Hopes, Fears, and Progress: Two Weeks in Berlin

Headshot of Sydney Braun.
Sydney Braun
February 17, 2023
Berlin's skyline including the Bode Museum and Berliner Fernsehturm seen over the river.

When I first arrived in Berlin, I was immediately thrown into independence like never before: purchasing my own bus and U-Bahn tickets (Berlin’s subway system) and navigating my way through the city to my homestay, alone, while carrying all of my luggage. When I finally reached the apartment, I was warmly greeted by my host—although her cat kept his distance. I remember falling asleep that night feeling anxious and emotional—not the feelings I’d expected, seeing as I’ve dreamed of going to Berlin for years. But after a good night’s sleep, I found myself with a renewed sense of optimism and excitement for the days to come.

A week of action-packed, school-free days ensued, and I was able to meet other IES Abroad Berlin students as well as those of us who were in homestays. We explored the city together and I did some sightseeing of my own—the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, the East Side Gallery, Mauerpark, and Museum Island, to name a few of the places I visited. I’m slowly but surely getting the hang of the recycling system here, and I’ve found the music of German bands I love playing in public and copies of their albums in record stores, just like I had dreamed. 

Unfortunately, studying abroad does not come without challenges, and it seems as though, with the start of classes (though they all seem incredibly interesting so far), my honeymoon phase has passed. While I’m still enjoying every day I spend in Berlin, I realize that such a big and exciting life change comes with its own setbacks. From being physically and socially exhausted to balancing school, grocery shopping, time with new friends, and mental health, let alone not speaking fluent German, there is a high potential for anxiety abroad, and it’s been catching up with me now that I’m starting to get used to my life here. I enjoy being alone, but for the first time since arriving in Berlin, I began to feel lonely.

Today, however, something changed. Even though I’ve only known them for two weeks, I reached out to some of my new friends and shared how I was feeling. Lo and behold, they’ve been feeling similar ways. Even though we might be having less-than-perfect moments abroad, we are all learning and growing. It’s a part of life, and talking about it with each other not only helps us through our challenges but brings us closer together as well. 

While the stress of going abroad will likely get smaller, my experiences and friendships in Berlin will only get bigger and better. Yes, I have had moments where I feel homesick, anxious, nervous, and many things in between, but I’ve also made some of the best memories of my life here, and it’s only been two weeks. Looking back on the day I first arrived in Berlin, I have come so far: I navigate the city alone with confidence, I try my best to order food and speak to store employees in German (even though they switch to English for me sometimes), and my host family’s cat now rubs against my legs and sleeps in my room. 

While I wish it could be sunshine and rainbows all of the time, I understand that life goes on regardless of where I may be living, and that life includes all of my emotions. This is Berlin, where this time of year it’s likely cloudy or rainy—so not much literal sunshine or rainbows either. However, I won’t let the weather—or my anxiety—stop me from seeing the beauty of Berlin and the amazing potential for my coming months here. I look forward to my continued adjustment to a new culture and studying abroad and all of the wonderful times I’ve yet to have!

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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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