Kayla Santana: "You'll gain much appreciation for Berlin, and when you head back to NYC, you'll figure out what a treasure both cities are”

Programs for this blog post

Summer in Berlin

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CIEE Berlin

Kayla is part of our High School German Language and Culture Session II students, currently living in Berlin for 4 weeks. She is originally from the Bronx, New York, USA and studying at Chelsea CTE in Manhattan. In this interview we asked her about the main similitudes and differences of New York and Berlin, and about her experience so far at CIEE Berlin. 

1.- Can you tell us more about yourself,  where are you from and where do you study at USA.

Hallo! Mein Name ist Kayla Santana und ich komme aus der Bronx, New York, USA. Hello! My name is Kayla Santana, and I am from The Bronx, New York, USA. I am a rising High School Senior currently attending Chelsea CTE in Manhattan. I'm in CIEE's German Language & Culture Program Introductory and Level 1 class. It's been a whole week since I arrived in Berlin, and my experience has been amazing! I love seeing the city and its size. I've been observing the cultural differences from New York and experiencing what it's like being in another country!

2.- Comparing Berlin to New York: Can you mention some of the common things between both cities as well as similitudes and differences? 

So far, while in Berlin, I've noticed a few similarities and differences between these two major cities.

Both New York and Berlin have buildings with historic architecture buildings with essential meanings. Like the unique attraction, The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin is more infused with history than New York. Berlin is widely known as the birthplace of Techno, and New York is known as the birthplace of Hip-Hop and Rap. Both cities are known for their fantastic nightlife, and you'll find music performers in parks across both cities. Broadway, a famous part of theatre culture in NYC entertainment, is difficult to find in Berlin.

Culture-wise, both cities are multicultural, with many ethnicities living in Berlin. The city has changed vastly from what my Host Family son has mentioned. I currently reside with my host mother in the Wedding district, which features a large community of those of Turkish descent and allows for a multitude of Turkish food options. Near the CIEE center, you can find Greek, Lebanese, and many other types of food. In New York, however, while you may not be able to find the same foods, New York has a large population of Latin and Middle Eastern cultures. 
Both cities feature a main park like Central Park in New York. Berlin's equivalent is its Tiergarten. Berlin features much more greenery on its streets than NYC, providing shade for a hot day. When I first arrived, I had quite a few culture shocks. The main one is Jaywalking; Jaywalking is looked down upon in Berlin, while in New York, it is a daily habit that New Yorkers act upon. Another one is how different the transit system is. Berlin's transportation system is much cleaner and more straightforward than New York's.

New Yorkers are required to enter the transit by tapping OMNY or swiping MetroCards to enter the transit system. If caught jumping the turnstile or fare evasion, a 100$ fine will incur, even though many do jump over. Berliners enter the transit system with a ticket, being trusted that they have one. Suppose not, a 60 euro fee will incur. Having the transit system easily open to walk in allows easier access to transportation than in NYC. 

In addition, you can find loud, talkative New Yorkers on the train or even eating or drinking on the train in NYC. This is not at all seen in the transportation in Berlin. Instead, the opposite occurs. No one is speaking, and if so, very quietly, and no one is seen eating. A major surprise on my part, Berlin has no Air Conditioning. In New York, on a hot day, you can go to any store and likely find air conditioning, but this is very rare in Berlin. If you are hot, you open a window instead. 

Overall, Berlin is very much relaxed, and no one seems to be running or quickly and visibly stressed, while in New York, the city is always running. Those are running to catch their train, and it's quite hectic. Berlin is a better New York, with better transportation, more greenery, and more relaxation, but New York City will always be my home. For the following students looking to go to Berlin, I 100% recommend it. It is a whole new world. 

3.-What would you tell a student that is thinking on going there, some advise?

My advice for you is to immerse yourself. New York culture and life usually involve running around constantly, and if you're a teenager like me, you are always on your phone if you are going anywhere. Take the time to look at the things around you. Immerse yourself in the culture, embrace your host family, and learn from them as much as you can. Take in the silence of the silent train rides. Take a look at the small details around you.

As my program leaders and teachers have said, "You only gain as much experience from what you put into it." You'll gain much appreciation for Berlin, and when you head back to New York City, you'll figure out what a treasure both cities are.