Alexandria Clemons, Pre-Berlin 2017!

Hey guys! My name is Alex and I am officially a junior at NU. I am a Legal Studies major born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My job here is to update you all summer long with a bunch of interesting stuff from overseas. So here goes my first post lol.

I am filled with excitement as I prepare to study abroad in Berlin, Germany. This is very scary for me and something very new, but I am pretty sure I am going to benefit from it. For starters, getting your personal items together is very stressful like insurance, medical check-ups, funds, and packing. I had about three different doctors appointments in one day because I have a dad who cares deeply about my health. I already know I am going to have troubles coming back because my luggage was already over the 50lb limit which is fine because I have a numerous amount of clothing options. Now that it is really hitting me that I will be in another country, I cannot help but to think what a German is going to say when I pull out my German-English dictionary and awkwardly walk around like a tourist. I will try my best to avoid that, but at this point I only know basic words even though I am positive my German vocabulary will expand along the way. I have received many mixed opinions about going to this foreign land. Some are worried for me while others are very excited. The main debate that is always up in the air for me is “How will you be treated as an American?”. I honestly think I will be fine, I have nothing but respect for the culture and I have a genuine interest in learning more about the people and the wonderful country that I am in.

I have a few friends and family who have been to Berlin. They suggested a couple of restaurants and “tourist” attractions. I am finally realizing that I will be away from home for two months in another country which is way different from being away from home in the SAME country. But, a cliche as this sounds, it is a one in a lifetime chance. The experience and exposure is going to be grand!

I have to adapt to the culture and hopefully adopt it as well.

Lets gooooooooooooooooo!

 

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Berlin And Beyond

Hey hey! My name’s Laura Hernandez and welcome to my (soon-to-be) Berlin study abroad blog posts! I promise sporadic but hopefully ~fun and cool~ updates all. summer. long. so stay tuned because the best is yet to come!

So a little about me: I’m a rising Junior (what when did that happen) at Northwestern majoring in English Lit and Cultural Anthropology and recently also added a minor in International Studies. I’m originally from right outside of Philly, but on the New Jersey side, and I get aggressive about defending my home state so pls no dirty Jersey or Jersey Shore jokes, thanks. I have two brothers and two sisters who are the loves of my life and who I miss terribly when I’m at school–and I’ll miss them all for sure this summer too!

Full disclosure, I know next to no German, and I am leaving for Berlin in TWO days. Am I freaked out by that? A little. Do I know how this summer is about to go down in a country I’ve never been to and a language I don’t even know? Absolutely not. But let me tell you I am ready for the challenge. I have wanted to study abroad ever since middle school, and now that dream is actually happening, so that’s unreal. Berlin is such a rich city for art, literature, music, history, and so so much more and I am incredibly pumped to get to experience it all in just a few days. It is such a cliche to say that study abroad is one of the top life-changing experiences a student can have, but lately I’ve been really focusing on that and knowing that it’s about to become my cliche reality too, and I couldn’t be more excited. That being said, I should probably start packing soon and getting my life together. Feeling lowkey nervous but highkey thrilled about getting this thing started! Until next time, friends!

(p.s. I’m the one cheesing on the far right in the black NU cap yay go ‘Cats)

 

Prepared for Panik

As I prepare to head to the airport, I go through my luggage for what must be the twentieth time.

Not pictured: day pack filled with other essentials & my traveling clothes\

While I’m beyond excited to study and explore Berlin, I’m terrified that I’ll either bring too much (and be stuck schlepping extra weight around Germany) or too little (and add an unexpected expense to an already expensive trip). My clothing choices will give me dozens of outfit options each day, and two pairs of walking shoes keeps me under my 15kg checked bag limit as well as showcasing my personality—is that important? I read somewhere that that’s important—that clothing is a source of pride, or individuality, or both, or something. Was it a guidebook? Maybe. A student at the orientation?

*breathe*

I might be overthinking this.


My flight leaves a few days earlier than the program’s start date, giving me time to get familiar with the city and comfortable with the culture. Still, I’m preparing for the waves of embarrassment that I’m sure are coming when asked a question in German and I must politely ask for an English translation. Honestly, I’m not so anxious about my language skills as I am about coming across as a stereotypical American student. Not that I’m ashamed of my nationality by any means, but I want to be able to fit in for a few minutes at a time. Even if I can’t pass as a native Berliner, I want people to be curious about where I’m from and why I’m interested in the place they call home.

Having mentioned the program to friends and coworkers, I now have suggestions for places to eat, drink, sleep, and explore—more than I could ever cover in a few months. If I manage to find any free time between the robust, fast-paced programming offered through NU IPD (via Humboldt University of Berlin) my intention is to begin working on this list; yet, I’m going to save a few experiences as excuses to return on future trips.

My expectations are based on secondhand sources and popular accounts of what is in store for the next few months, but firsthand experience could shatter all these expectations: I’m prepared to be flexible and fully embrace all that this global city has to offer.

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!