Julia Gutterman (’20) on living in Berlin-Schöneberg
During the spring/summer of 2019, I studied abroad in Berlin through the IES Berlin Language and Areas study program. Studying abroad was a major highlight of my college experience. I think, had I not been in a city as special as Berlin, my feelings towards studying abroad would be different. As a multicultural melting pot, Berlin offered an endless amount of activities and events that made it so easy for me to want to stay during weekends and holidays instead of traveling. That being said, because of the city’s location and size it was also so easy to travel to other places throughout eastern and central Europe. Something that I really appreciated and came to love from my time in Berlin was my home-stay. It was intimidating at first, thinking about having to adjust to this new city and culture, all while avoiding using English in a home with a new family and no other American students. Within the first few days, any worries I had were completely squashed as I came to love spending time at my host-apartment and getting to know my host-mom and host-sister (and host-dog!). The wonderful thing about living with a host family is that you feel so much more integrated into your city, as opposed to living in a dorm with other American students. I came to really love my neighborhood, along with having so much fun visiting friends on my program who lived in other districts spread throughout Berlin.
Another thing I was pleasantly surprised by during my time in Berlin was how quickly you get comfortable with speaking German. I remember being so worried that my German skills would not suffice when I arrived in Berlin and that I would have a terrible time trying to communicate with my host-family, professors and any other Berliners I came across.
After about five weeks into my program, I noticed my speaking skills were improving so much more than I thought they would. It happens so organically, just a byproduct of having to speak German at home, in class and when shopping or going out.
Berliners are surprisingly patient with non-native speakers, which made it a lot easier to embrace making mistakes and learning and improving from them. It was around this time when I was really starting to feel like I had made a place for myself in Berlin, and I was starting to truly fall in love with the city.
Whether you study abroad in Berlin, Munich, Vienna or any other city, I think studying abroad is an invaluable experience that helps you grow so much as a student and as an individual. My time studying abroad is held very fondly in my heart and I would highly, highly recommend it for anyone who may be interested.