A Funny Story
Americans are known for talking loud and being obnoxious. We used to have to take the S-bahn (subway) to class everyday from our apartments. We would be talking among each other and discussing our day and what plans we had for the week, etc. All the locals on the train would remain absolutely quiet while on the train. No one would to talk to each other; it would be so quiet you could hear a pin drop. We did not know this cultural norm right away and got many eye rolls and dirty looks from the locals for being too loud.
An Embarrasing Situation
Berlin is known for its nightlife and over the top clubs and parties. One of the first nights we went out, we didn't know the extent to which people partied there. The earliest time you would go to a club is 1am and most people stay there till at least 9am(!) We once went to a club at 10:00pm thinking that was a normal time to go out. We arrived and the place was completely empty. We also were way overdressed, most locals wear jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt to the club.
Dr. Andrew Noble, History of Central European Classical Music: Baroque to Contemporary
My professor was extremely knowledgable about every composer and type of classical music. We covered every decade of classical music up till present-day. It was fascinating to learn about Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and other composers. We would start out each class by listening to a piece of classical music and would interpret it after. I looked forward to going to this class and discovering new composers and pieces of music. It opened my mind to a different genre of music and appreciation towards the arts.
I lived in the student apartments the program provided in Steglitz on Celsiusstrasse. I didn't like the apartments provided by the program because there was no wifi/internet connection. Also everyone lives on their own without roommates. The apartments were also way outside the city center and it would take forever to get to museums, nightlife and meet up with friends. I regret not living with a host family because I feel I would have learned more about German culture. You also have meals included with living with a host family, which would have saved me money and time. Living with a host family also would have helped me with learning the German language and way of life.
Top 5 Reasons to Pick this Course
1. The location - Berlin is a vibrant, cosmopolitan cultural center. The city has so much to offer. Germany is a remarkable country and its central location in Europe makes its easy to travel.
2. The classes - My classes at Freie University were extremely interesting and incorporated the city into class lessons. Instead of just talking about what life was like during the Cold War in a classroom, we also visited museums and explored East Germany, Stasi prisons, WWII bunkers, etc.. My classes were fascinating and ranged from topics from WWII, German literature to the history of European Classical Music. All my classes were in English, which was a plus because I had not studied German prior to studying abroad.
3. The Nightlife - Berlin is known as the nightlife capital of Europe and arguably the world. The best clubs are in the city with amazing DJs playing sets every day of the week. The music was the best I've ever heard, with something for everyone (electronic, jazz, rock, indie). One aspect of Berlin nightlife that I loved was casual dress is the norm, not having to wear heels was refreshing.
4. The People - German people sometimes get a bad reputation of being harsh but once you get to know the locals, they are really friendly. Berlin is a very accepting city. People from all walks of life live together and contribute to the cities bohemian and creative vibe.
5. The History - Berlin has gone through several forms of governments, political revolutions, war, cultural revolutions, etc. Most of the museums in Berlin are free and have the best exhibits. Everywhere you go in the city has a story, both positive and negative. I was captivated learning about the architecture, changing lifestyle and personal stories by the locals and their families. Berlin has been destroyed by WWII and divided during the Cold War, the resiliency of the city is remarkable and how its unique culture survives.
5 Things I Wish I Know Before I Went
1. Don't overpack. I brought too many clothes that I barely wore and wish I had more space to bring things back.
2. Don't travel too much outside your city and country. Thats not to say don't travel (I traveled to 12 countries while I was there) but I regret not exploring Berlin more and Germany as a whole.
3. Explore your options with cell phones and plans. There are cheap options, you just need to do your research.
4. Don't let the language barrier frustrate you too much. Have an open mind when learning German and dedicate time to studying it and practicing with other students and native Germans. Basically everyone speaks English in Berlin but you do come across Germans who don't. Locals appreciate you taking interest in speaking the language.
5. Studying abroad will change you and you will make amazing memories and friends. Treasure every moment because you will miss it everyday when you get back to the U.S.