A few words of wisdom about how best to enjoy Berlin
I’m convinced that New York is the greatest city on the planet, but it is not the city for me. Berlin though, is a place I love dearly and can see myself staying in for a long time. I have been here for close to 15 months now, and I can say with certainty that it is a place you are unlikely to tire of within a semester or even two of studying abroad. Not like Prague, where I spent a semester (at NYU Prague) as a sophomore.
The best advice I can give is not really specific to Berlin, but I think it will come in handy for anyone studying here. It is a fascinating place, with a diverse population and a seemingly endless number of things to do on any given weekend. I’ve spent my time abroad on exchange at Humboldt Universität, not at NYU Berlin, but I occasionally saw groups of NYU Berlin students out and about. I didn’t really know them, they weren’t friends of mine, but I knew their faces, or I saw the occasional Gallatin tote bag, or something of that sort. Once, someone approached me in a club and reminded me that we had taken a course together last year. I always saw NYU kids hanging out in packs though, which is crazy to me. There are so many interesting people here, but it is impossible to meet them if don’t make an effort to leave the comfort of the NYU bubble. When you study, live, and also hang out with people who are coming from the same environment as you, it’s not going to feel like studying abroad. It’s going to feel like NYU picked up and plopped itself down in the Kulturbrauerei. Go out and meet people. Try to learn German. Find a tandem partner. Make other friends.
If you can, take a German course. A modicum of politeness is something to strive for when you’re at a restaurant or bar, and it’s nice to be able to make a little bit of conversation auf Deutsch with the locals before admitting to your lack of skill. If you can’t take a course, at least download an app like Duolingo and use it every day.
Seek out new experiences. I have my favourite cafe and my favourite coffee shop and even a favourite grocery store, but Berlin is a massive city with lots to see and do. You don’t have to stay in the NYU bubble. Get out of Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg. If the weather is nice, go to Schlachtensee. Find open airs in Volkspark Humboldthain. Hike through the Grunewald, hike up Drachenberg. There is more to Berlin than the things and places in guidebooks.
Finally, don’t go clubbing every weekend. I did this a lot when I first moved here, and I paid dearly with an out-of-whack sleep cycle and many bouts of stubborn colds and other viruses. Sometimes it’s just as nice to have a quiet evening: grabbing beers from a späti and watching the sunset at Tempelhof, eating pumpkin sushi at some hole in the wall Asian joint, catching an indie flick. Going to Berghain every weekend will inevitably get old, I promise.