Ich bin einundzwanzig: Turning 21 in Berlin

Vanessa Morales
April 2, 2018

Growing up, I was always so excited for my birthday - a whole new year, eating my favorite cake with my loved ones but only after the tradition popularly celebrated in Mexico, la mordida, the bite, where they would push the birthday person’s face into the cake.

Yet, passing 15 when I had celebrated my quinceañera, I noticed that birthdays afterwards weren’t seen as thrilling and each year that passed was responded with more irreverence and less excitement, even more so being in college. With that, it was a little disappointing that my 21st birthday was not only on a Monday, but on the Monday of midterms week. So while I was watching Netflix on Sunday night to relax from a day of studying before heading to sleep, I get a message from one of my best friends from Haverford telling me to get on Google Hangout. I’m greeted by two smiling faces of my best friends who start singing “Las Mañanitas” a  traditional Mexican birthday song sung in Mexico and other Latin American countries, usually early in the morning to awaken the birthday person from their slumber. The sweet gesture made me cry in appreciation of the friends that I have, and in nostalgia for when my parents would wake me up with “Las Mañanitas” every birthday growing up.

The rest of that Monday celebrating my birthday was a quiet day where I spent it doing what gave me happiness while also being responsible. After cleaning my room and doing my laundry so that I would have clothes for the upcoming weekend trip to Copenhagen, I went out for a walk because the sun had come out (I like to think that it came out to wish me a happy birthday and give me the present of a warm day amongst all the cold, cloudy days Berlin had been having.) I stumbled upon a park in my neighborhood, read a book I had been meaning to read, and people watched. Coming back from my walk, I spent time talking to my family and friends who I’ve had a hard time getting in contact with due to a 9-hour time difference. I went out for a pizza and tiramisu cake to be greeted by friends from the program with chocolate and bottle of wine. My night ended with us studying for our German midterm exam the next morning at 9 am.

So while 21 in Berlin may not have had the big shebang that we traditionally associate it with back in the States, I was given the opportunity to reflect and be grateful for the people in my life - both back home and the new friends I have made here, getting to know Berlin, and for the opportunities of self-reflection and traveling while abroad.

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Vanessa Morales

<p>Hi y'all! I'm from the beautiful city of Santa Ana, CA, the heart of Orange County in Southern California. At Haverford, I am a QuestBridge Scholar as well as a Chesick Scholar; aside from being a full time student, I work at the Office of Academic Resources and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. I also am involved with the Alliance of Latin American Students and a resident of Existence as Resistance House at my school. When I'm not in classes or working, I love to take the time and document memories, and growth, through journals and photographs.</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
Haverford College
Santa Ana, CA
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