In the weeks running up to the trip I recall feeling all the normal feelings that any individual would expect to feel before traveling away. I was excited, nervous, anxiously awaiting the day that I would finally get to go to Berlin. I had my bags packed and then unpacked and then packed again to ensure everything would be perfect.
Upon arrival, naturally I was quite nervous. What if my German wasn’t good enough? What if the people didn’t understand any English? Or even worse, what if the other students didn’t understand English? These fears were however quickly suppressed by the friendly staff on campus who guided me through registration and check in, in a combination of English and German.
SETTLING IN AND MAKING NEW FRIENDS
After that I dropped my stuff in my room, however I wasted no time in getting back outside to explore the campus and meet other new students. I quickly met another group of new arrivals who were on a mission to find food, and as I hadn’t eaten in nearly ten hours I joined them. That was the moment when I truly calmed down. I realised that people were much more approachable than I initially expected, after all we were all in the same boat. By Sunday evening I was feeling particularly optimistic.
Monday morning started early. I had signed up to do a walking tour of Prenzlauer berg, the borough of Berlin that the campus was situated in and that started promptly at 10. The tour really gave me a feel for the area and furthermore helped me feel at home. After the morning activity we were granted free time to go and find lunch, until 4.30 when the classes started.
THE GERMAN SCHOOL DAY
Every day we had three and a half hours of classroom time, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The classes were noting like what I was used to in school. Firstly, there was a fraction of the amount of people, it meant for a much more intimate learning experience where everyone could take part. Furthermore, the teachers spoke exclusively in German which again really had a positive impact on my aural comprehension.
On top of the classes, the organised activities really enhanced the experience. Firstly, the tours were guided mostly in German which meant that I was familiar with the language by the end of the three weeks. By far my favourite excursions were the trips to the freiluftkino where in the first week we saw the classic “Dirty Dancing” and then in the second week we saw “The Big Lebowski”, both experiences I will long to repeat.
Following that there was the street art tour run by Ines (one of the guides at GLS), which I enjoyed so much I did twice. It really felt like Ines had a passion for art in the city and in my opinion, it revealed a new part of Berlins character. Finally, Friday evenings were designated to “Waffeln und Spielen” in this Peculiar waffle house called “Kauf Dich Glücklich” (which translates to Buy yourself happiness, which was fitting). Perhaps some of my fondest memories come from being in a newly founded group of friends, joyfully playing cards and eating waffles, like a happy family
THE BENEFITS OF BERLIN
Overall, I can genuinely say that these past three weeks have changed my life. Firstly, for the impact that it has had on my German. I have always believed that the only way one can truly learn a language is by being surrounded by it, and although three weeks is a short period of time, being in Berlin has still had a significant impact on my confidence with the language. Secondly, and I’d argue more importantly, this trip has introduced me to so many new people from all over the world, people who I became close with and people who I am sure I will see again. I would like to recognise the poetic beauty in the fact that I was brought together with so many amazing and wonderful people in a city that was divided in two not 30 years ago.