Reflections on six months in the German capital
Studying at a foreign university inevitably means being at least slightly out of touch with what's going on at NYU, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Right now, it's a blessing because my school is currently on "holidays" (a misnomer because we're expected to write term papers during this time!), meaning I have the extra time to get caught up on writing, and reading, the posts on here. It's also a curse because I only recently heard about the Art of Travel, and thus I am a little late to the party. My apologies for that. Anyway, I'm Rose, and I live and study in Berlin.
I studied at NYU Prague during the spring semester of my sophomore year, very much on a whim. It was my first time in Europe, and while I liked Praha well enough, the experience of being in a foreign land yet being surrounded by Americans did not sit well with me. Still, I spent the next few months in a post-study abroad haze, where NYC, the city that I had long dreamed of living in, had lost a good deal of its luster. I found myself in Budapest over winter break for next to nothing (three cheers for philanthropist-supported academic fellowships!), bookended by several weeks of solo travel around Europe. That's when I went to Berlin for the first time. After my first night out, I had a little bit of a crush on the city. After a week, I knew it was love. On the flight from Tegel to JFK, I did my best to suppress tears, and promised myself that I would get back as soon as possible. I never expected that it would happen this quickly, or that I would be able to spend the entirety of my senior year abroad. I am definitely lucky to be in this position.
Rather than taking classes with NYU-employed professors at the NYU academic center; living in the NYU dorms; sharing meals (and germs,) nights out (and beds,) etc. with the NYU Berlin kids, I'm doing things differently. By that I mean, I am completely oblivious to the NYU Berlin experience, and I couldn't be happier about it.
I've been in Berlin for nearly six months now. Summarizing the highlights would extend far beyond the 500 word recommended constraints of this post, so I think it pertinent to share a few hopes for the next semester. I want to try my hand at veganizing traditional German food. I want to learn more about the social history of the city that my traditional history courses left out. I want to go to more art exhibitions. I want to meet more Germans, and more Berliners in particular, which can be hard to do in this sea of tech-startup- and music-industry-employed expats. Most importantly, I want to improve my (regrettably dismal) language skills.
Through all of this, it's going to be important to stop and remind myself that I am technically studying abroad, as tempting as it may be to focus solely on my professional goals. I'm not as easily impressed by the "newness" or "foreignness" of life in a different country, because I have already done this once before. The major difference is that this time, I'm in it for the long haul, with the intention of applying for a work visa when my student residence permit expires. I hope that, despite it feeling like home (or at least like the place that will be home for the foreseeable future,) I can still experience Berlin with the wide-eyed wonder that characterized my time in Prague.
(Photo: inside the Reichstag dome, February 2014)