I have spent some time now finally settling in to my German language courses here in Berlin after being here for 3 weeks. This is my second time visiting this amazing city, the first being back in March 2018 for my art and architecture class. My apartment is located in Mitte, a very nice neighborhood in the city that is quiet for the most part. After I got here for the first week of my SLA, I already had my routine of buying groceries for the week and working out at the local gym. My favorite meal that I’ve cooked so far (meaning one that I haven’t messed up) has to be my stir fry.
I have found some beautiful parks and cafes in Kreuzberg, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Berlin, to do my homework in and relax. I have already done many of the “touristy” things here in Berlin, such as seeing the East Side Gallery, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, Alexanderplatz, and many of the museums on Museum Island. Everyone that I have spoken with in German has been very helpful and understanding thus far.
After my first weeks in my language course at the Carl-Duisberg Center, I feel that I have already gained so much knowledge of the language.The classwork is centered around discussion and presentation so that speaking becomes a natural habit. My favorite part about this language school is that it is composed of people from so many different backgrounds. One day I am sitting between a man from Bangladesh and woman from St. Petersburg, the next between a woman from Japan and a woman from Venezuela. There are endless combinations, but what makes it exciting is that more often than not, German is our common language. My favorite exercise that we have practiced in class involved speaking German to discuss taboos from our native countries. Although one thing in the United States may be perfectly normal to do on a daily basis, it may be completely strange in another. These things were fun to discuss, because it is hard enough to explain in English why it is normal for us, so using German is a bit harder to defend common social constructs.A common theme that I have heard from other students here is that they are learning German so that they can study at a university here. The reason so many people from other countries come to Germany to study is because of how cheap it is to go to a university. I remember learning in my courses at Notre Dame that school can cost almost nothing here, as opposed to the crippling tuitions that leave students in the U.S. with student debt. One of the requirements to study here is to learn German up to a certain proficiency level, and after speaking with so many of classmates who want to study law, economics, and other fields, I think it would be great if I could use my experiences here this summer in order to help me on my path to study science after Notre Dame. I plan on returning to Berlin next summer by applying for a research position in a lab, so these two summers will hopefully not be the last times I see Berlin. I believe that this city has a heartbeat to it unlike any other major city that I have been to in the U.S. including Chicago, Boston, or Los Angeles. It is more calm, yet still has an exciting pace to it. I look forward to making more friends from all over the world in my class and exploring the city even more.