Am I a jelly doughnut yet? Small victories from my first week in Berlin

Michelle Berger
September 8, 2016
Homestay Sweet Homestay

Hallo from Berlin! Since arriving on Monday, I’ve spent the week in orientation for my program, where I’ve interacted with my fellow students and had my first few encounters with Berlin. In addition, I’ve gotten to know my lovely host and have quickly become comfortable in my homestay.

Over the last few days, it seems as if hundreds of opportunities to explore, learn and travel have become suddenly available to me in this incredibly vibrant and jam-packed city. Sometimes, it is easy to feel adrift without my bearings in a sea of vague plans and anticipation. So, noting and celebrating the little moments where I’ve felt accomplished and savvy is keeping me sane. Here’s my list of my top “small victories” from week 1:

  1. When the Aer Lingus desk agent at Logan airport didn’t charge me the $100 fee for my bag, which was blatantly 15 pounds over the weight limit. Not all heroes wear capes, people.
  2. When, many hours of traveling later, my host and I successfully carried the aforementioned overweight suitcase up four flights of stairs. Gotta love those quaint old European apartment buildings—no elevator here.
  3. Armed with only the most necessary vocabulary words (Chicken= Hänhchen, Potatoes= Kartoffeln), I survived my first German grocery shopping experience.
  4. Despite some moments of uncertainty, I persevered and managed to navigate Berlin’s system of night buses (because the metro stops running on weeknights)-- without a working phone. Dare I say I have now officially mastered “roughing it”? I think so.
  5. Apparently, today I achieved the ever elusive goal of shedding my American tourist image, because someone asked me for directions.
  6. I was actually able to give that person directions!
  7. Booking my first weekend of travel was very exciting and satisfying. It’s so empowering to be surrounded by people who are eager to join in on international adventures, and to have so many destinations so easily accessible. Prague and Vienna, here I come!
  8. Located a Dunkin Donuts in a nearby train station, and found out that it accepts the gift cards that I faithfully carried over from the US in my wallet.
  9. And finally, a victory that may even qualify as “moderately sized”-- climbing the winding staircase all the way to the top of the Berliner Dome and being rewarded with these views:



I’ll admit, JFK set the bar pretty high for Bostonian visitors to Berlin when his 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech resonated around the world (and probably the doughnut industry, but that’s just speculation). Personally, I’m focusing on the little victories during this first week of adjusting to my home for this semester. Delivering a globally significant speech to cheering masses of citizens will have to wait until next week. 


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Michelle Berger

<p>My name is Michelle, and I&#39;m a junior from The George Washington University, where I study Sociology with a minor in Classics.&nbsp;&nbsp;I&#39;m looking forward to gaining a global perspective during my semester in Berlin and sharing it with others!&nbsp;At school I&#39;m involved in student theater and community service, and I love to explore to DC with friends.</p>

2016 Fall
Home university:
George Washington University, The
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