This past May I studied abroad in Berlin, Germany. My funds from STEP allowed me to experience Berlin’s unique culture by visiting famous memorials, palaces and neighborhoods. My Maymester class in Berlin focused on the city’s culture both in the past and the present. Berlin has a vast history, and I was fortunate to learn about its history in the same place where it happened. My experience was truly memorable.
During my time in Berlin, I realized that living and getting around in a foreign country is quite easy even if you don’t know the language (I only know a few greeting words in German). I used the local trains, S-Bahn and U-Bahn, to navigate my way around the city and I only had to use a taxi once. I also felt very safe while traveling around Europe, although many people warned me that Europe is too dangerous to travel around. In the future, I can even see myself living abroad for an extended period of time. Something else that surprised me about Berlin was how diverse it is: the city is truly a melting pot with many cultures. As a matter of fact, it was slightly difficult to find German food since there were many Turkish and Italian restaurants.
The longer I spent abroad the more I realized that it was fairly similar to the States. However, I did notice several differences. For example, they have high-speed trains in Europe that make traveling extremely convenient. The food in Berlin also appeared to be cheaper, especially the healthy food. Going out to eat also wasn’t very expensive. The servers are paid a decent wage so you only have to tip them 5-10%. The biggest culture shock I had in Berlin was the fact that almost no one drinks the tap water, and they prefer to drink carbonated water. I often found myself buying bottles of carbonated water at Aldi’s and carrying them around to avoid buying the overpriced water at touristy areas. As a matter of fact, most people just buy beer for lunch since it is the same price as the water.
I was certainly surprised that there were so many different activities to do in Berlin. Not many people mention Berlin as a place to visit when going abroad, but it was my favorite city to visit. I enjoyed all of the places that I explored this summer – Prague, Munich, Salzburg, Venice and Rome – but in my opinion none of these cities compare to the immense amount of activities Berlin offers. Berlin has an activity available for every hour of the day whether you want to check out Museum Island, Peacock Island, The Berlin Wall Memorial, Charlottenburg Palace or the city’s nightlife. Additionally I shopped at Potsdamer Platz, swam at Wannsee Beach, cruised on the Spree River, strolled through the Tiergarten and toured the Reichstag. Our group also received a tour of a local university. Humboldt University’s campus is located all around central Berlin and although they don’t offer many dorms for students the university is free. Students do not even need to buy textbooks. The student who gave us a tour said that she only spends about 600 euros a year on a train pass.
As part of my classwork I published a blog post with a partner while in Berlin. We extensively researched the Reichstag and I learned a lot about Berlin’s history ranging from Prussia to Parliament. It was very cool to visit buildings that represented the Prussian era such as Charlottenburg and Sanssouci Palace while also visiting modern buildings like the Reichstag. I enjoyed walking through the Tiergarten, knowing that it had once been a hunting ground for their ruler. The Brandenburg Gate also represents the city’s long history since it was once a place for royalty to pass through and later represented the divide between East and West Berlin.
While studying abroad in Berlin, I experienced a new culture and I also learned how to explore a new place on my own. This opportunity has allowed me to break out of my comfort zone. Additionally, this experience has helped me interact with people who come from different backgrounds and even speak different languages. Studying abroad has helped me recognize the importance of being a global citizen while understanding and appreciating everyone’s differences. In the future I hope to be a physician and work for Doctors Without Borders, and I believe that this trip has helped me live in a foreign country while meeting new people and learning about new ideas. I hope to travel to many more countries and make my way back to Berlin one day.
Here’s a link to the Reichstag blog I worked on in Berlin: http://u.osu.edu/krasnoschlik.1/2016/05/13/introduction-to-the-reichstag/