3 Things Berlin Has Taught Me: A Confession from A Foreign Student 

3 Things Berlin Has Taught Me: A Confession from A Foreign Student 

The Place That Stays in My Heart After Leaving

By Yi-Fang Wang

 

Last spring, my journey to Berlin as an exchange student led me to a broader perspective of both my life and the world. I feel grateful to have met so many great people and have had the invaluable opportunity to travel around Europe. Here, I am going to share three things that I learned after studying in Germany.

  1. Fear of the Language Barrier Shouldn't Stop You from Traveling

Just go, and then you’ll figure it out when you get there. I definitely felt alienated trying to buy food in the local supermarket on my second day. I presumed that I would at least see some English on the labels, however, the unlucky truth was that they were all in German. Even when I was checking out my purchases, I was lost when the cashier talked to me in German. I felt excluded when everyone around me was speaking in an unfamiliar language. So trust me when I say don’t worry, I got you. This initial feeling of exclusion is, in fact, only due to the slight chaos that you feel when you first step out of your comfort zone. Berlin is definitely a foreigner-friendly city; I couldn't count how many times I was helped by the locals while being lost in this mega-city. After a couple months of living there, I had perfected the use of body language and was able to talk to people in the mixture of English and some basic German. My main tip here will always be: “Smile! Be nice and polite when you need help.”

 

  1. Always Learn from the Past and Move on

Berlin is abundant in culture and history. You can’t come to the city without visiting East Side Gallery, Brandenburg Gate or joining one of the underground bunker tours. The historic ruins reminded me of the importance of learning from the past. Located on Kurfürstendamm Street in the city center, right next to the newly built church, you’ll find the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which holds a kind of beauty in its destroyed state – a reminder of the impact of the Second World War. Berlin is filled with a mix of old scars and modern innovation. The city itself is a lesson for all of us.

  1. The People are Your Walking Textbooks

Staying in a student WG (Wohngemeinschaft) with a shared common area is not only the best way to gain a couple of potential friends, as you and your flatmates should hopefully look after each other, but it also provides the excellent opportunity to talk to other international students with different cultural backgrounds. Personally, I learned a lot from my smart and interesting flatmates. Their thinking and advice was refreshing and helped to guide me when I needed it. One of the reasons why I am now here in Leeds, doing my master’s program, was because of how they inspired me.

Traveling, as most of the people say, is food for the soul. Berlin was the city which taught me to be bold, dream big and act out. The thought of stepping out of our comfort zone can be quite scary, but once you finally decide to act you’ll find that actually it’s not as scary as you’d thought. Really, just go and then you will figure it out on the way.  

By Yi-Fang Wang

 

Pictures are all the author’s own.