A Travellerspoint blog

Willkommen in Berlin!

A review of my first week in Berlin and in Germany

rain 35 °F

I am becoming increasingly aware with every passing day of how imperative it is to travel and to experience other cultures outside of your own. If you know me personally at all, then you understand just how important experiencing the world around us is to me. And then you also might be aware of the fact that I am living my absolute best life right now. I mean, 16 weeks in Europe? Give me a break this is amazing and there's no way you'll be able to convince me otherwise.

Here's what I am going to do here. First, I am going to explain what I'm doing here in Berlin and why I will be calling Germany and Europe my home for the next four months. Then, I am going to dive in to what I have been up to since I left my girlfriend and family behind at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and I'll also try to go into depth of the experiences that have already widened my eyes to a world that is so much larger than Rockwall or Stillwater back home. And finally that will allow me to finish off with my plan for this blog. What I hope to accomplish with it and what I dream I can communicate with it.

We have all heard of studying abroad. It's that thing that college students do when they decide they want to start having a new profile picture every other day and when skipping class in your home country just isn't cutting it anymore. Well those are some of the things that have led me to this point in my life. A point where I thought it would be very consequential if I did not experience the opportunities that studying abroad could gift me with. I chose Germany, and even further, Berlin, because roughly four years ago when my mother and I went on a trip to Europe, I absolutely fell in love with the culture. We started in Switzerland and meandered our way through places like Innsbruck, Munich, Dresden and Prague before spending a couple of days in the very capital of Deutschland. I knew then just as much as it's happening now that I would be back and that the next time I would be fortunate enough to return, it would be for a more extended period. And so, a few months back, I decided that I had waited long enough to return and that four months here in Berlin was exactly what a more extended period looked like. So, I busted my butt to make it happen. Through countless forms, emails, meetings and appointments I pushed on toward an experience I had waited my whole life for. It was time to make goals and dreams nothing but reality and eventually, in time, I was finally able to book that one way ticket to Europe. The adventure had begun!

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Ok so here it goes. I became airborne and left DFW airport at 3:45pm on Sunday, January 27th. Because I'm covering an entire week here... I'm just gonna describe the past 8 days in bullet points. So... lets start 8 days ago, at 3:00pm, just before I said goodbye to everyone and walked through a very small TSA line.

JANUARY 27th - DAY 1
• Said goodbye to Meredith and my family. Leaving my girlfriend of almost 11 months was not easy. March 7th, the day we celebrate a year together, is going to be extremely hard for me given the fact that I will be 5000 miles away from her but I know for a fact that when I get to see her at that airport when I get back, that it will be one of the happiest moments of my life.

• Boarded my plane and took off toward London Heathrow Airport roughly 15 minutes before 4:00pm. It was an 8 hour and 55 minute flight that covered 7 different time zones. We landed in the United Kingdom at 6:39am local time (12:39am Dallas time). Oh and I forgot to mention... no one sat next to me for the entire flight so my window seat was one of the better flights I have ever been on.

JANUARY 28th - DAY 2
• We had about 2 hours to get from our terminal to the next and when we arrived at the gate with about 20 minutes to spare, you can imagine my frustration when I was told that the plane had already been boarded and even had already left. I won't go into it but I was not happy. Luckily, getting on the next flight was not very complicated at all and it was only about another hour until that plane boarded. So I sent an email to Nele (the resident director of AIFS) that Griffin and I would be arriving later than planned and we waited for British Airways flight 982 to begin boarding.

• Since our luggage was able to make the original flight without us, our stuff got there about two hours before us. So when we landed in Berlin at Berlin Tegel airport at 1:08pm, our bags had been getting cozy in an office somewhere and let me tell you when I say it was an adventure to get these bags back it was an adventure. I instantly became aware that I was somewhere that did not speak my language, and it was going to be interesting to get directions to where I needed to go. Nonetheless, we eventually secured our bags and immediately got into a cab heading toward the hotel.

• Got to the Ibis Berlin Hotel and settled in. A very cool place right next to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). I was running on 3 hours of nonconsecutive sleep over a 36 hour period so I dropped my stuff next to my bed and fell asleep before I got into the shower and got ready for our group dinner that night.

• Dinner was an authentic German meal filled with plenty of carbs and protein. I made a comment to some of the guys that the next four months is going to consist of bread, cheese, meat and beer. None of us were too upset about that fact. Welcome to Germany!

• After dinner, a group of us went out to a bar for our first night of drinking in Germany. If you had told me this was going to be practically every night for the next week, I might have turned around and booked my ticket home. On our way home we got slightly lost and it was fun trying to find our way back to the hotel.

JANUARY 29th - DAY 3
• The next morning we all gathered in the lobby downstairs, some of us still holding our heads from the night before, and we began to load onto a bus that would take us to our campus.

• We get to the Lankwitz campus of Freie Universität and we begin our formal check in process before a brief orientation meeting with AIFS (our provider), headed by Nele and Janine, the resident director and assistant resident director respectively.

• After our orientation meetings for that day and checking in, at about 5:00pm we loaded our stuff back on to another bus and headed towards our apartment building, while the homestay kids began to be picked up by their host families.

• We got to the apartment complex and we all dumped our stuff. Nele showed us how to work the oven, heaters and washing machine before she left us to our own devices.

• We all then went to IKEA after settling down for a little bit and tried to further understand the realm of intercity transit.

• The IKEA trip can be summarized as so. If you still have questions afterwards just text me and I'll explain further then.
--- Got lost, was humiliated, lost someone, was told to f-off, wasted some time, was hungry, my feet hurt. Hope that is enough :)

• That night, after IKEA, Griffin and I went and found an ATM and I went and got a frozen pizza at Penny, the grocery store across the street. I was so ready to devour this pizza but unfortunately I burnt it and I was very disappointed. I did still eat it though.

JANUARY 30th - DAY 4: THE DAY I DISCOVERED DÖNER
• At 8:45 we all met Janine at the train station and she showed us how to get from our apartment to the university campus. We got to the Lankwitz campus and had another short orientation meeting before we were given a tour of both campuses.

• After we toured both campuses, at around 2:00pm a bus was there for us for a 4 hour bus tour. Janine took us to Tempelhof Airport, where she told us a bit about the old Nazi airport while we waited for our tour guide. After he got there we began the tour.

• After the tour we all went out again before calling it a night. But before going out I needed some food. Döner is a type of sandwich with garlic spread across the bread and very thinly sliced lamb meat is stuffed inside the type of bowl that the bread makes. It is the best thing on this planet and there is a döner place right down the street from my apartment.

JANUARY 31st - DAY 5
• Day 5 started with a 9:00am orientation meeting for FU-BEST, which lasted a good chunk of the day. By this point all of the orientation meetings were primarily AIFS only so FU-BEST needed there own orientation as well. AIFS stands for American Institute for Foreign Study and it is a provider for study abroad programs. FU-BEST is the study abroad program at Freie Universität (FU) in Berlin. I am attending the FU-BEST program by ways of AIFS.

• During our extended lunch break, we walked around the neighborhood the university is nestled in. I learned that one of the buildings on campus used to be the old allied powers headquarters and another building is where German scientists discovered that the atom could be split.

• After the orientation ended around 4:00, a half hour before sunset (not a fan), we went back to the apartment and I bought a döner for dinner before turning in for the night. I was starting to not feel great so I figured it would be best if I didn't go out with everyone else that night.

FEBRUARY 1st - DAY 6
• I woke up with roughly 12 hours of sleep behind me and I felt AMAZING. Around 2pm I met up with Dylan (Kansas), Samantha (Rhode Island) and Sophia (Southern California) and we stopped at a small breakfast cafe before heading to the bunker tour.

• We got to the platform we were all supposed to meet at for this tour and we all walked toward the museum together. The Berlin Story Bunker Tour is an old bunker that housed post-war food stuffs and supplies from the Berlin Airlift during the Berlin Blockade in 1948 and 1949 when the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. It was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. The airlift refers to the movement of planes from the Western nations to provide the free "West Berlin" with supplies. During this time, an allied supply plane took off or landed in West Berlin every 30 seconds. This movement also predates such common technology as radar.

• After the bunker tour, a group of us met up with some more of us at the Brandenburg Gate. I had been in Berlin for five days by this point and I still had not seen the gate. So we decided to go as the sun set.

• Afterwards a small group of us went out to eat at this really good Italian place called Evin Pizza and Pasta. I ate an entire pizza myself and regret absolutely nothing.

• After we got back to the apartments we all hung out in Meghan's (South Carolina) apartment and casually drank and socialized before going out again. We went to this place called the Omega Bar and it was extremely crowded and smokey. Not a fan. Where we eded up afterwards though, I loved! It's called the Monkey Bar and it has an outside rooftop patio with a pretty cool view. Drew (Indiana) and I ended up spending the night talking to these guys from Syria, Egypt and California. We had pretty intelligent conversations about politics, economies and current events given each of our three country's current situations.

FEBRUARY 2nd - DAY 7
• I woke up with nothing to do and the idea that I was going to be antisocial and just hangout with myself. I was wrong. We all decided we were hungry so we took a train and a bus to get to this brunch place known as Zimt and Mehl Manufaktur. When we finally got there it was closed but luckily we found a place just as good just on the other side of the park.

•After brunch we went back to the apartments and I went into the grocery store again to buy some orange juice. Later that night Dylan and I went to a camera shop to buy an SD card and a card reader. On our way back I grabbed another döner and we went to the grocery store again to buy a case of beer. A case of 20 beers here is only around 8 dollars so I have a strong feeling that won't be the last time Penny sees our business.

• That night a bunch of people came over and we all hung out a bit.

FEBRUARY 3rd - DAY 8
• The morning started with heading to the Brandenburg Gate for a walking tour of the city. After hearing about the history of the city for several hours, at about 1:00pm a majority of us decided to duck out and finish the tour ourselves. We all took the bus to a restaurant known as Maximilians and then after our meal the girls went back to the apartment while Drew, Dylan and I made our way to the Holocaust Memorial.

• After the memorial we all went back to our individual apartments and homestay with plans to meet up for the Super Bowl tonight at 12:30 tomorrow morning.

• Long story short, I came home, fell asleep and now here I am, writing and waiting for the Super Bowl to start.

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As I said before, I have always been an advocate for the culture that differs from my own. Being here, in a country, let alone city, that has seen so much history and that commands so much respect in the way that it has changed over time. Through this blog I hope to document my journey both within Berlin, Germany and wherever else I decide to go over these next four months. By documenting and writing about what I'm up to, it allows for people back home to keep up with me. I also upload pictures on a gallery I have created on smugmug.com and on my Instagram as well. Feel free to check out my pictures and keep reading here to see what I'm up to. It's going to be an amazing semester and I am so ready to have the time of my life.

Auf Wiedersehen!!

Smugmug: tinyurl.com/thomasabroad
Smugmug Password: "tomabroad"

Instagram: tomes3

Posted by TravelingTom 04:00 Archived in Germany Tagged travel germany berlin university school study_abroad

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Fantastic writing!! Can’t wait to read the next adventure!!

by Mama Branks

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