It all started with a trip to North Korea, a park full of nude men and the effervescent streets of a multicultural market.
If anyone asked me how my second week went this is how I would start and finish the story.
For the past 14 days I’ve called the G27 building “my dorm” and the city of Berlin “my home.”
Coming from a small town in South Florida known as Parkland; where the summer days feel like weeks and the people feel like time stopped some time in the 90s, my experiences in Germany surprise me more and more every single day.
The concept of home is relative; for some it may feel like the house you grew up in; for others it may be the neighborhood you feel most comfortable with; as for me, it’s the city I chose to live in.
While in Berlin, I’ve had two distinct experiences - the classroom and the outside world.
Although the classroom setting feels stagnant compared to my free-time, the skills I’ve learned and the obstacles I’ve encountered during class differentiate themselves in their own unique way.
Unlike the textbook learning I often encountered in the classrooms back at home, our teacher Mario often challenges the class by encouraging us to ‘get out of the building’-- surveying German citizens and finding insightful research towards our own business ideas.
Not only does he use his in-classroom time as a means of teaching students the ethics of business, but he also teaches us basic strategies and activities that real startup founders use.
On July 18, students here at CIEE met one of the co-founders of Koawach, a Berlin-based company focused on making vegan energy drinks with guarana and cacao - an alternative to sugary/coffee based drinks - two plants which flourish in the Amazon rainforest. Personally, meeting founders of brilliant startups like these were my favorite, showing both the motivation of global entrepreneurs as well as teaching us the importance of careful planning.
Koawach’s co-founder, Heiko Blutz (33), recalls his earliest memories of failure, compromise and never giving up. Starting with a mixture in his apartment, Blutz spent many months promoting his brand through competitions similar to “shark tank” and getting his product on shelves of grocery stores.
Entrepreneurship seldom correlates with facility. Being the founder of a startup business means more than just fresh ideas and utopian business strategies; it means being flexible and ready for whatever hits you, bad or not
Although I’ve never been so fond of creating a startup that revolves solely around energy drinks, Blutz’s motivation and openness towards trying new things made me rethink how I should see the world (especially during my time in Berlin).
So that’s what I decided to do for the rest of the week.
A typical weekday for me starts off at 8:30 AM with a banana, a laptop, and open ears for my three hour entrepreneurship class.
What happens after 12 PM varies by day. There is no schedule when it comes to my afternoons, but instead, an open canvas for me to explore.
Although I’ve seen most of Berlin’s tourist attractions, what surprised me the most out of everything is the “quiet culture” of Berlin. Usually when people think of big cities they think of bustling cars, loud people and a vivacious atmosphere. Coming from the United States, seeing the etiquette of most Germans on trains and the streets astonishes anyone coming from a country where cities have the connotation of being “loud and obnoxious.” Regardless of the huge alcohol consumption in Berlin, you never really see “drunk” people anywhere in Berlin. It’s this value of moderation and quietness that gives people a sense of comfortability with drinking.
Speaking of moderation, the free time I have in this city feels as if I’m “too moderated.” Not in the sense that the curfew or the program leaders restrict me in any fashion, but that the days here feel so long yet the weeks feel so short. My thirst for exploration in Berlin can only be quenched in small doses; giving me the opportunity to appreciate the times I’ve had while here.
The difference between here and home is that your friends go home after a long day; friends here live in the same hallways as you or even in the same room. To capture such independent moments with friends you made less than two weeks ago is astonishing, tranquil and actually quite beautiful.
In the pictures I’ve posted you’ll see a majority of my adventures throughout this week. Although not chronological or ranked, I’d like to say that the people I’ve shared those experiences with have grown on me in a way that’s hard to express in words.
This week’s been amazing; it’s surreal that we leave in less than six days.
Appreciate every moment and keep vibing.