Keeping in Touch
A difficult part of living away from home for any amount of time is staying in touch with friends and family. I have made so many great relationships with people here, but I still like to keep in contact with my friends from home, as well as with my parents and brothers. However, it is important to not spend too much time calling, texting, facetiming, etc. with people from home, as it will take away from the experience of living in a foreign country if there in nonstop communication with family and friends. At the beginning there will likely be a bit of homesickness and wanting to simply talk with your parents or best friends that you have known for so long, but it is better to focus on making new friends, learning a new language, and spending time with your host family to have an all-out experience away from home. I definitely missed my family and friends from Boston when I first came to Berlin, and still do, so I facetime with my family every week or so and text my friends there every now and then, while still making sure to have time for my great German friends and my host family.
In order to maintain contact with people from home I use Whatsapp to communicate. Every Sunday I facetime with my mom and dad on the app, since it is free to get and there are no charges for texting or calling. My mom and I usually talk for an hour or an hour and a half, with my dad usually popping in for a little while during that time. We discuss what went on in the past week, how school was for me or work was for my parents, other exciting things that happened after school/work or on the weekend, and just generally what is going on in our lives. I look forward to talking with my parents on Sundays because it is a nice way to catch up and see how things are back home, as well as to speak English for a while with people who understand my humor and references. I would text my mom during the week if I needed something, but that is not too frequent as I am busy at school, with friends, studying, or just decompressing by myself for a little while. In my family, other than my parents, I also have three older brothers who are all in different years of college. I love to speak with them also, but that happens less frequently. I usually text with them every week or so to check in, but our schedules conflict too much to have long phone conversations. An unfortunate part about living in Europe is the time difference; between me in Berlin and the east coast where I am from, there is a six-hour time difference, so calling or facetiming someone can take some planning. My family and I have figured it out, and we are able to speak with each other on a regular basis that does not take out too much time from my day or being with my friends or host family here.
Communicating with friends is different than with my family because it happens less frequently and not on a regular basis. I often facetime my best friend on the weekend to see how she is doing, but this does not happen every weekend since our schedules change and there sometimes is not enough time. We do text each other throughout the week if something funny happens or if one of us is upset about something and wants support. It is a positive part of my day receiving a text from my friend, but I still do not immediately stop what I am doing to respond, and instead continue to enjoy my time with who I am with or what I am doing and reply later. I also text with some of my other good friends, but not as much. I do not have any social media except for Snapchat, so that is the platform I mainly use to see my other friends or have short conversations with them. I love to see my friends doing cool things at school and in my town, so snapchatting them and watching their stories on snapchat is fun for me. Sometimes I will watch something really fun that my friends are doing and feel left out or sad that I am not there to experience it also, but then I remember that I am having the time of my life in Berlin and no longer feel as though I am missing out on anything.
Overall, I keep in touch with my family an a regular basis and know what is going on at home with my parents (and dog), as well as with each of my brothers in college, and it is nice to know that I still have them to fully support me with my decisions so far away, as well as knowing that I can still count on them to talk to right away if I need anything. Keeping up with friends has its own set of challenges, but I make it work and am still just as close with them as I was before coming to Berlin, and I know that when I go back we will be able to pick up where we left off. I will still have one more year of high school to do when I return, so maintaining those relationships has been important to me. The essential part about staying in contact with friends and family from back home is to not get homesick and talk with them too much. It would have been difficult to make friends here and learn German at such a rapid pace if I were too attached to talking to people who are already my friends and speak English. The full experience and enjoyment of living in a foreign country is impossible to obtain if you are still too connected with people in your hometown, so having a loose plan of when to communicate is a good idea. Although I miss lots of people back home, I have so many amazing friendships in Berlin with people from my school, with my host family, and with other people on the CIEE program, that I do not feel like I am missing a lot by being away.
I recount my first month studying abroad in Berlin, filled with memorable moments. From exploring the city with my host family, to navigating the German school system and immersing myself in the local culture, every day brings so many new experiences.