I'm doing a semester abroad in Berlin. During the semester (3 months) I'm interning w/ an international company (I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention the name, so I will leave it to your imagination which one).
My reason for coming to Berlin: I wanted more experience/internships before going to college, and for the gap year abroad internship programs that were available during my gap year application process, there was one in Toronto, Shanghai, and Berlin. My thought process: I’ve been to Shanghai, I can literally drive to Toronto (not super far from MN), so Berlin it is. I’ve also never been to Europe before, so I was excited at the thought of traveling to a new country every weekend. Not a realistic goal to have FYI. It will drain your energy just to go to one new country every couple of weekends.
How has my program abroad affected my plans for next year?
I thought that after my internship, I would get a better idea for what major I wanted to pursue in college (I'm undecided), but in reality, I’m still unsure of what I want to do. Aside from majors/minors, I’ve decided that traveling truly is something that I like to do, and I’ve been deciding for the past couple of months whether I want to go to school in the states, or if I want to go abroad for college (I applied to international schools back in the fall). While at home, I wasn’t sure if traveling abroad was something that I really wanted to do, or if it was just the fact that I liked to travel for vacation and take a break from MN (who doesn’t?). I like being abroad, and thanks to technology, I can FaceTime/video chat my family, friends, and dog if I miss them, or if they miss me. It’s not like I’m waiting for snail mail to talk to everyone (although it’s always nice to get a postcard from someone abroad, so if you get the chance always send at least one). Even though I’m not sure about my major, if anything being abroad has increased my interest in studying/staying abroad (although my grandma might worry about me being in a foreign country for four years). I really want to keep my options open and have different opportunities abroad rather than stay in the states, so being abroad has helped me to be more comfortable with being 4,000 miles away from home. It might be more next year, so it’s been a good transition semester.
Who should study abroad?
Everyone who has the chance to study abroad should definitely take it. It is so easy to meet a variety of people, contribute to innovative (and not so innovative) ideas/projects, encounter many opportunities, and see a different community halfway around the world. Just keep in mind: Anyone thinking of studying abroad, be aware that you will be a guest in that country, and many things that are in America won’t be in whichever country you are in. Such a simple idea that many people brush off, but it’s always something that comes up in a conversation with many Americans living abroad. Also, many people experience culture shock, but that’s not something that should scare you away from studying abroad. If anything, studying abroad is the perfect opportunity for people to mature and learn more about themselves.
When is the best time to come to Berlin?
My boss told me that the best time to come is in May, and during the summer because 1) in May the weather gets a lot nicer, and 2) in the summer, there are so many things to do like visit parks where people sell street food—there’s this one park that is only open in the summer but they sell Thai food; it’s like a open field Thai marketplace, and it’s apparently amazing. I wish I could go, but I’ll be gone before then. When the weather’s nicer, you can do a lot more things outside, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do things when the weather is cold or rainy or snowy. I personally wouldn’t go to Templehof when it’s below freezing (since Templehof is an abandoned airport and a huge open airfield), but if you go there on a nicer/warmer day, and there’s a nice breeze, a lot of people bring their kites, bikes, rollerblades, parachutes/paraglides (I don’t know what they are actually, but people bring them), a picnic, their dogs, or nothing then it’s a really nice place just to hangout for the weekend.
What are some things to know about Berlin?
They have an honor system here for public transportation. They don’t have a “swipe your ticket” thing like most public transportation contraptions. For me, because I buy a monthly ticket every month (it’s 80 euros for a monthly pass) I just have to make sure I have it with me at all times just in case the ticket checkers (I don’t know their official name) come by because if you are caught without a valid ticket the fine is 60 euros. For the U-Bahn (mostly underground subway), you just have to walk down the stairs and get on. If you buy a one way ticket or a day ticket, you have to make sure you validate it. Buses: Bus drivers don’t usually care. You are supposed to show them your ticket when you get on the bus, but they never look when I show them mine. So I just get on. I think you can buy a ticket on the bus? But I’ve never had to do that so I’m not sure. Then there’s the S-Bahn (train). I haven’t seen any ticket checkers on the S-Bahn, but you never know. The ticket checkers look like regular people (all black, serious faces, go around in groups usually) with credit card scanners and a name tag.
DON’T WALK IN THE BIKE LANE. If you want to see what happens, you should try it.
Black is in. All the time. Everyone wears black. Or dark colors. But mostly black.
People stare at you in the subway. It's not rude. Or not meant to be. I guess it's a good excuse to stare back at people.
Be careful what ATM you take out money from. Some people have gotten credit charges from some obscure country, so I'd say just go to a bank ATM.
"Berlin Loves You
Don't Trust Art"
~Berlin Street Art, 2018