What Four Months in Berlin Taught Me

Headshot of Sydney Braun.
Sydney Braun
May 20, 2023
The Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower) and city seen from above

When I decided to study abroad, I knew it would be life-changing. Throughout my last few days in Berlin, I’ve decided to reflect on some of the many wonderful lessons that I have learned (or lessons that have been emphasized) throughout my experience in Berlin and Europe as a whole. Knowing I will be going home soon makes me feel a lot of different emotions—but mostly a feeling of loss for the wonderful connections and community I have made here as well as an anxiety about integrating back into my home culture. Though I know I will adjust and will be thrilled to see my friends and family from home, I don’t want to lose this better version of me I have discovered on my journey abroad. I’m hoping this list will help me remember the things that have made me into my favorite version of myself yet. Without further ado: lessons from my time abroad:

  • Optimism is your biggest superpower
  • Going to a new country doesn’t automatically get rid of all of your problems 
  • An open mind makes all the difference in the world 
  • Learning a language is extra fun when you see your progress on a daily basis
  • What you are doing is less important than who you’re doing it with
  • Public transportation is such a privilege and convenience 
  • Comparison is the thief of joy
  • Being alone and being lonely are two very different things
  • You never know what is out there until you go and see for yourself
  • Flexibility is key
  • There are bigger and better things in life than the things that seem to matter at ages 18-22
  • Physical possessions are not what bring you joy 
  • Do what makes you happy regardless of what others may be doing—you’ll be happier for it 
  • You never know what cool experience is coming next or what amazing person you will meet 
  • Don’t worry—you are not behind
  • Everything is subject to change—and this is a good thing
  • Sometimes too much planning makes you have less fun
  • Happiness requires less than you think
  • There is so much hope left in the world
  • Adjusting to change is natural and you have no choice but to do it—and you will do it
  • There is always somewhere where you belong
  • Attitude is everything, and being around negative people makes you less happy—avoid them and surround yourself with people who have positive attitudes
  • Lots of things in life bring you a lot more joy than partying
  • You’ve got plenty of time—maybe not in the semester, but in your life—and you never know what adventures your future holds 
  • It can be a lot of fun to be alone
  • All good things must come to an end

Although these lessons are cemented into my mind from my experiences abroad, carrying them into my future will help me be a better and happier person. Though leaving Berlin might feel like leaving something behind, I know that in reality, I still move forward, regardless of where I may be. With these lessons learned and this stronger, more independent version of myself, I look forward to leading a happier and more fulfilling life back in the United States.

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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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