Postcard from Abroad: New Beginnings in Berlin
By Aleah Ellerbee, Contributing Writer
When I toured Gettysburg College during my senior year of high school, my tour guide mentioned that the college was evaluated as one of the top programs for study abroad. In the back of my mind I thought that it was such a useful piece of information since I had no intention of going abroad during my time in college. It wasn’t until the spring break of my sophomore year that I had changed my mind. During that break, I was able to go on an Immersion Project trip to Colorado to learn about the Lakota people. Not only did I learn so much about the Native American people there, but I fell in love with the atmosphere and nature that encapsulated Colorado. I loved hiking up a snowy mountain, getting to write my name in snow on a frozen lake and driving past the different types of terrain everyday. The trip made me fall in love with traveling. The second I came back to Gettysburg from spring break, I knew I wanted to start talking to a Center for Global Education advisor about going abroad for the spring of my junior year.
I chose Berlin, Germany as my host country because I heard it was a very diverse city with numerous opportunities for young adults. Germany is also in a region of Europe where I would have the ability to travel to other surrounding countries. I believed that this would be an extraordinary opportunity for me to explore a great part of the world, especially because I have never been to a country outside the United States before. It was such a stressful process trying to gather all of my documents, organize my luggage, gain access to funds and learn to be okay with the idea of leaving my family and friends for four months. When I did get on that plane to Berlin, all of the nerves suddenly went away. It was when I started to look at the window and saw the beautiful ocean and landscapes that I realized I made the right decision.
Living on my own in a new country has given me the opportunity to understand myself and the world around me better by experiencing an entirely new culture. The food in Germany is so delicious. Not only are there wonderful German dishes like curry wurst or schnitzel, but Berlin being a very globalized city there is a variety of cuisines and opportunities to have dishes from other cultures. The doner kebab is a Turkish dish made from vegetables and meat from a vertical rotisserie. Being around Germans made me realize that I should not care about what others think of me. Germans typically mind their own business, and they are very confident about themselves. I have also realized that Americans tend to be fake-nice, whereas Germans say exactly how they feel or what they are thinking. This has taught me that maybe there needs to be a greater extent as to which you are honest with yourself and others.
Living and studying abroad, I have learned that I am capable of doing things when I put my mind to it. One of those things is learning a new language. Deustch isn’t such a hard language when you realize the basic foundations of the language. Hearing Deustch spoken around me so often allows me to be immersed in the language all the time. I have also learned that I love to walk places. When I am in Berlin, I love to walk around different neighborhoods to see the different personalities that inhabit Berlin. I keep my eye on the number of cafes, different types of graffiti, food shops, the architecture of homes and building, and the events that happen in different neighborhoods. This experience has made me realize the beauty that humans can create through culture, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me in the upcoming months in Berlin.