This side of the Atlantic greeted me with heaping piles of snow, Christmas wreaths on every door, public and private, and a very excited family. I must acknowledge what I’ve missed the most about the US: the food, free bathrooms, ice cubes, magical places called drugstores that allow you to get toothpaste, aspirin, and candy bars all under the same roof, and of course all the people I’ve only been able to skype with for the past four months. What I’ll miss the most from Berlin includes its on-point efficiency in everything from train schedules to restaurant lines, the multiple theaters, museums, shopping centers and parks all within walking distance, and the always-surprising skyline that undulates from old to new and forces me to look up (which I never have to do in Vermont).
I’d like to conclude by offering some advice to future students who choose to study abroad in Berlin. First of all, I think you made a great choice. Berlin is the ideal city to study abroad because everyone can find a place somewhere within its dense diversity. People uncomfortable speaking another language (like me) can flourish as much as people who want to challenge themselves to learn German and people who already speak plenty of German. People who like crowds, noise, and all things modern can find countless places to spend their time and people who prefer less stimulation can easily navigate the network of parks, museums, and off-the-beaten-track shops and neighborhoods. Any type of exploration that intrigues you is doable in Berlin, not to mention how comparatively close it lies to other exciting destinations like Prague.
My best piece of advice: push yourself, but with an emphasis on yourself. There might be infinite things to do in your big bad new home, but you won’t be able to do them all; you also might be surprised by what does (and doesn’t!) appeal to you. Everyone accounts for the merits of putting yourself out there, not staying cooped up in your homestay, and trying as many new things as possible and I agree; this attitude brought me to my first concert, my first soccer game, gave me a new appreciation for aspects of history I neglected, and helped me develop the essential skill of city-orienteering. But I also advocate for finding places/activities that feel comfortably routine, at ease, and most importantly like home to you, whatever that means. I visited a pleasant coffee shop early in September and after that, hardly looked for others. One attitude might claim I missed out on hundreds of other haunts that were funkier and served better coffee, but really, I traded those hip prospective coffee houses for an anchoring “happy-place” that became friendlier to me every time I went. So while you’re challenging yourself to party like Germans, tick off a giant list of tourist attractions, and experience the new and the different, remember that another challenge study abroad offers us is how to find home in a new place.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Having grown up in rural Vermont, Alli Green now studies art history and studio art at Skidmore College. She stays active on campus by working as admissions ambassador, a tutor in Skidmore’s writing center, and looks forward to assistant costume designing the theater department’s main stage production in the spring of 2014. Her ambitions include pursuing a master’s degree in either art history, museum studies, or library sciences, exploring opportunities to work as a field archeologist, illustrating children’s books, and contributing to the making of movie magic as a costume designer or special effects makeup artist. In the meantime, she is content to get excited about books, movies, art, history, and learning everything she can both while she is a student and after.</span></p>