So begins our journey throughout Germany. While the academic and classroom portions of this program have yet to begin, I look back on the past four days in Berlin with much learned about myself and the culture of Germany’s famous capital.
The “intensive” nature of this program proved itself within the first few minutes of our arrival. As I spoke a confident “Einen Kaffee, bitte” and purchased my first German coffee, I felt the rush of finally utilizing our efforts from German I to interact with a foreign society. In ordering our first dinner, the phrase “Ich mӧchte ein Schnitzel vom Schwein” rolled easily off the tongue. Although the students in our group all arrived with varying levels of German proficiency, most have already shared stories of being challenged by the local language while subsequently proving their own speaking abilities. As such, there’s no doubt we’ll leave Berlin, and ultimately this whole trip, with experiences that provided both the academic and cultural components to speaking German.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding and insightful experiences from our orientation was the group dinner at Il Casolare in Kreuzberg, a small section of Berlin near the Kottbusser Tor. Our program host, Dr. Melzer, recommended a group meal at the pizzeria to not only taste the amazing flavors of Italian cuisine in Germany, but to also explore the social dynamics in and around the area. We left that nighttime dinner with full bellies and the pleasure of having been exposed to one of the coolest areas I’ve seen in Berlin.
Kreuzberg used to be a primarily Turkish neighborhood but has recently seen an increase in diversity over the past few decades. Such cultural variety was on full display during our visit as the local park, streets, and bridge over the Spree River that were full of Germans relaxing in whatever way they felt best. We observed this scene as we ate dinner and then enjoyed walking around as the sun began to set for the evening. The group witnessed music performances, some much needed naps in grassy areas, and inflatable boats perusing the canal.
We spent a good deal of time exploring before sitting down on the water’s edge and taking in the beautiful scenery around us. Our post-dinner hangout, along with a repeat visit the next day, were easily the most relaxing aspects of this study abroad experience so far. I figured that there would be some nice areas to slow down and appreciate the scenes around us, but was pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to see what’s offered around Kreuzberg. The peaceful atmosphere around the bridge and restaurant are ones that I hope to see in other parts of Germany and would love to experience more back home around Philadelphia. Our two nights around the Kreuzberg area were a great reminder to sit down and enjoy the people, places, and opportunities around us. In our constant busyness in the U.S. and while studying abroad, a little time to unwind goes a long way!
As our train slowly rolls into the station, I conclude the first part of this German adventure with extreme satisfaction. Next stop: Leipzig!