Becoming a Berliner

Today (July 16th) marks two weeks in Berlin, and I could not be enjoying myself more. Universities in Germany generally do not have dorms, as most students attend a school close to home. Consequently, the university arranged for us to live in the Hotel 4 Youth. Although everyone else in the program has a roommate, the girl I was supposed to room with had to back out of the program last minute, so I have the room to myself. It is small but satisfactory. The hotel is located in the center of the city, which makes it easy to explore. As a result, I don’t really spend much time in the hotel expect to sleep, shower, and eat free breakfast.

It takes approximately 30 minutes to commute to the Berlin School of Economics and Law. The city of Berlin is vastly large, so this is a relatively short and simple trip. The university is in a quieter area of the city then the hotel. Each week of the program we have a different lecturer.

They all want to teach us as much as possible and gives us the tools to be successful entrepreneurs. The classes have a laid back structure in terms of focus, which allows us to learn about the areas we are specifically interested in. This week, the president of the university was our professor; he was very knowledgeable, as he has a lot of experience with startups and venture capitalism. This upcoming week, we will be working with startup companies with the intent of helping them develop their business plans.

Berlin is a rapidly growing city. While there is all of the history and landmarks, it is currently developing into a modern city. In fact, clubbing is a huge deal here. They are fun but a little too intense for my taste. I feel safe in the city, even when I am travelling alone. The public transit is manageable and convenient. With a monthly pass that cost only 80 Euro, I have been able to travel all over on bus, subway, train, and tram without any issues. The food options are quite diverse. It is much more than just pretzels and bratwurst. There are döner kebab stands and pizza shops on every corner.

Rules are very important to Berliners. When they say class is at 9, they mean class starts at 9. It is considered rude to be even one minute late; punctuality is a must. They also religiously obey the crosswalk signs – if the walk signal is not on, they do not walk, even if there are absolutely no cars or bikes. The first few days I was here, I received numerous dirty looks for jaywalking. I have since learned my lesson and now wait along with everyone else.

All of the locals speak English. Most speak many other languages; one of my classmates from Switzerland is fluent in seven different languages. I feel quite inferior in that I can only speak English. I am trying to learn German, but it is difficult for me; I only have the very basics down.

My classmates are from all over the globe, including Chile, Australia, Scotland, India, Hong Kong, and Russia. I have gotten very close with some of them. One of my friends from Australia is even looking into doing a semester exchange at Pitt next year! I was surprised how similar pop culture is around the world. With the exception of a few regional American slang words, we all understand each other’s references, and they know just as much about American politics as I do.

I am looking forward to the upcoming week but not the fact that it is my last week here. I still have so much to do and see!