Some of the greatest parts of the gap year global internship program, in my own opinion, are the weekly CIEE-sponsored excursions across the city. Since my internship takes place on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, these activities normally took place on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons. The themes of the excursions varied greatly, from networking breakfasts to spy museums to vegan donuts, but they were always such a fun time! Depending on the topic of that afternoon’s activity, I was joined by either the college interns, the language gap year student, or both.
These CIEE excursions allowed me to see into many areas of Berlin’s culture and history which I never would have discovered otherwise. I always looked forward to Tuesday and Thursday each week when I would meet one of the CIEE program coordinators and whoever else was going and embark on that day’s adventure. Due to the high levels of personal attention and collaboration within the gap year program, CIEE was always offering up new events they found which they thought I would enjoy, or asking for my thoughts on where I wanted to go before my three months were up.
I honestly can’t imagine that any other gap year programs offer such incredible opportunities for their students once or even twice each week; the program leaders in CIEE are so passionate about ensuring that you experience Berlin to the fullest and gain important business/internship skills along the way. The 3:2 internship and excursion schedule was the ideal layout for me: I had enough time to explore Berlin on my own and travel to other cities on some weekends, while also always feeling excited to go to work and on excursions. I couldn’t have loved it more if I had designed it myself!
In order for you, the reader, to get a feel for the weekly CIEE schedule and possible excursions, I have included short blurbs about several of my favorite excursions from the past twelve weeks. While the excursion destinations may change with the seasons and the years, this list should give any future students considering a CIEE gap year program a glimpse into just how AMAZING their time abroad could be!
Berlin Wall Memorial and Museum
- This was one of our very first excursions when summer hadn’t quite given over to fall yet and every day was still hot and full of beautiful, bright sunshine. The memorial consists of a remaining portion of the Berlin wall, an outline of where the wall extended in each direction but has since been destroyed, a re-creation of the “death strip” that existed in between the two walls, and photographs of all of the people who were killed while attempting to escape over the walls and death strip. This excursion was an incredible introduction into the history of Berlin and taught me so much about the Berlin wall and the separation of the city into East and West Berlin.
Climate-KIC Start-Up Pitch Event
- At a beautiful venue in downtown Berlin, we got the chance to watch four different environmental startups pitch their business ideas to the audience, which included many high profile investors. My favorite pitch of the afternoon was for mid-sized solar panels which are designed to hang from a balcony or windows and funnel power directly into your wall outlet, specifically for people living in condos and apartments.
Casual Concert at the Berlin Philharmonic
- This was an incredible opportunity to watch the world-famous Berlin philharmonic orchestra play in their own theater, but with a completely relaxed tone. The musicians were dressed in casual clothing and the conductor spoke to the audience in between performances, describing the roles of different instruments and the complexity of the piece.
Betahaus Networking Breakfast
- Betahaus is the company that first brought the concept of coworking spaces to Berlin and made them extremely popular. Every week or two they host a breakfast for local entrepreneurs to come and network and listen to pitches from the start-ups currently working in the Betahaus office. This experience was unique, as both of the groups pitching were Australian entrepreneurs.
Tour of the German Parliament
- One of my very last excursions, the guided tour of the Reichstag building (home to the German parliament) and the glass rooftop dome was absolutely incredible and I am so glad that we were able to squeeze it in. The Reichstag is the second most visited site in all of Germany, and the dome on top has one of the best views of Berlin!
Exploring the Turkish Market
- The Turkish market happens twice a week along the bank of the river Spree in Northern Kreuzberg: the neighborhood which also houses the CIEE Global Institute. After walking through all of the stalls and taking in all of the sights and smells, our group stopped and bought lunch there. I was even able to find gluten-free galettes (similar to savory crepes) that were so delicious!
- This interactive museum depicts what daily life was like for citizens living in Soviet-controlled East Germany, aka the Deutsche Democratic Republic. They had everything from real cars and motorcycles popular in that era, to a model Stasi secret police jail cell, to a complete life-size model of a home!
CIEE Cooking Competition
- Although this wasn't exactly an excursion, CIEE's "favorite dish" cooking competition was too fun not to include. All of the students were invited to participate, and my friend Samantha and I made a classic shrimp and grits dish because we are both from Southern states (Virginia and North Carolina). The evening of the competition included a wine tasting, trying small portions of everyone's dishes, the announcing of awards, and a live musical performance from several students. Even though we didn't win, Samantha and I still had such an amazing time and met many new people from the college study abroad program!