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Waiting for Berlin

March 1, 2019

If you didn’t know, the Berlin—Language & Area Studies program doesn’t start until March 5th, and all my soon-to-be-classmates and I have been home since the end of winter exams. I always knew the start date of the program, but I didn’t really think much about the break until I was experiencing it.

The beginning of break was typically festive: holidays with family, visiting with friends from home, and celebrating the New Year with a trip to Pittsburgh to visit my roommate Sara. But, then came January, and my friends—both from my hometown and from college—returned to taking classes like normal, and Charlotte might as well have been a ghost town. Though I’ve been a bit starved of social interactions, long breaks in college are few and far between, and I’ve gotten a lot more done than I expected. To pad my budget for Berlin, I’ve been babysitting like crazy—hopefully securing myself some extra weekend trips around Europe. And, after battling sickness all of college, I finally got a tonsillectomy, with my mom by my side helping me through the recovery.

But at the end of the day, there are only so many hours you can babysit, only so much ice cream and so many popsicles you can eat on the couch, and many more hours to fill. After a stint of working crosswords, an attempt at KonMari-purging my bedroom, and an almost obsessive 48 hours of making origami (from a book found while purging), my thoughts inevitably turned to Berlin.

How do you even begin to prepare to live five months in a country you’ve never visited? Logistically, the last month has brought an onslaught of questions that seemed at one point overwhelmingly extensive. Credit cards, phone plans, luggage, packing, courses, internships—even with the help of IES Abroad, how could anyone have done all this and departed in early January? Then, while checking the weather for packing, I realized that Berlin’s 10- and 20-degree weather and short daylight hours have already transitioned to the mild weather of early spring in Germany. Suddenly the March 5th start date seemed like a great stroke of luck.

As that departure date has drawn closer, and more and more of my time has been dedicated to preparing to leave, I’ve thought a lot about my expectations for the trip, but I’ve found it difficult to imagine my life in Berlin. Not for lack of excitement to go, but because setting expectations seems like a silly thing to do before such a big change. If I expect everything to be a certain way, and it’s different, will I be disappointed? I hope for certain things—to take an art class, to visit certain countries, etc.—but if I hinge my enjoyment on specifics, I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure. So what if I visit Budapest but not Zagreb? So what if I draw by myself, instead of in a class setting? All I really expect is an adventure, and there are a million different ways to find one. My goal in Berlin is to stay out of my own way, and make the most of absolutely everything.

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