My Study Abroad Experience to Berlin: Gillian Kerner

Before going abroad I lived in a bubble, like most people often do. This bubble cultivated the majority of my personality – but not its entirety. It would take me traveling across the world to realize this.

I knew I wanted to study abroad since freshmen year. The question was where. I’d heard of the typical destination choices: Barcelona, Florence or Paris, among a few others. But when I heard these names, I didn’t feel anything. Then one day, a girl in my sorority, who is now the person I am most thankful for in life, mentioned a city called Berlin. She even said that I’d do well there.

It sounded foreign to me, but in a good way. I was intrigued by its anonymity. So, when it came time to decide where to go, I put my trust in a girl that I sometimes had lunch with and embarked to Deutschland.If I could summarize Berlin in a couple of words, they’d be cold, cool and cultured.

Every stranger I met there would tell me: you should’ve come in the summertime! It’s so much nicer then! I would try to smile, but my face was usually too numb for any type of reaction. Berliners were born cool: they were around before the word hipster was used and abused here in the states.

The best part of this trip, aside from the cool weather, was the people I met there. More specifically, two girls that go by the name of Alexa & Erica.

Alexa and Erica both hailed from the west coast, an imaginary idea of life for an east coast gal like myself. Alexa was from Washington and was adamant about everything she believed in. I’d never experienced so much passion from one single person before, especially about the environment (see below). It was invigorating and slightly alarming at times. Nonetheless, I never got sick of her company.


Source: Gillian Kerner

Erica came from “The Bay” of California. Her valley voice was almost asnintriguing as her knack for random trivia. She would respond to my stories with “wow, that’s so interesting” and genuinely mean it. We’d compare pictures of our cats and then laugh at how single we were. She was a homie from the start.



Source: Gillian Kerner

Soon enough, the three of us were inseparable. We embarrassingly became known as “The Girls” in my program but wore the name proudly. I found myself replacing every one’s name with “dude” and began to lose sight of my bubble. We shared stories and I heard their tales of traveling the world. I watched the BBC every morning to contribute to their worldly discussions. They encouraged me to try new things like Indian food and bubble tea. They would explain politics to me without making me feel stupid.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel lonely abroad. Especially when you’re located in a city that doesn’t speak your language. Thankfully the three of us understood this without saying it. On the nights we weren’t out clubbing till sunrise, we would be cooped up on my twin bed in my makeshift movie theatre. We hated being apart.

Erica would gently push me to speak more German in public and Alexa could convince me to participate in late-night activities. I’d never felt so alive and in the moment before.

My bubble didn’t evaporate. I like to think it expanded across the continent to include this city that claimed my heart. Alexa, Erica and I all share this sentiment.

I feel extremely lucky to have been charmed by the magic of Berlin, as well as the irreplaceable friendships I made there.