Reflections on Berlin – A Year LaterBerlin, Fall 2008
I am writing to you from a place of great upheaval, called Senior Spring. Yet, as I took a semester off to remain for the spring of 2009 in Berlin, I am an observer of my friends’ frenzy – being a semester behind, I am only graduating in the fall of 2010. This gives me the opportunity to reflect on my friends’ fears and dreams of the “real world” outside of college with somewhat more distance. This distance has also been lent to me by my time in Germany. The ones who went abroad for a semester are significantly less angsty of the future than those who did not, and are also willing to take greater risks (go work in Europe, take a year off to travel, etc). Once I graduate, I plan on returning to Europe, perhaps Berlin, perhaps elsewhere, to continue my studies. I am writing my thesis on the Berlin wall and something called psychogeography.
Last month, an old IESer came to visit me in Boston, and as a joke, we tried to recite the stations of the U-8 going from Spandau to Neukoelln. No avail – we had forgotten names and places that we had been able to spin off of the tips of our fingers in the past. You forget a lot of things about your time abroad – for many, no doubt, it’s a small slice of their life that has been shelved neatly in their personal repertoire of “character-building experiences” alongside volunteering in a third-world country and going to a frat party.
But the year abroad has not been lost, only archived. The short-lived experiment of being an ex-pat is still there to pull out and unfold at any moment. These moments may be when I hear German on the street, or meet foreign students here in Boston and welcome them: if study abroad does not teach anything else, it teaches American students about the relativity of culture – even at a micro-level, things works differently in different countries. Thus, no matter how prevalent the mainstream may be, there is always an alternative.
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