"Studying in Berlin has made us more independent and at the same time adaptable to new experiences"

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Global Architecture + Design

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CIEE Berlin
Lily and Andrew are both High School students from the US living in Berlin since August 2022. They just finished their study abroad program where they were able to live with a local family and also go to classes in a local Gymnasium (public high school). During these months, they have practiced and improved their German, got to know the customs and traditions of Berlin and Germany and made many new friends. Here they tell us more about their experience:
1.- Can you introduce yourselves and tell us where you are from and where you study back in the US?
Lily Springborn: Hey everyone, my name is Lily! I am 15 years old and I decided to do my  sophomore year of high school in Berlin, Germany. On July 16, I will return to my home in Dallas, Texas and next school year I will continue to go to school at my local high school, JJ Pearce High School.
Andrew Martin: My name is Andrew, I'm going into the 11th grade and go to Wellesley High School in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
2.-How has your experience in Berlin been? How long have you been here?
Lily: I have now been in Berlin for almost a full 10 months, and I love being here. It is so much fun to be with friends and go to so many cool historical places. I feel like everywhere you go in Berlin, you are guaranteed to find some old churches. The public transport is amazing here, which is great for me to get around without relying on anyone else to drive me!
Andrew: My experience in Berlin and Germany in general has been amazing! I've been here for almost 10 months, and every week offers something new. I've made new friends, vastly improved my fluentness in the language, and learned all about Germany and its history.
3.-How has the experience of staying with your homestay family been?
Lily: Overall, I think my homestay experience has been amazing. I ended up switching host families halfway through the year, but each of the families were super kind. My first host family was a middle-aged couple and my current host family is a mom, dad, and their four kids. There were a lot of differences between the two host families, but I enjoyed staying with both of them.
Andrew: My homestay experience has been very comfortable. My host family is just a host mother and her adopted daughter, but I’ve gotten to know her extended family as well. I've learned to follow the rules of another household, which, in turn, has cared for me for almost a year.
4.-What has been the greatest learning experience you had?
Lily: I learned how to be more independent. By being here, I am now able to buy things that I need, get money from the bank, organize my documents, speak and email people by myself, and go wherever I want all by myself. In the beginning this took a lot of getting used to, but now it is like second-nature to be able to take care of my own needs.
Andrew: My greatest learning experience has been adapting to a totally new and different school system and living situation in a short period of time. At the beginning of the year I wasn't sure how everything would work out, but after the first few days I was already getting used to learning new words and learning the German mannerisms. Before coming here, I was worried about the transition between my life in the US and my life here, but it was much easier and more natural than I thought it would be.
5.-Maybe some of the challenges?
Lily: I really struggled with being homesick in the winter. I missed my family and friends and even considered going home. Thankfully, I stuck it out and now I love being here more than ever, and I never want to leave. In the beginning of the year, I also struggled with understanding what was happening in my classes. I always knew how to talk to people about day-to-day stuff, but never school topics. After learning the terms and just learning more German, I can now understand everything.
Andrew: Homesickness was never really a problem for me, but the last one or two months can feel like they last a really long time when you're anticipating coming home and seeing your friends and family. However, the fact that you know that you are absolutely coming home at the end eases the longing that I feel since it is only a matter of time.
6.-Favorite thing/place/food of Berlin?
Lily: My favourite food that I’ve eaten in Berlin is the Indian and Japanese food here. In east Berlin there are so many cute and delicious restaurants, so I love to go there. I also really enjoy Döner, which is a super typical Berlin food which comes out of Turkey. My favourite area in Berlin is Hackescher Markt because it has the cutest shops and the prettiest park right next to the Spree River, where you can sit with friends and eat and talk. I have also really enjoyed the second-hand opportunities in Berlin. There are so many adorable thrift stores, and I love going on Sundays to Flea Markets.
Andrew: My favourite place in berlin is definitely Tempelhofer Feld. The sheer size of the former airport and the amount of park-goers there in the summer will astound you, and grilling with friends is a great experience.