About four months ago I sat in Kelley Lecture hall in a complete panic. My peers and I sat in a long, yet somewhat informative, pre-abroad information session and were asked to answer a series of questions on our soon-to-be host country… And I didn’t know any of them. At that moment, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I started to question why I chose to study abroad in Berlin in the first place– I didn’t know the language and I hardly know anything about the city.
Now, months later, I am completely certain that I made the right decision. There is no doubt in my mind that Berlin is place I am meant to study abroad in.
Berlin is an incredible city. And anyone who has been here will say the same. The amazing mix of history, culture, and endless activities always keeps me intrigued and wanting to explore and learn more. On the surface, Berlin can be just a great place to cite see. From the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island and the Berlin wall, it is a place for tourists to explore and see everything they have seen in pictures and learned about.
But I believe that the only way to really see Berlin and to understand the city is to spend an extended amount of time here. The history of Berlin is so deeply rooted inside the culture of the city. Although you can’t explicitly see the effects of the Cold War, it truly shaped what the city is like today. For example, the former East Berlin is covered in graffiti and street art, underground clubs, and interesting bars. It’s so fascinating that a place where Berliner’s lives were under strict rule of the Soviets is now a place where locals can go and express themselves in so many different ways.
But it’s also about getting to know the people here. On the surface, Germans seem cold and unfriendly. However, once you get to know them or simply talk to them, they respond in a gracious and helpful way. The people range from eccentric hipsters to Turkish immigrants to friendly old women waiting with you on the S Bahn platform.
Another thing I have learned is that the Germans are very prideful people. They don’t like to talk about their past and are shameful of their country’s actions during World War II. They also like their language and appreciate you making even the smallest efforts to speak to them in their native tongue. Even though my German class has become the bane of my existence, I appreciate being able to order food and have a superficial conversation with a stranger.
Everywhere I go I learn and see something new in this city. I never run out of places and neighborhoods in the city to explore. Although I sometimes get overwhelmed at times and worry that I won’t have time to seen everything I have wanted to see, I keep reminding myself that I have a month to take advantage of every day I have left in this city.
During the pre-abroad info session the OIS staff warned us that we would go through culture shock, ups and lows, and mixed feelings about leaving our host country and returning to the States. To be frank, I didn’t believe a word of what they were telling me. But alas they were right. From having my purse stolen in Brussels, to traveling to every city I had on my list, to missing the comfort of Goucher, to dreading the moment I have to say goodbye to this amazing city and the wonderful people I have met here, I can honestly say that those ups and downs have taken a toll on me.
But with the emotion rollercoaster aside, I constantly have to remind myself that I am exploring Europe and calling the greatest city of them all my home. Goucher, I truly miss you… but Berlin, Ich liebe dich.