It Is Very Important That You Come To Berlin

In Berlin, The Art of Travel, 14. Tips by CaraLeave a Comment

I would like to begin this post by highly recommending you study abroad at NYU Berlin. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am that I ended up here. Over the summer leading up the my departure, I was seriously considering backing out. This was mainly because I was having such a fun time in New York, I felt so comfortable, and I had finally figured out what I wanted to focus my concentration on. However, I knew that the fact that I felt so comfortable and at home in New York was exactly the reason I needed to leave. Sometimes you just have to shake things up, you know? Anyways, Berlin is now my favorite city I have ever been to. I know there are so many more places I need to explore but Berlin feels like home. Over the course of the semester I have learned so much and it is my pleasure to share some of it here as the semester gradually comes to an end.

 

  1. Some Perks of the Program:
    1. I cannot recommend NYU Berlin enough. The site is small — Fall semester is generally about 70-80 students while Spring is closer to 130 students — so everyone got to know each other and I felt comfortable hanging out with a wide variety of people. The administration is amazing — they are incredibly helpful and are clearly looking out for our best interests. I have been able to learn so much about Berlin’s history through a unique lens while studying here. And I have felt very supported by the administrators and my professors.
    2. Excursions: NYU Berlin takes students on amazing excursions throughout the semester that are geared towards learning and experiencing new places and their histories. They are so much fun and so easy to participate in — take advantage!
  2. Preparation
    1. I did little to no research about Berlin in the months and weeks leading up to my arrival. I did not really know what to expect, other than the alleged gray skies and German standoffishness. I am actually glad that I came in blind because I had no expectations that could be challenges — I was able to just experience Berlin for what it is.
  3. Where to live?
    1. In general, NYU Berlin students can either live in the residence or in single apartments located in another building a bit of a way’s away. This semester, the single apartments were not offered so I do not know much about them. I personally loved living in the dorms. The residence is located in Checkpoint Charlie, a touristy, unattractive area of Kreuzberg if you ask me. However, it is in such a central location that it is pretty easy to get anywhere from it by taking public transport. In addition, we had such a strong community within the dorm that I had so much fun hanging out there. While it certainly can disconnect me from the city in a sense because it is all NYU students in the dorm, I think that the comfort value helped me with adjusting to Berlin.
  4. Weather/What to Wear
    1. While we were repeatedly warned of how bleak and gray Berlin is for most of the months in a year, we got extremely lucky this semester with blue skies and warm air lasting until November. For Spring semester kiddos, it will probably be pretty cold so bring your warmest clothing.
    2. Wear black.
    3. Berliners value comfort over fashion. I have observed that most people here will choose a comfortable pair of sneakers over statement stilettos. However, that is not to say that Berliners do not have style. They have just mastered the art of blending comfort and a unique, laid-back, yet distinctly ‘Berlin’ look. Think long black coats and platform doc martens with cropped hair cuts and fresh faces. At least that is the look I have observed while standing in long queues for clubs. I hope to steadily adapt to this look so that by the time I am able to return to Berlin I have mastered the outward vibe.
  5. Food
    1. I came to Berlin knowing about its extensive vegan scene, however, I did not know how seamlessly vegan options were integrated into the city’s eateries. Some of my favorite vegan spots (that everyone should try, regardless of whether or not you are vegan) are: Good Morning Vietnam (all vegan Vietnamese restaurant with a beautifully-long menu), Brammibal’s Donuts, La Stella Nera (vegan Italian food with calzones that are to die for), Kopps (go for buffet-style vegan brunch on the weekends), and Vietnam Village (down the street from NYU Berlin’s Academic Center — I went at least once a week).
    2. Food is generally MUCH cheaper in Berlin than in New York so I took advantage of that and bought a cheap lunch most days between classes.
  6. Cafes
    1. I spent a lot of my time doing my schoolwork in cafes. Ordering coffee is a great way to practice German and setting up shop outside of the AC or the residence helped me see more of the city, even when I was swamped with work. You can’t really go wrong — there are so many great ones in every neighborhood.
  7. Clubs and Bars
    1. While going out does not need to be a part of your Berlin experience if you don’t want it to be, I think it is very worthwhile to experience Berlin nightlife. For the most part, I have found that the clubs are more about dancing and enjoying good music than about ‘being seen.’
  8. Homework
    1. Do not waste time stressing out over your homework. I am not saying that you shouldn’t do your work — you should! And you should take advantage of the fact that so many of NYU Berlin’s courses hone in on Berlin — both its history and its future. But you should not sacrifice exploring and experiencing Berlin and Germany as a whole by holing up in your room with work from dawn until dusk. What I realized about halfway through the semester was that I was spending too much time on assignments that were not meant to be stressful and not enough time taking advantage of the city. It is all about your mindset! Tell yourself that nothing is so crucial that it should cause you to miss out on such a wonderful opportunity to live in Berlin for four months and you will find a way to balance schoolwork and FUN!
  9. Homesickness/Adjustment Period
    1. I was not expecting to go through such a stressful adjustment period but I was surprisingly anxious and homesick for the first few weeks. Navigating new social dynamics is always difficult but once I was able to convince myself that nothing is set in stone and everything always ends up working out, I was able to appreciate all the connections I was making and relationships I was forming. Talking to my family and friends from home was helpful and throwing myself headfirst into new experiences and situations helped me to gradually become more comfortable in Berlin. By October I was completely over my homesickness and now I never want to leave 🙂
  10. LEARN!
    1. You will learn so much more about Berlin’s past, present, and future through everyday life, courses, and various events hosted by NYU Berlin. It is impossible to not be immersed in Berlin’s rich culture. Take courses that are Berlin-focused and practice your German when possible — it will enrich your study abroad experience.
  11. Explore!
    1. Community gardens and parks!
    2. Tempelhof
    3. Neighborhoods: Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Neukölln
    4. Museum Island
    5. Flea markets (Mauerpark, Raw Flohmarkt)
  12. There is so much more but you will have to come and experience it for yourself!!!
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(Image: Being Tourists :); Source: none)

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