Prost! to a new school year in Evanston

 

 

Before I set out for Berlin, I very much expected a summer of all fun and no studying. And while the all fun part is very much true, I have found this summer to be an extremely educating one. Because of the extended length of the program, studying abroad isn’t the usual abroad trip stuffed with sightseeing and must-dos, but a chance to experience life elsewhere. And in a way unlike internships or technical classes, it has turned into a profound learning experience.

Perhaps the most invaluable experience I have had this summer was getting to know many really awesome people (both from my familiar Northwestern and all across the globe) and getting exposed to foreign, unfamiliar ideas and values. As I advanced in college and got more and more focused in my area of study, my Northwestern experience had became somehow limited to my major and its students, so it was particularly awesome to take classes in a different and unfamiliar discipline, talk to very different students at Northwestern, and challenge my ideas and preconceptions about the world.

In the most tremendously fun way possible, I was brought out of my comfort zone and my world was expanded by these wonderful people on my trip to Berlin. And I believe that my love affair with unfamiliarity and new challenges is just beginning. That is something that I intend to bring with me back to Evanston to the new school year.

 

Genau Jetzt: Reminiscing about Berlin

Hey there. It’s been a while hasn’t it? Let me catch you up on what’s been going on since I left Meine Stadt, Berlin.

From shadows comes light; missing Hamburg today 🛥 #MGtakesBerlin #JkMGtakesHamburg #GZAbroad

A photo posted by Mauricio Gonzalez (@mauricio13g) on

Upon returning to Chicago, I found myself in this weird, delusional state of mind. It was most likely the jet-lag, but I found myself in a haze of listening to Nena, using random German phrases (#lecker #genau #sehrgut), and confusing the crosswalk man on the streets of Chicago for the well-known, hatted Ampelman signaling the right of way for Berliner pedestrians. My friends were confused, my family was confused, and I was confused.

After this initial reverse-culture shock, I traveled to Los Angeles to visit a friend and hoped my #BerlinBlues would go dissipate, and while the famous alley dogs, instagram places, beaches, palm trees, aguas frescas, and bomb.com tacos healed my heart for a bit, I longed to return to Berlin and found myself constantly telling people of the great adventures, ice cream, friends, misadventures, and just beautiful memories that made up my study abroad experience. In fact, my first-year students in my Peer Adviser group (shout-out to One Thirty Fine!) all made it a running joke to call me out every time I mentioned my trip for Berlin with sarcastic, yet great lines like, “Oh, Mauricio, did you go to Berlin or something this summer?” Especially today amidst the stress pulsing through my brain while sitting in my higher-level economics class, I found myself longing to be eating döner in Kreuzberg, eating gelato at Anna Durkes, or simply just running through the the endless forest/garden/magical land that is the Tiergarten.

View overlooking the Tiergarten

View overlooking the Tiergarten

After going through the exhaustion, running around, and greatness that was my third Wildcat Welcome, I reunited with my beloved Berlin squad at Olive Mediterranean Grill on the first day of ca=lasses, and though it was good, it did not come close to the leckerness that was our amazing feasts at Turkish restaurants in Kreuzberg. Alex, Jesus, and I all felt disoriented eating our first meal in Evanston together (I mean like, Evanston meals cannot compare to Berlin meals), and we reminisced about our Pokémon Go outings to the Brandenburg Gate, being rained out at Tempelhof Feld, ice cream crawls, and our humorous dialogues during German class at the HU; overall, what I realized was how though I was no longer in Berlin, I came back with the best part of my study abroad experience: obnoxious, kind, and incredible friends.

#BerlinSquadForLife

#BerlinSquadForLife

Of course, I remember all the fun excursions we had to Hamburg, Weimar, throughout Berlin, but my study abroad experience would not have been complete without Alex and Jesus. We’re already talking about having a Berlin-themed get-together at Alex’s apartment with some club mate, and all that great stuff. I honestly cannot wait to return to Berlin, and know that I will have to go back with them soon enough.

Before I wrap up this final blog post (#sadness), I would love to thank Northwestern, IPD, Frau Meuser, Ben Trivvers (#Trillvers), Sonia Li, Professor Anna Parkinson, Professor Eric Weitzmann, Alex, Jesus, and everyone who made my study abroad experience what it was (I’m getting teared up thinking about how great it was #dontlookatme). Of course, there were difficult times where I missed home dearly, but looking back, being in Berlin has been my favorite period of time at Northwestern. Ich liebe Berlin und wir schaffen das! I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity, and yeah. I don’t want to wrap this blog up because I feel like I’m saying good-bye to Berlin, but I know I will always keep everything in my heart. Here’s to junior year! Bis später!

xoxo,

Chisme Boy
Mauricio Gonzalez

Back at It

Finally, I have returned to Evanston to start a new year school year. A clean slate, with a fresh outlook and excitement; I truly love the start of each academic year. However, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness as the summer finally ends, and the days turn into weeks from the time I landed from my stay in Europe. I miss the spontaneity of my days in Berlin, the many adventures I had, the people I met (and will never forget), and I now look back on all the trials and tribulations I faced with a smile and a sense of pride in my ability to mature and survive in such a foreign setting. I truly grew this summer, and this statement is in no way being claimed in a flippant or clichéd manner. I experienced something that brings upon true adult maturity and rational thought in a person- solitude in travel. While I enjoyed traveling across Europe alone, I also had to be completely aware of my surroundings and depend on only one person- myself.

While it is truly a bittersweet feeling, I know that I will eventually return to the city I fell in love with, and with each subsequent trip back to Germany, I will hopefully even continue to improve my German language skills. I miss the feeling of being lost in a beautiful city and having almost no cares in the world- in fact, I savored those moments, and completely enjoyed wandering around Berlin for hours and discovering beautiful “nooks and crannies” all alone. This summer was one of the best I’ve ever had in my life, and I know I will definitely never forget it.
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Ich Vermisse Berlin (viel)

I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me, but I’m back! Now that classes are in full swing and I have re-adjusted (for the most part) to being back in Evanston, I can’t believe that I was in Berlin just over a month ago! I’ve gotten back to my routine at Northwestern, and classes keep me more than busy. However, there isn’t a day when I don’t think about my time in Berlin. My room is filled with constant reminders of Berlin. From the Berlin hat I bought at Primark, the bottle caps from the many Fritz Kola’s and hipster Club Mate’s I drank, and pictures of the friends I explored Berlin with, my room has a sort of a (small) time box of my many memories of Berlin.

Berlin, you'll never be forgetten

Berlin, you’ll never be forgotten

Study Abroad was a Victory (Tower)

Study Abroad was a Victory (Tower)

Coming back to campus was definitely hard at first. I wondered where the U-bahn was, why there were no Currywurst stands, and forgot that I had to order things in English (not to say that my German was that good, but I was pretty good at ordering food in German, and honestly that’s all I needed). I think the biggest shock was seeing the friends I made through the program, back at Northwestern. Even though we all came from the same school, we did not really know each other very well (or at all), until we were abroad. We made our first memories together in Berlin (unforgettable memories), so hanging out together on campus definitely felt weird, it still does a little. I remember taking the U-bahn into different parts of the city to explore all of the sights and gastronomy around (to be honest that was the main reason, every trip had food as an end result). Whenever I hang out with them now, we always talk about our adventures in Berlin and break out some german phrases (Genau, Lecker). We always get emotional and state how much we miss Berlin and how we need to go back. Although we are not in Berlin anymore, so much good came out of our experience abroad. When I feel sad about not being in Berlin, I remember that I came back with some amazing friends, friends who I became close with in such a short period of time, friends who I share lifelong memories with, friends who I am so grateful to have.

When people ask me, “why study abroad,” aside from all the cool things you can do and experience, I will tell them that the most rewarding part is the friends you make while abroad. It is such a magical time in your life, and you are experiencing it together with them. Something about that just makes those friendships different and special. I am officially a cliché study abroad student who says, “Study Abroad changed my life” and “I made some of my best friends while abroad,” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I just want to say thank you to IPD, Frau Meuser (for trusting a kid with no German experience whatsoever to go to Berlin), Sonia Li, MC Trill, Trillvers Benjamin Trivers, Prof. Anna Parkinson, Prof. Erica Weitzman, all of my Humboldt Professors and classmates, and of course to Mauricio and Alex (thanks for letting me tag along with y’all/tagging along with me) for making this the best experience of my life (you’ve set a high bar for any other experiences).

That’s it for now! (Or is it?)

Auf Wiedersehen,

Jesus Campos

Mein Stadt (My City)

Mein Stadt (My City)

The Hunt for Books

After quite a long time of studying German, I still find it hard to speak naturally and accurately. And one of the reasons to that problem was my sad, almost none existent vocab base. So in addition to developing the confidence of throwing any German phrase that I kinda know to strangers, one of my goals this summer was to develop my German vocabulary through reading. And I was very lucky that Berlin is a great place for books. Below I present to you some of my favorite book places.

In front of Humboldt: In front of Humboldt University is a second hand book sale that occurs almost daily. There, you’ll find a wide range of German and English books (mostly fiction) in very good quality for a tiny fraction of the regular new book price. (Novels for half, one or two euros mostly.)

  1. Otherland Buchhandlung: Fantastic English and German Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy book store . A very wide variety of cool books that I have not found elsewhere in Berlin. And they accept bitcoin! (But doesn’t have a toilet.)
  2. Galeria Kaufhof: Another cheap place near Humboldt. Most of its books are regular priced and the standard collection, but it often puts out a discount section for books with a little imperfection. So here you can get entirely new books (with, perhaps a scratch on the cover) in German and English for one to three euros. So if dusty books aren’t your thing, this is your place.
  3. Buchhandlung Hugendubel: One of the closest, largest bookstores near the hotel. Located within KaDeWe, it is the perfect place for browsing after brunch on the gourmet floor. But just like everything else in KaDeWe, it is a bit overpriced, especially its English collection.
  4. Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus: This is probably the king of Berlin Bookstores. It is near Humboldt University and it is massive, with tons of German books in its main bookstore (It is, however, lacking on the Sci-Fi front.) and a separate bookstore just for English books. It has very helpful staff who will navigate the bookstore for you and find you pretty much whatever you’ll want. However, with great variety comes great pricing. Be prepared to pay the standard price (As I’ve never seen a discount here. ) for any book you purchase here, which typically ranges from seven to twenty euros. (Still cheaper than KaDeWe!)

This Is What “I” Came For (Berlin Remix)

Having pressed the backspace on this post too often already, I’m sorry to start my post this way, but all I can say is that I do not think I can find the best way describe these last two weeks in Berlin. During this time, my life has been full of both magic and madness (Wait, I don’t have the copyrights to Taylor Swift either? #oops). Madness in the sense that not only did I misplace/have my monthly transportation pass pick-pocketed (spoiler: it worked out in the end), but other things in my life have gone awry (e.g. losing my U.S. SIM card for my phone) and have been falling apart altogether (i.e. my entire room in the Hotel Lützow #bugs #flooding). Regardless of these tests of my sanity, I managed to take away a new skill; being able to take a shower under four minutes (shout-out my bathroom’s forever clogged shower drain) #ecofriendly!

Despite these hiccups, I cannot help laughing off this series of unfortunate events as I remember all the great moments I’ve had during these last two weeks; I’ll give you the highlights so I don’t lose your attention like I maybe did last time #TBTtoSoloAdventure.

On every Thursday, my two friends, Alex and Jesus, could always be found at the v hip Markthalle Neun, a street food market in Kreuzberg, a v hip neighborhood in Berlin. Having only been twice before, I joined my pals on both of our last two Thursdays for our exploration of the best, authentic global food in the global city in the center of Europe (#studyabroadprogramnamereference). Underneath the string lights and festive banner pins, the steam from Japanese takoyaki filled the air, smiling foodies scooped up Rosa Canina’s vegan ice cream into their mouths, and tourists posed at the entrance of the glimmering market ready to reap the “all the likes” on social media (so I naturally did the same thing with my Fritz-Limo soda in-hand).

Having been too overwhelmed by the unusually large crowd this past Thursday (it seemed as though it was everyone’s last week in Berlin), we bought Venezuelan arepas from the charismatic and charming owner of the market’s Venezuelan food stand. Not did we fangirl with the owner over our cultural connections, but we received the best gift of all; freshly-made arepas overstuffed at the owner’s request. Even though this may seem like a simple experience, these small moments are unique to my experiences abroad and are those I will definitely remember very soon as I get back to Chicago (#sayitaintso).

Arepas slayed my life

Arepas slayed my life

Besides fantastic food moments, this week, my study abroad squad and I had to bid our final “tschüss”-es to the pals we made during our classes at Humboldt University. Keeping in line with classic German outings, we attended the farewell party hosted by the university at a biergarten. We “prost”-ed with some drinks and reminisced with our friends, classmates, from all over the world, and even our professor over the laughs we had in our German class over “Angela Merkel’s lovers” and “Wir Schlafen Das” (credits to auto-correct for those jokes). For me, studying at the HU had been the study abroad experience I dreamed of, but did not expect to happen. While I learn quite a lot at Northwestern, what I loved about my classmates, professors, and the courses was the overall genuine curiosity we had for the subject and willingness to learn not to receive a grade (being that our classes were “pass or fail”), but to truly master a subject.

Humboldt to have studied here this summer 📖🖊#MGtakesBerlin #2DayLeft

A photo posted by Mauricio Gonzalez (@mauricio13g) on

I go into this final weekend still not being able to accept that my time is almost over, yet ready to head home to Chicago. I loved my experiences here, but that reflection is for another time (#foreshadowing). For now, I have to pack (#somethingsdontchange), and end my journey with an ice cream crawl (curated by Jesus) featuring Jesus’s and my favorite ice cream shops in Berlin. I’ll see you next time on the other side, not only with a full stomach, but a heart full of warm memories (wow, that was cheesy)…

Tschüss(e) Berlin

Today I went to my last class at the Humboldt University of Berlin, and I was hit with the realization that my time in Berlin has officially come to an end. I knew from the beginning that this day would come. However, after being in Berlin for over eight weeks, I got used to daily life in the city. I had a routine, and it felt like I had moved to the city indefinitely. I felt comfortable walking around and exploring new areas, navigating the public transport system (which was wonderful by the way), and trying different types of food. Right now I am planning what to do on my last full day in Berlin, and procrastinating packing (worried my luggage will weigh more than what is allowed).

I can’t help but feel bittersweet about leaving. As people say, “don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.” I’m definitely glad that I was able to come to Berlin, it was an incredible learning opportunity, both academically and personally. Berlin helped me grow as an individual as well. I am now more confident and willing to try and explore new things and have grown to embrace spontaneity and “go with the flow” more. So, I’m leaving Berlin with a positive outlook, but I have made so many memories here and honestly feel like Berlin is a second home for me now and don’t feel ready to leave. I’ve done so much in this wonderful city, but there is still so much more I haven’t even touched the surface of. Two months may seem like a long time, but in Berlin it’s not enough. All of this gives me a reason to want to come back (maybe by then I’ll be able to speak German better).

I may not be in Berlin for much longer, but the memories I made will stay forever. I had a wonderful time learning about Berlin’s culture and history, learning German with both Northwestern and Humboldt professors, and learning about the history, urban planning, and social issues of Berlin through lectures and excursions. One moment that will stay with me is the time we saw and sang Willst du mit mir gehn, a Nena song (it’s a great song) in my German class at Humboldt. I enjoyed all the incredible food (especially ice cream) that I had, and all of the beautiful sights I saw (Berliner Dom, TV Tower, so many honestly). More importantly however, I am thankful for the incredible friends I made on this trip. From staying up late and listening to music (got a noise complaint, oops), going to the Markthalle Neun every Thursday with my friend Alex (and sometimes Mauricio), constantly bickering with Mauricio in German class (friendly bickering), and just being plain silly, I’m going to miss seeing and hanging out with them everyday.

Markthalle Neun

Markthalle Neun

NENA | Willst du mit mir gehn [Official Video] from NENA on Vimeo.

Thanks for the memories Berlin. I hope to return one day, but for now, Tschüss!

Explore Berlin! Follow the ice cream!

I had high hopes for myself before this trip to Berlin. Maybe I’ll become rare wine expert, or a connoisseur of weird cheeses, or even, someone who is able to tell the difference between green and black olives. But unfortunately, none of that happened. Instead, my roommate and I found ourselves surviving on two euro per bottle wines and discount-store-bought “mozzarella”. But for you all budget-study-abroaders out there, I have good news about your Berlin food experience: the ice cream. Ice cream feeds the soul, and in Berlin, ice cream spots are everywhere, offering affordable, icy delights. So in the below list, I’m happy to present some of the most beloved ice cream shops by Northwesterners over the summer.

  1. Spots near Humboldt:

Giorgio Lombardi: About 15 to 20 minutes walk from the Humboldt University campus, it’s the perfect after school treat on those seven hour HU days. They offer amazing gelato and also icy desserts such as Affogatos and sundaes. Their coffee based ice cream flavours are pretty great, and they also have a variety of cool fruit based flavours to try out, such as banana ginger and strawberry basil.

Eismanufaktur: This is a chain with a shop in Kreuzberg and one about 10 minutes walk from the HU campus. They serve amazing fruit sorbets with a lot of lactose free and vegan options. If you walk fast, you can make it there and back during a Humboldt class break. (Just don’t try to go before it opens at 11, like we did.)

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  1. Kreuzberg:

Vanille & Marille: Probably one of the most visited places for Northwesterners over the summer. (Or maybe it’s just me? ) It is a chain with lots of shops across Berlin, serving lots of classic flavours like cherry yogurt, and pistachio. Its peanut brownies is probably one of the best scoops of ice cream I’ve had in Berlin. It is a 20 to 30 minutes travel from the hotel, but it’s worth it every time.

Anna Durkes: A very good gelato spot near all the cool restaurants in Kreuzberg. Also very close to the kreuzberg Eismanufaktur. A little pricy but very much worth it, especially its peanut caramel and pistachio flavours. Perfect for an after lunch treat on a Saturday in Kreuzberg.

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  1. Other spots in other places:

Jones: I love Jones. Jones has a physical store that is a 20 to 30 minute walk south from the hotel, but is also a regular vendor at street food festivals such as street food Thursdays at Markthalle Neun and the Bite Club on Eichenstrasse on Fridays. It serves freakingly amazing and silky ice cream flavours like whiskey pecan, cookie dough and milk chocolate pretzel. And the best part is, you can get all your ice cream in a freshly baked, warm waffle cone, which is pretty much what I imagine heaven tastes like.

Hokey Pokey: Woah this place is far away from everything. After going there for a couple of times, I honestly still don’t know where it is. But hey, just let Google maps lead the way. It serves very creamy and rich american style ice cream, and its salted caramel and french chocolate are all pretty great.

 

With Berlin offering so many diverse and outstanding ice cream options, it is very tempting to simply have ice cream for every meal every day. And hey, if you have the cherry yogurt at Vanille Marille, that’s fruit plus protein! But I would say that limiting yourself to 3 scoops per week is a good standard.

 

 

Before I Leave- Again

My experience in Berlin has, thus far, been nothing short of amazing. I’ve grown and matured in ways I previously thought never possible, and despite my strong dejection at having to leave this beautiful city, my experience here has shaped me and makes me even more confident to return to the States and pursue my academic and career goals. Since arriving in Berlin, I have been compelled to step out of my “comfort-zone” and confront many issues that I have not had to directly face back home. For example, in class, my professors encourage discussion and a critical analysis of German society. Witnessing issues of discrimination and societal problems in Germany forces me to understand and analyze said issues in the United States as well, as many issues in Germany often mirror those found in America. However, despite this, I still feel as if Berlin has become a second home for me. I’m already familiar with the public transportation system, I know some of the best restaurants and cafes in town, and I will sorely miss the city once I leave.IMG_1990

Also, despite having no prior knowledge of the German language, nor having taken any German courses at Northwestern prior to arriving in Berlin, I’m quite glad to say that my German skills have improved to a point where I am now able to strike up a basic conversation in the language with a stranger. Living in Germany has probably allowed me to learn more German than I would have learned if I took a full-year German sequence at school.

Willst Du Mit Mir Gehn: The Unplanned Adventure

Hello… it’s me. I was wondering if after all these [weeks] you’d like to [virtually] meet to go over everything [that I’ve done in Berlin since then]. I’ll stop there because there is a slight possibility that I am breaking several copyright laws #SorryAdele. Anyway, quick actual “study” abroad update: I have just surpassed the more-than-halfway point of my time at Humboldt University. Not only have I met a few talented, published and aspiring authors in my creative writing class that have challenged me to further develop my creative voice, but, thanks to Susann (the true MVP and my German language professor), I am no longer completely clueless of what the Berliners around me are saying (sort of..); however, to test my “refined” knowledge of the German knowledge, I decided to take a break from class this past Tuesday to get lost in Berlin (#vstudyabroad). So I hopped on the U-Bahn, and headed into Kreuzberg to make my first stop to try the “best” Döner in Berlin.

Before I begin, I would like make a disclaimer and say that I am in no way encouraging truancy, especially while studying abroad (because like, how can your study abroad experience be complete with “studying?”).

Upon arrival into Imren, the Turkish restaurant, I was greeted by the wonderful smell of the Döner meat; at that moment, I knew I had made a great first stop. Though I don’t have photographic evidence (you’ll have to believe me on this one), I successfully ordered a Döner im Brot (a Döner sandwich) in my broken German, and took a seat. The sandwich had been piled with meat, lettuce, sauce, and tomatoes, all only for 3.50 Euros. While I still do not know what Döner meat is made up of (then again no one knows what hot dogs are made up of either), I fell in love with it not only because it is cheap, but is, as the Germans say, “sehr lecker” (v yummy).

Needing to walk off my food döner baby, I meandered towards Tempelhof Feld, the largest park in a major city in the world (and an abandoned airport). Along the way, I managed to stumble into a park (not Tempelhof quite yet) that I long forgot the name of (#sorry), and saw something that caught my attention. What I learned moments later was the beauty of the unexpected that Berlin uniquely presents (take a look for yourself): IMG_5087 (1)

As I continued walking in the park with my eyes glued onto the Google Maps on my screen (#sotourist), I came across a miniature swamp right in the middle of the park. Seeing this reminded me that though Berlin astounds its visitors and inhabitants with its impressive TV Tower and fine food establishments, all of this had once been just like that swamp I stood before; I know that may sound lame, but it’s pretty cool when you really think about it. (or may that’s just to me…):

All beauty starts from somewhere.

All beauty starts from somewhere.

Shortly after, I set foot into the abandoned airport. Though I visited Tempelhof before, standing by myself in the never-ending park struck absolute awe in me. Countless people spent their days happily cycling, skating, walking, and go-karting through the field and the once-used airport runaways, and at the same time, this very space had undergone an extensive history (e.g. once reconstructed by the Nazis, but then taken over by the U.S. in the Cold War); that’s another thing I absolutely loved about Berlin: you can see the history in everything.

J chilling on top of a runway sign.

J chilling on top of a runway sign.

After having these rather philosophical thoughts, I continued my program-long adventure of eating the best ice cream in Berlin (see: Jesus Campos’ blog post) at Fräulein Frost. Upon arrival, I was not fooled by the intimacy of the small shop; I knew this place was the real deal. The clerk courteously smiled as she listened to my broken German and handed me the icey creation that went on to be the cherry of my adventure that day. Taking a seat at a table outside of the shop, I decided to take a selfie (#fortheSnaps) with this iced beauty only to see the surrounding Germans smiling at me the entire time (#exposed).

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Feeling a bit embarrassed, yet satisfied after eating the v fruity ice cream, I decided to be spontaneous and walk home. As soon as I searched up the directions for the hour-long journey back to the hotel, technology failed me and my phone died. Despite having no sense of direction, I still decided to walk back home. A few minutes later, I had no clue where I was. While I did panic at first, I became weirdly calm as I noticed everyone simply enjoying their day around me. I managed to walk further through Tempelhof, Kreuzberg, and Schöneberg after what seemed to be like an hour or so of walking. Sadly, I did give up as soon as I saw an S-Bahn station as my quick ticket back to the hotel.

When I got back and charged my phone, I noticed that I actually had been walking in the right direction (sort of). So after that long adventure, I walked away that day having maneuvered through the city as a true Berliner (again, sort of). Alright y’all, I’ll see you in a few (but actually this time)~