Der Himmel über Berlin: Appreciating Daily Life Abroad

Headshot of Sydney Braun.
Sydney Braun
February 28, 2023
The skyline of Berlin, including the Brandenburg Gate and TV Tower, as seen from the top of the Victory Column.

On Wednesday night, I decided to go to the theater by myself to see a movie that I have been wanting to see for months: Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire), a 1987 Wim Wenders film that takes place in West Berlin that happened to be playing this week in the city. After navigating my way to the theater, purchasing some movie snacks, and finding my seat, I was wowed by the film and the messages I found within it.

The movie focuses on the lives of two angels in Berlin. They are able to watch over humans and read minds but cannot interact with anything or anyone, other than occasionally providing a feeling of inspiration and hope to humans who need it. Eventually, one of the angels wishes to be human in order to experience what human life might be like: drinking coffee, feeling physical or emotional pain, buying new clothes, falling in love, etc, and actually becomes human. While the movie is technically a love story between an angel and human, I felt it was more a love story between an angel and his excitement at his experience of the mundane aspects of human life that he was never able to feel before turning into a human.

I watched this movie at the perfect time. As I adapt to my Berlin routine and get used to life here, things that used to be new and exciting become more normal to me, like constantly seeing the TV Tower in the distance, going to my classes, and using public transportation. Der Himmel über Berlin reminded me, in no subtle terms, to try to appreciate every aspect of my life to the fullest: the good moments, the bad moments, and even the mundane moments. Since the movie, making a larger effort to feel gratitude for every experience and feeling has had a wonderful impact on my outlook on life. I hope to carry this lesson with me throughout my time here in Berlin as well as when I go back home.

Another theme of the movie is the universal human feeling of loneliness; it was something that also resonated with me seeing as I went abroad to a new city and school where I did not previously know anyone. However, the act of being alone and the feeling of loneliness are very different things, and though I spend lots of time abroad alone, I have started to feel significantly less lonely. I have always enjoyed my own company, but building my confidence to do more things alone is one of my favorite opportunities that studying abroad has afforded me. 

Going by myself to see the Victory Column (a historical monument and landmark in Berlin but also the place where the angels in the film would often sit and converse with each other) has been one of my favorite memories that I have made in Berlin so far. The film is a fantasy, and I do not believe that the angels are actually sitting on Victory’s wings, nor do I believe that the angels are behind the inspiration and hope that I feel in Berlin. Yet as I move through the city—whether or not I am with friends—I feel a strong sense of possibility all around and within me. And looking over the whole city from the top of the Victory Column, I couldn’t help but be filled with gratitude about being in Berlin and excitement for what my future holds.

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Headshot of Sydney Braun.

Sydney Braun

I am a junior at the University of Michigan and am double-majoring in Environment and Communication and Media (Class of 2024). I’m from Brookeville, Maryland, and apart from writing and blogging, I love music, playing the guitar, drawing, learning, and exploring new places. My passion for advocating for the environment as well as my interest in the culture and history of Berlin led me to this study abroad experience, and I am thrilled to be able to share it with you!

2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Environmental Studies
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