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Berlin the Bountiful

I’m halfway through my time in Berlin, so here is a list of all my favorite things about this city so far.

  1. I could argue Berlin is the most international city in the world. For one, let’s take into account that one city was controlled by four different nations for a number of years. Want to go a British pub? 20 minutes away in Charlottenburg. Hungry for some French food? Visit the neighborhood of Wedding, a former French district. And there’s nothing like an American burger… I can find one down my block in Zehlendorf. I had known the city of Berlin was split into four of course, but I had only really thought of East Berlin changing, and had never realized the brief control by other nations would actually have a lasting effect on West Berlin.
  2. Flower shops are everywhere. There are three flower stores I walk past every day on my 3 block walk to the S-Bahn platform.
  3. Their determination to keep the memory of The Holocaust and and the atrocities in World War II alive, but at the same time to prevent it from happening again is tremendous. In the museums I’ve been to so far, they have these plaques up, that say “No photos of Nazi symbols,” which prevent tourists and attendees from focusing on the Nazis and Hitler. Along with that, the site of Hitler’s bunker was kept secret until 2006. The German government refused to put up a sign or open the bunker to the public to prevent neo-nazis and worshippers from making it a pilgrimage. Today, the bunker remains sealed and looks like an ordinary parking lot a part from a small sign at the corner.
  4. It is true, the German’s are incredibly environmentally conscious. Some of the ways are obvious and a little incumbent to the typical American, the 3 different bins at every trash can and the lack of dryers in houses. But most of the ways are subtle yet so easy it has me wondering why we don’t do them in America. For example, train and bus doors don’t open unless you push a button, most public lights, like in schools or apartment hallways are motion sensor so they are not on permanently. But my personal favorite is that it is a common habit for Berliners to leave glass bottles outside of trash cans. Besides the abundant cigarette butts, these glass bottles are the only litter you will see. But it’s not really litter because people, mostly homeless, will go around collecting these bottles to make money. And since drinking in public is legal here, those beer bottles stack up on the weekend.
  5. Doner Kebab. For those of you who are unlucky enough to never had tried this delicious, heaven sent, marvel of food, I pity you. In a crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, perfectly cooked piece of bread, slathered in garlic sauce, spicy sauce, hummus, anything you can dream of, then filled with seasoned meat and topped with lettuce, and then sprinkled with cheese. Doner is amazing and I eat it every day. You will catch me coming home 40 pounds heavier and still smiling because that’s how amazing doner is.
  6. Stuff! To Do! Every! Day!: This could also be filed under things I don’t like about Berlin because wow is this overwhelming. And the guilt I feel when I’m laying in bed not doing anything. 100 new galleries opening every day, new exhibitions at every museum, all the bookstores and coffee shops, concerts and a walk in every park, restaurants to try….phew.
  7. Public transportation. Yeah, commuting sucks but being on a train and not worrying about driving gives me time to read and work on homework. Public transportation is specifically great in Berlin because Germans love punctuality which means buses and trains are always on time.
  8. Art scene. The city of street art means you’re walking through an art museum 24/7. Everyone here is so creative, you can’t help when it rubs off on you. From the people sketching on the bus, to work shopping screen plays in coffee shops, everywhere you turn is an artist working on their next masterpiece.
  9. All the parks and green areas. This is something I will appreciate much more when it gets warm out, but Berlin is more park than city I swear.
  10. Berlin is Berlin. You are you. Unlike any other major city, one gets more stares in public for dressing too nice than too sloppy. It’s a city where it’s cool to look unkempt. At the same time, a 86 year old man can walk onto a bus in a wedding dress and I don’t think anyone would look up from their newspapers. Fashion is no fashion, wear whatever you want, no one has any expectations or rules. This applies for bars and clubs too, there isn’t a dress code apart from don’t try hard. As a girl who takes approximately 7 minutes to get ready in the morning, I am at home here.
  11. Bread and cheese all day every day. I could go days only eating some variation of bread and cheese. And since these two things happen to be my favorite food groups, let’s just say I am doing well.
  12. Mauerpark Flohmarkt, and any other flea market. Sundays are the best days in Berlin! Everywhere you turn there is a market, like elves come in over night and transform the city. Mauerpark is the best, with rows of stands, live music, karaoke when it’s nice out and the occasional dance show.
  13. Spatkaufs. Late shops open on almost every street corner. Go in and buy beer or snacks for really cheap, and when it’s nice outside people will just hang out on the street drinking and eating.

 


Emily Reid is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Journalism and Political Science. She is spending the semester in Berlin, Germany through the ISA Berlin Program

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Berlin Bound

Berlin, Germany

Since the moment I learned what studying abroad was, I think maybe in 6th grade, I immediately knew it was something I wanted. For 9 years, I waited and I dreamt and waited some more. I narrowed my choices down and set my heart and eyes on Berlin. This has definitely been a long time coming, filled with anticipation and excitement. And now it’s here.

With a major in journalism and a long time love of writing, it only makes sense to blog my travels, daily life, and experiences while in Berlin.

When I decided to study abroad, I wasn’t immediately sure where I wanted to go. There wasn’t one place that had always called to me, I didn’t have some strong familial connection to a country besides the knowledge that my great great (great?) grandpa was buried somewhere in Ireland. And besides two unbeneficial years of high school Spanish, from which I took away only the knowledge of a Soy that wasn’t a sauce, I didn’t speak a language. So, in making my decision on which country I wanted to live in, I made a list of what I wanted from my experience. Then I narrowed down from there.

When I tell people I’m spending 4 months in Berlin, many ask why I chose it. So I figured giving my long-winded answer of “Why” is the first step to this whole blog abroad thing.

  1.      I wanted to go to Europe. When studying abroad, most people know which region of the world they want to explore. For me, Europe was an obvious choice. I love European history, I love how so many diverse cultures are existing in such a small area of the world, I love how I can knock off like 20 cities in 4 months. For me, there was nowhere but Europe to study abroad.
  2.      I wanted to be immersed in a culture different from mine. England and Ireland are both amazing countries, but I wanted something further from my American experience.
  3.      I wanted to learn a new language, I was never dedicated enough in high school to learn Spanish, but I do love words, and learning languages has always been a dream of mine.   
  4.      I wanted to live in a country with a rich history. Of course, when we think of Germany our minds jump to World War II and Nazis, and when it comes to Berlin one can’t help but mention the Berlin Wall. And these were definitely contributing factors to my decision, being a bit of a history nerd. But beyond that, Germany has such a long and fascinating history of being one of the greatest nations in the world. And considering our European History classes in America tend to focus on Great Britain and Rome, there is so much I have yet to learn.
  5.      I wanted a big, trendy city. Not only is Berlin the 6th largest city in Europe (by population), it is up and coming, relatively inexpensive, boasts an amazing art scene and of course renowned for being just a fun place to live. The culture, the community, and of course the clubs all contribute to Berlin being a great place for young people.

So there you have it. My reasons why. Of course, this doesn’t even delve into the whole “Why I want to travel” discussion, which has a lot to do with reading and little to do with a natural curiosity. But I have 16 weeks and 16 blogs to touch on that.

So welcome, now let’s have some fun.


Emily Reid is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Journalism and Political Science. She is spending the semester in Berlin, Germany through the ISA Berlin Program.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

A Rough Start

So, it’s been several weeks and things have finally calmed down enough for me to write another blog post. Yay!

First off, I’d like to go over my journey getting to Leipzig and my first week here. It was rough, to say the least. On Friday night, the day before I was supposed to leave, I logged into my airline’s website to check my baggage limits, and there was a message that said, “The passenger has missed one or more of their flights.” I looked at the itinerary and it had been changed by 24 hours, from Saturday to Friday. I immediately began to panic and called the airline. After many calls and lots of hold time, I eventually got a flight for Sunday instead of Saturday. I was supposed to be in Leipzig Monday morning for the start of the language and orientation course, so I was rather stressed about missing the first day. Whatever, at least I had a flight now. So I arrived at the airport on Sunday, all ready to go, and I ended up running into more troubles at the check-in counter. After several more phone calls, I was finally able to get my tickets. I said my goodbyes to my family, hugged and kissed my girlfriend, Miranda, one last time, and then I was walking through security. It was funny, though. The entire time leading up to leaving, I didn’t really feel sad that I was leaving. I was mostly just really really excited! But as I turned around and waved goodbye for the last time, it all started to hit me. I finally realized just how long I’d go without being with the people I love. But, my journey to Leipzig had only just begun! Unfortunately, so had my flight troubles.

My flights from Kansas City to Toronto and Toronto to Frankfurt went smoothly. As I was walking into the terminal, everything was written in German (Duh). At that moment, I realized that I was in Germany. It was very surreal. I had wanted to travel to this country since I was just a little kid, and now I was finally here! But that fascination quickly changed, however, when my ticket from Frankfurt to Leipzig wouldn’t print. According to the airline’s records, I didn’t even have a ticket with them. I went back and forth to at least five different people before I found someone that could actually help me, but by that time I had missed my flight to Leipzig. See, my original plan was to get into Leipzig and run to the student services building as fast as possible so that I could get into my dorm. But because of my later flight, this was no longer a possibility, since they would be closed by the time I got there. So I ended up booking a hostel for the night right by the train station in Leipzig. When I got on my plane, I sat next to a very kind German lady. She and I spoke a little bit (in German!) and she actually ended up giving me her little bag of potato chips that they gave us as our in-flight snack. She was very sweet and wished me luck on my travels in Germany. That little act of kindness made me feel so much better, and speaking with someone in German, no matter how briefly, really boosted my confidence levels.

And then, after many hours of running into one bit of trouble after another, I finally landed in Leipzig. I got a train ticket to the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) and found my way to the hostel. It was my first time in a hostel, and one of my roommates, an older man there for business, showed me the room. I immediately took a shower, which felt great after such a long and stressful journey. As I was laying down for bed, I grabbed my blanket and headed towards my bed. He immediately got up and said in German, “No, you need to put your sheet on the blanket!” But my jet-lagged, frustrated brain just looked at him with what must have been comical confusion. He laughed and grabbed one of my sheets, which looked like a giant pillowcase, and put the blanket inside it. I smiled my thanks and went straight to bed.

So, the next day I woke up and started walking to the language course, dragging my luggage behind me. Now German streets are pretty much all cobblestones. This proved to be very destructive to my suitcase’s tiny plastic wheels. Eventually the wheels got worn down to the point that my bag was dragging on the ground. It was an annoyance, but it was one that I thought wouldn’t be much of an issue. Oh, how wrong I was!

I made it to the correct building and walked inside, with everything that I had brought with me to Germany. And I immediately made a friend. Her name is Chandani and she is from Angola originally (which is a country in Africa for those who need a geography update), but studies and lives in Portugal. As I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve realized just how much of a kind and caring person she is. We even call her “Oma”, which is German for “grandma” because she’s always making sure everyone is cared for. So knowing that now, I’m sure that when she saw me, an exhausted look on my face and carrying around all of me luggage, and instantly saw someone that needed to be taken care of. Either way, I’m glad that she did! After the introduction to the course, we walked to the student services building and got my paperwork for my dorm room figured out. It was a process, with lots of papers and what not. From there I had to go to my room, which is about 20 or 25 minutes away from the city center by train. Remember how I said that my wheels had been worn down? Yea, well it got to the point where I had to physically carry my 45 lbs suitcase around, switching from one hand to the next when my arm got too tired. I did this all the way to the train station and then from my train stop to my room. By the time I actually got into my room, I was dead tired and my arms were incredibly sorry. But I had made it! I was officially in my room and able to lay down on a bed and what not. I was finally able to just sit down and relax a bit.