye party was full of food, music, and lots of picture taking. We all received certificates for completing the program (and Milka bars). After our ceremony we headed to the Kölner Lichter firework show that happened to land on the last day of the program. What was supposed to be an eight minute walk turned into fifty minutes in an attempt to get us the best possible view of the show. However, the walk was made more bearable by early 2000s music being blasted the entire time. When we finally picked a spot we all spread out our blankets and waited for the show to start. We watched the sun set over the city and enjoyed full cultural immersion by being in a crowd full of locals. The fireworks were amazing and made the walk worth it. By the time the fireworks ended it was well beyond our normal 11:30 bedtime. Regardless, we stayed out a little longer enjoying some rides at the carnival we had walked by earlier. It was an experience that was unlike anything else we had done in the past two weeks. For our last night, everything we did was certainly memorable.
By the time we arrived back to the hostel it was nearly 2:00 AM. The majority of us had not even begun packing and were scheduled to leave in only four hours. The remaining time was spent packing, enjoying our final hours, and sleeping for a few moments.
Before we knew it two weeks were gone and it was time for everyone to depart. Though we only knew each other for a fraction of our lives, the friendships and memories we made in this short period of time will last for many years to come.