As I was considering various study abroad locations, I had very little idea what to expect from a climate standpoint. In fact, I didn’t do a single bit of research into the weather of different places, even when I began the process of packing. What I would discover as the months rolled along is I needed to suddenly learn how to dress for cold weather. When I was living back in my home city of Camas, Washington, I would rarely find myself outside long enough to really feel the effects of the elements, as I drove to and from school, work, and swim practice and all those locations were inside. Once I moved to New Orleans and was car-less, I also never needed to learn how to dress to brave the winter elements. As I write this blog right now, the temperature in NOLA for the week appears to lay comfortably in the 50s. Of course, this is still a bit chilly, but not nearly to the level of Berlin. After many days of waiting for the bus in bone-chilling temperatures leaving me to feel like my toes might fall off, I discovered the many joys of layering socks and clothing.
Yet, all my winter weather clothing training would still not prepare me for a more shocking Berlin development: the sun setting at 4 p.m. I thought I was used to dreary, grey outdoor settings coming from Washington, but this new shift in my daily Berlin experience knocked my feet out from under me. Something about sitting in class at 3:30 p.m. and slowly watching through the window as the city plunges into complete darkness left me feeling very lethargic and unmotivated.
Luckily, my shivering and dreading of the winter darkness would soon be saved by the introduction of a German cultural staple: Weihnachtsmärkte! Experiencing the German Christmas markets was a big motivation behind selecting Berlin as my first study abroad location, and I could not have made a better decision. As wooden huts, glimmering Christmas lights, and ice-skating rinks began popping up in some of the busy Berlin plazas, I immediately felt my spirits begin to lift. My errands and adventures through the city now felt a bit cheerier with people milling around warm booths in places only a few weeks prior had been empty and freezing.
Considering Christmas markets have begun emerging amid the last few weeks with IES Abroad, I have been a bit too busy (and, frankly, too tired) to check all of them out. Knowing my family will be visiting me at the end of the semester, I’ve intentionally held back on exploring so we can enjoy them together, but I still have been able to see a few! As of right now, Lucia-Weihnachtsmarkt at the Kulturbrauerei is certainly my favorite. I was able to visit this beautiful Christmas market with friends one day after class, and I was delighted by the experience. Not only was there a gorgeous light snowfall the whole time we were there, but the market itself has a great mix of just about anything you could want from a Christmas market! There was great food, types of glühwein from different Scandinavian countries, and all sorts of little gifts you could buy.
All of this is to say if you are still in the process of figuring out where to study abroad, don’t be like me and pay absolutely no attention to the climate. It is a lot better preparation and expectation-wise to know what you’re getting in to. If you’re coming to Berlin, know that once the weather takes a turn for the worst and the sun starts going down at ridiculously early times, keep your chin up! Christmas markets will be on their way and the many days spent shivering in the darkness make them all the more enjoyable!
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Howdy folks! My name is Josef Kiesenhofer, and I'm a passionate accounting, German, and Spanish student excited to explore the world. I love all things blue and embroidering on clothes. I sometimes have a broadcast radio DJ show, too!