Christie Fatica (’20): “I Almost Gave Up but I Was Fine!”
Studying abroad taxed my mental strength more than I expected it to and I am glad that it did. I came to Berlin in September of 2018 ready for a full year of studying German. I knew I would need to get used to people speaking German all of the time and I would need to get used to a new city, but I spent seven weeks immersed in German a few weeks prior and I am from a big city in the United States. “I’ll be fine,” I thought. No. No, I was not. My first semester was rough. It turned out that learning how to use public transportation was scary. How do I take a bus? Do I show my transportation card? Why did the bus driver not stop at the stop I needed?! I quickly learned the answers to these questions. Berlin uses an honor system for public transportation. Some bus drivers want to see your pass, while others assume that if you’re on the bus, you have it; either way, it never hurts to show your card. If you want to tell the bus driver to stop at the next stop, you need to press one of the “stop” buttons on every other pole. I thought the buttons were for emergencies. I was very nervous exploring Berlin, so adjusting to a new city took me a while. Even then, I considered taking the second semester off to come home and just quit. During my break between semesters, I decided to face my fears of adjusting to a new city and a totally new language and traveled to 10 different cities in the space of five weeks alone, but visiting friends. I survived this trip without any major problems and I had a lot of time by myself. I learned how to use new public transportation immediately and not stress if I took the wrong train. The one big stress of my trip was how tired I was. It was five weeks of unfamiliar places.
When I returned to Berlin, I was home. I took a taxi from Tegel Airport to where I was living and I remember thinking to myself “thank goodness I’m back. I missed Berlin.”
Somewhere in Europe, I lost my uneasiness about traveling and began to think about the city I was a resident in as “home.” Wow, that was a great feeling.
During my second semester, I explored new places like I had not before. I started to go for runs and start in one direction and see where I would end up. I took the train so far out of the city that there were trees and mosquitos! Sometimes, I would take the long way to a destination just because I wanted to read my book for longer and see new scenery.
The mental fatigue I felt by the end of my first semester was completely gone by the end of my second. I had never been in such a situation before in my life, where every little stressor added up into a lot of very real stress. Now, as I prepare to graduate, I must think about where I want to live, and I consider moving to Indonesia… Thank you, Berlin, for giving me the chance to see what I am made of.