Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nicole R. - Berlin, Germany - Spring 2013

Hallo from Deutschland! I have been living in Berlin for 3 weeks now and I can’t believe how fast time is flying by! This city is beyond amazing and I could go on for days talking about it!   
I have not had a huge problem with culture shock, but I definitely experienced it when I first arrived in Berlin. It sounds dumb, but it was a bit jarring to walk around and not be able to understand what any of the signs said on my first day! I remember trying to turn on the computer at school and getting so frustrated because everything was in German (duh!) and even the keyboard buttons were different! I was able to quickly adjust to this change, but at first it just felt so strange to not be able to read or understand the simplest of things.
The biggest adjustment that I have had to make in Berlin is getting used to city life. I am from rural Illinois and have never had to use public transportation or read a map before. Now it is a part of my everyday life, which is so liberating! I was always someone who followed my friends around whenever we visited Chicago for the day, and it is so freeing to know that now I can navigate the city on my own, without having to rely on other people to find a destination. To get to school (and anywhere else) I use the SBahn and UBahn, which is their form of a subway/train system. At first this was extremely intimidating to me because I had zero experience using this method of transportation, but I’ve learned that practice makes perfect. As time goes on, I find myself getting more and more comfortable exploring new areas via public transportation.
Still so much to tell! Berlin is the most awesome city – it has been described as “poor but sexy” because of its grungy, hipster style. Graffiti and street art is everywhere, and it adds a sort of grungy charm to the streets thanks to the bright colors and funky murals. In the USA, graffiti has a negative connotation but here it adds character to the city. It’s one of my favorite things to see when I’m exploring.
There is an endless amount of things to do in this crazy city. There is an infinite supply of awesome bars, clubs, restaurants, museums, and shopping available, as well as cool markets selling everything from scarves and jewelry to hummus and delicious beer. Berlin is especially known for its nightlife – on the weekends, the party goes nonstop from Thursday through Sunday morning. It is normal for the streets to be packed at 4am during the weekend. People are clubbing, barhopping, and sampling delicious burgers and meats from the numerous street vendors. It blows my mind how these people have energy to party so hard on the weekends, but it’s so incredibly awesome! Berlin is definitely the perfect place for any college kid because of its unique, grungy character and unstoppable energy. I am so happy I picked this outrageous city! 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Nicole, your experiences in Berlin thus far seem to be nothing less than extravagant. I myself plan to be studying in Germany coming this fall. It will be my first time leaving the country and I plan to experience a bit of a culture shock especially when it comes to the things I take for granted here in the U.S. such as knowing what the street signs say and universal keyboards. Thankfully I do speak a little bit of German which should help me, but not nearly enough to lack the worry of having to speak. Along with knowing a little bit of German, I am familiar with using public transportation which I hope proves itself to be advantageous when traveling through Germany. Hopefully the rest of your trip continues to be as rewarding as it has been this far and I wish you the best through the remainder of your traveling.

- Chris Eckstrum CPP250

6:12 PM  
Blogger Nicole R. said...

Thanks, Chris! I hope you're excited, it sounds like you'll definitely be more prepared than I was when I came to Germany! Where in Germany will you be studying? Let me know if you have any questions!

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Berlin sounds absolutely amazing! I'm actually kind of sad I didn't consider it more seriously, from the way you have described it! It is going on the list of places I need to visit while studying in Scotland, along with so many others that people currently studying abroad have raved about. I can't wait until I leave! I know the beginning can be hard, but just living somewhere completely and totally unlike anywhere I have lived before sounds absolutely incredible. Have fun on the rest of your stay!

Katie T. CPP 250

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your experiences sound so incredible! It makes me want to go there too! I would love the hispter grungy-ness you have described.

I also have very minimal experience with public transportation, so I'm so happy to hear how well you have been able to adapt to this new mode of transportation :) I'm glad the culture shock hasn't been too bad, as well.

Right now, I'm in the processes of taking a look at specific courses to take abroad. Any helpful tips would be much appreciated! Were you able to get all the courses you wanted to take or did you go prepared with many options? With all the fun and excitement going on in the city, did you still choose a challenging course load?

Thank you for sharing some of your experiences with us!

-Hillary CPP 250

1:06 PM  
Blogger Nicole R. said...

Hi, Hillary --
If you are able to, I would definitely try to take classes that count towards your major! I'm in 5 classes here, and they are all counting for GenEd credit back at Elmhurst, which is nice. I have to be honest and say that I really don't enjoy any of my classes -- since they're all GenEds, none of them are super interesting to me. On the bright side, they are all very simple so I rarely have homework and I never study, which is great! If you can get away with it, I would recommend taking a light course load abroad because there's nothing worse than studying for a test on the weekend when you have a beautiful country to explore!

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for getting back Nicole! I will be studying in Worms, German which is the opposite side of the county from where you are, closer to Frankfurt. Although I am a bit far, I do plan on visiting Berlin while in Germany so your post was both helpful and enlightening. While picking classes for studying abroad, what are a couple tips of do's and dont's for selecting classes? I saw in another post you mentioned you felt classes were easier, do you feel the course loads are lighter? Also do you feel the teaching style is different from here?

-Chris Eckstrum CPP 250

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are having a great time in Germany! I am going to London for the fall semester and cannot wait! Germany sounds very interesting and Im glad you are enjoying your semester abroad. Berlin sounds neat and its totally a city i need to visit when studying abroad.
Michael Newton

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Nicole, I loved reading your experience! it really got me excited because I plan on going to Germany as well this upcoming fall semester. I honestly can't wait, but it is very nerve wracking thinking about the culture shock I will experience. I am going to Worms Germany, with one other student from Elmhurst, and we will be the first students to go there. I had a couple questions, how did you figure out what classes to take? Right now I am in the process of picking classes and i'm not going to lie I am a bit lost. Any suggestions?
Thanks, Jenna Bourbon CPP250

6:35 PM  
Blogger Nicole R. said...

As for classes, I do feel that the work load is much lighter, which is really nice. The only homework I ever have is reading. The teaching style here is all lecture and discussion based. I definitely recommend taking a light course load -- pick classes that do not sound too time consuming and try to get as many to count for GenEd/major credit at EC. You will not want to be studying while you're abroad! I would definitely recommend a culture class -- history, religion -- so you can learn about your country's culture as well. My program packs in a ton of field trips in replacement of class, so it's cool to walk around the city as a way of learning rather than seeing pictures on a powerpoint.

4:09 AM  

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