I’m sitting here reflecting and realizing how quickly time has gone by...it has been one month since I’ve arrived in Berlin. In that one month, I have learned how to order in German, how to dance bachata and salsa surprisingly, where to find tortillas in Berlin, to not jaywalk in front of children (but also not to jaywalk in general!), and how to navigate Berlin’s transportation system. I have yet to try to weinerschnitzel, but it’s on my to-do list. The beauty of Berlin’s diversity in food, experiences, and people have kept me busy from being homesick. Nonetheless, the first two weeks being in Berlin were rough. My body was fighting with its inner clock as I adjusted to a 9 hour time difference, and to the abrupt change in home and people. While my parents were a quick call away, it was still hard to remember that I was so far away from them again. I wanted to take the time to share what has helped me get grounded in Berlin.
Honoring La Reina del Tex-Mex, Selena Quintanilla, through playlists and in practice. I brought Polaroids of my family and friends and a painted record disk of Frida Kahlo from Venice Beach. These fotos y recuerdos have helped me remember that I have people who are on my team and are rooting for me while I’m abroad.
While I found tortillas in Berlin, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find other ingredients that my family uses in our dishes from back home. The day before I left, there was a frantic drive to El Northgate, a well-known Mexican grocery store back home, to find cafe de la olla, and dulce de leche for those days where I just need a small taste of home.
Aside from the daily text messages and short video calls with my parents, I missed catching up with my close friends from school and home. One of the ways that my friends and I figured this out was setting a time once a month to update each other on what’s been happening in our lives through Powerpoints (a little fun poke at academia but also a nice way to remember the highlights during our time apart).
I love salsa, I love bachata, I love reggaeton con todo mi corazón. But I had no idea where I was going to be able to dance to Shakira, Romeo Santos, Ozuna, Nicky Jam, etc., until I found Havanna. Havanna plays songs that I would dance to back at family parties and my school’s ALAS (Alliance of Latin American Students) parties. It’s where I have some of the fondest memories in Berlin, and where I have found myself becoming a regular. Finding social places that give space to and celebrate my cultural heritage have helped me feel less alone and homesick as I find myself in the rhythm and beat of the music.
I processed a lot of my feelings and understanding of myself, and my place in Berlin, in my journal. One of the first sentences I learned in my first month of German was “Ich schreibe in mein Tagebuch” which is “I write in my diary.” If journaling is something you already do, I highly recommend bringing your journal with you; but if journaling is something you’re interested in doing, you can definitely find a journal by exploring different stationary stores and bookstores.
All this to say, it’s okay to be homesick, and it’s definitely okay to cry (I excuse myself even more now than then because it is Pisces season after all). There is no shame in missing home and figuring out how to best take care of yourself those first few weeks and throughout the duration of your time abroad.