It is hard to imagine that I've been living in Berlin for three weeks already. The longest I've ever been in Europe was one month, so I'm one week away from breaking my old record. Kind of hard to imagine, really, when you consider that next week I'll be traveling from country to country with someone I met at the beginning of this program. I guess that's just part of studying abroad, the part where you become best friends with strangers all because you have one great thing in common: the guts to give up everything familiar and risk alienation and confusion just for a chance at seeing a little more of the world than most people ever get the opportunity to. These friends become your confidants, the people whom you spend time with when you need reassurance that you made the right choice. The friends who understand your "culture shock" stories and most likely have some to share of their own. It's these moments, these "Oh my gosh, I know what you mean!" instances that keep the loneliness away and serve as a reminder that even though you've taken the plunge to (temporarily) forge a new life in a foreign country, you're never alone. The human experience is too busy tying each of us together for any of us to fly solo.
The reason I start this blog post with a discussion of friendship is not only to explain the type of friends I've been lucky enough to make thus far, but also to preface the story I'm about to tell. I recommend that you do not try this yourself because not everyone will be as understanding as the three amazing girls that were a part of this adventure were.
If you didn't gather it already from my first blog post, I'm a bit scatterbrained. Everyone who knows me even a little will agree with this statement, and those who know me very well will tell you that "a bit" is the understatement of a century. In fact, the other day in class we were required to imagine situations where we would use popular German idioms, and my friend used me as an example of someone who "hat ein Gedächtnis wie ein Sieb" (i.e. someone that has a memory like a sieve).
But, as always, I digress. The real story happened on this past Sunday afternoon. My friends and I were supposed to go a concert at the Berliner Philharmonie featuring music by Mozart, Sibelius, and Beethoven, and I somehow managed to convince them to meet in my neighborhood before heading to the event. We sipped tea in a café until it was time for us to leave, at which I assured them I had directions to the Philharmonie. Following the map laid out on my "Cityplanner" app, we set out and made it to the bus stop without any issues. We got on the bus and prepared for the quick fifteen minute ride, since it was only six stops away.
About four stops in, one of my friends questions me as to why we haven't seen any of the streets shown on the map. I assure her that we probably had and just weren't paying attention.
Six stops in, she asks me if it hasn't already been six stops and I reassure her no, it just feels like that because the bus is slow.
Eight stops in, my two other friends become suspicious and begin to question why we're seeing sites that are in a completely opposite direction of where we're supposed to be going.
I told them that we had taken the correct bus and pointed to the directions on my iPhone's screen. One of them then pipes up and says, "But was it going the correct direction?" I look at her cluelessly and ask how it could possibly be going anywhere but the right direction if it's the bus that we've been told to take. "But were we on the right side of the street?" she then questions.
The answer to this question is an obvious no, since it had never occurred to me that the same bus runs two separate directions.
By that time we were so late that I had lost my priviledge of guiding the group and was forced to follow like a defeated puppy, tail between my legs. When it dawned on me how big of a mistake I had made and how I was personally responsible for the tardiness and possibly absenteeism of my three friends, I began to feel terrible and decided the best solution was to leave the situation completely. And when I say completely, I mean it: I promptly hopped on the U-Bahn when they weren't looking and went home.
They made it to the concert alright, despite how absolutely unhelpful I had been. And how, you may ask, did they react to my abandoning them? Well, I got a text as soon as I got on the train telling me that they missed me already.
Though Robert Burns' claim that "the best made plans of mice and men/Often go awry" may be true in most cases, it apparently does not apply to friendships.
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<p>My name is Ali, and I'm a Political Economy major at the University of Southern California (Trojans!). Ever since I was a little kid and found out that there was such a thing as "study abroad", I dreamed about doing it. I'd stare at the famous Midwestern cornfields and wonder what it would take to go see the world. I loved the idea of picking up and leaving everything, even if it was only for a short while. Now, I'm living the dream and studying abroad in Berlin, Germany.</p>