What to Expect: Orientation

Kiara Smith
June 16, 2018

After a long flight and over 35 hours of being awake, I found myself in Berlin with nothing but my luggage and printed out directions. I was awake enough to figure out how to buy a ticket at the airport, but had failed to verify it––meaning I could have been fined 60 Euro! Thankfully I met no ticket checkers on my way into the city.

I looked forward to a two-day orientation which, I hoped, would provide some time for settling in and would give me a chance to rest. Here I can only detail the orientation for the Berlin Language and Culture/Metropolitan Summer programs. Keep in mind that orientations can vary between years and will vary between programs.

The first thing I did at the IES Abroad Center was check in (a relatively informal affair), drop off my luggage, and head upstairs to a nice waiting area. In the waiting area there was fresh fruit, some sandwiches, and of course Internet! As the first to arrive, I waited for others to show up while messaging my family that I had made it safe and sound to the middle of Berlin.

The first day of orientation was relatively short in terms of objectives; we took a short tour of the center and met some of the people in charge of making sure everything ran smoothly. Then we went to a bank and a few stores so anyone who needed cash, phones or SIM cards were able to get them. We also bought public transport tickets for the month (at 81 Euro a piece!). This was by far the most important event of the day and the reason you should show up early to the IES Abroad center––showing up later in the afternoon or the following day means you will have to go through this process alone, and you might miss some valuable information.

For the rest of the time allotted, which could be earlier or later depending on when you go on the tour or get to go get passes, we hung out at the IES Abroad Center. Our hosts came to pick us up around 4-5pm. On the first night and the following morning the hosts are expected to provide dinner and breakfast for their IES Abroad students, but after that you’re taking care of yourself! I would suggest buying some snacks (at least) whenever you have the time, since classes start immediately after orientation and you don’t want to go hungry. Thankfully in Berlin some healthy staples, like fruit and bread, are pretty inexpensive.

After dinner on the first day, you can hang out with your host and get to know them. I had, at this point, been awake for over 40 hours, so I treated myself to some sleep!

The second day of orientation began at 11, but everything takes a little longer with figuring out public transport. In my experience, the trains are more forgiving than the buses, since you can use the train map available at any station and, if you’re heading in the wrong direction, you can easily hop out and find your way back.

On this day we faced mostly lectures (on courses, safety, and homestay etiquette––mostly common sense stuff) and then a short tour around the surroundings of the IES Abroad Center. Paying attention for important, especially tall, landmarks will certainly help anchor you with a sense of direction later when it’s early on a Monday morning and you’re late to class. Our tour went over on time but afterwards we were free to find some dinner and head home. Again, this is a good time to hit up a grocery store or to get some microwavable leftovers.

So far, it feels like the days are impossibly long, so filled to the brim with activities to do, people to hang out with, and cafes and restaurants and supermarkets to visit, but of course, time flies when you’re having fun! At least, the orientation isn’t too tiring and the first week is by far the busiest––take some time to rest and get to know the public transport system, so that you’re ready for the weeks ahead!

Kiara Smith

<p>I study Nutritional Sciences and Linguistics, with a focus in Dietetics and Sociolinguistics respectively, in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. I am also minoring in German and Korean. Outside of the classroom I volunteer with the Beekeeper's Club and LGBTA Resource Center at PSU and work part time for Hillel (delivering kosher soup, actually!). During breaks I like cooking, gardening, and playing D&amp;D with friends.&nbsp;</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
Penn State University
State College, PA
German Language
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