Bidding my farewell to the course
I might be saying goodbye to the Art of Travel course, but I am not yet saying goodbye to Berlin. Though my latest visa application was denied on Tuesday, I am not giving up, and plan to stay here for as long as the German government will allow.
My study abroad experience was unusual, an not at all what I expected. I studied at NYU Prague and found it enjoyable, but mostly insular and not the kind of "international" experience that I hoped studying abroad might offer. After visiting Berlin about two years ago, I was hellbent on moving here someday, and figured why not spend more time studying abroad, but this time at a foreign university.
Honestly, I'm not sure that I can recommend this to other students. Maybe it would be different in another country, but the German academic system is so very different from what you'll be used to getting at NYU or at other private universities. The courses here don't seem overly demanding, but in fact students are given a great deal of responsibility. Often there is no regular homework, but rather there will be one or two major essays which will suck away your life force and decide your grade. This is fine for some people, but it wasn't for me. I did a poor job of keeping up with the coursework, because there being so little actual homework made me feel like there was nothing I needed to be doing, when in fact I should have been reading and taking notes very intently, in preparation for the end of term assignments.
I wanted to feel separate from NYU, to have the freedom to do my own thing, but I ended up feeling isolated. I met one of my best friends a few years ago, while he was on exchange at NYU from Sciences Po and living in the same apartment. He frequently spoke of the wonderful events and activities planned for international students, the abundance of free food, how the university really seemed to have a great many resources in place to ensure that he had an amazing time. The universities here don't do anything like that, and being completely disconnected from NYU Berlin, I felt like I'd been, well, screwed. The university I attended here carries no tuition, only obligatory semester fees (which are actually a great deal because they give students unlimited use of public transport) which amount to less than 500€ per year. I had to pay NYU tuition in order to have the privilege of studying at a university which costs nothing. Furthermore, my work was not valued. NYU only grants half of a credit for every ECTS earned. I assumed this meant that my courses at Humboldt would be half as demanding as my courses at NYU, but this was not the case. I even took a Master's level class, but NYU didn't care about the content of the syllabi, the rigour of the readings, the frequency of presentations, the 25 pages essays.
Ultimately, I don't think NYU cares about its students having meaningful experiences abroad. I think NYU is a business, and I feel very stupid for having lined the university's pockets by doing this exchange.
Despite my very negative feelings about the concept of NYU's exchange "opportunities," I have certainly enjoyed Berlin. Participating in the Art of Travel has been rewarding for me because it gave me a space to reflect on my experience of being here, and it forced me to actually "put pen to paper" while considering all of the many things that I have seen, heard, and felt. So long as the domain doesn't expire, I'm absolutely looking forward to reading these posts later on, reminiscing, and smiling about all the musings from this time in my life.