I am still alive. Was jetlagged for a couple days. It was not fun, but you know the deal; I am here on businesssssss! Okay, so week one….
Week one was a little crazy. First, let me say that I had a layover in New York for 8 hrs before I had my international flight. I think that was the real kicker in this whole thing. Because of that I was probably tired for one more day than the rest of the group. There was no chance I was sleeping on the plane. Don’t worry, some random stranger managed to talk my ear off the entire flight. He apparently did not like flying….
Anyway, I landed in Berlin on Wednesday around 11am, and our guide from the third party that arranged this whole experience was at the airport with other Pitt students. We took the train to the hotel to drop bags off, and then immediately went on a tour that had to be over two hours. It was pretty cool as we got to see some of the major landmarks right away like the Brandenburg Gate, remains of the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, and more. We even stood over Adolf Hitler’s bunker where he committed suicide as the Allies wrapped up WWII. It was very interesting to see how forward Germany is with their past. It is most definitely a good thing. We do not want history to repeat itself for sure. After the tour we went out for dinner. Britta, our guide, was so kind, and treated us. I assume it was in the tuition cost or whatever, but it was nice. The food and drink here is top notch. Still exploring that when I get a chance to. There are so many things to try.
Wednesday through Friday we had German class from 9-11am. It was brutal considering Duolingo did not treat me well. I am pretty sure all my initial pronunciation was incorrect on a lot of the basic things because of that app haha. It was hard to wake up for these classes, but I am thankful I went because it gave me some kind of small foundation to work off of since I barely know any of the language here. I am mainly focused on knowing how to greet people, how to order food, and how to say thank you. Hopefully, the rest kinda falls into place and I actually learn some things.
After German class on Wednesday, Britta took us on a tour of the Reichstag (German Parliment). The building was an architectural masterpiece. The building was damaged during WWII. To preserve the history, people designed around it, so it was almost like walking through a museum at the same time. On the top of the building was this glass and steel structure that allowed people too look down on their representatives. It is supposed to signify transparency in the government between the people and their representatives. From the top you could also get a good look at the city, which was also amazing.
Thursday was very busy. After class, we went to the German Historical Museum and then ti the Hertie School of Governance. We had a tour at the museum titled “From the Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany.” We figured we’d learn about what led up to the Nazi regime since we had learned so much about what happened because of it. It was interesting to hear about this particular period of history from a German perspective. I feel like in my high school history class we just learned about Germany losing WWI, Hitler writing “Mein Kampf.” and then there being a Nazi uprising going into WWII. Our tour guide really filled in the gaps on some things, and I found it to be quite interesting. The biggest takeaway from that was seeing a Nazi uniform in the flesh as well as a ton of propaganda. I feel like history books really do not emphasize the brightness of the red. It was a surreal moment for me. After that we took a walk to the Hertie School of Governance, which is a graduate school in Berlin. The cost to attend this school was so much less than what a grad school would be in the US. I laughed when we were told that. They do not skip out on anything despite the lower cost of admission. Their alumni network and faculty was pretty impressive. Myself and the students I were with were falling asleep towards the end of the tour during a presentation, but I fought back against my drowsy body and hit the tour guide with a couple legitimate questions as I was actually curious about how school is handled n Germany and Europe in general. Apparently public college in Germany is free. I wonder how much money the US spends to make sure we don’t hear about that. Must be nice haha.
During the last day of orientation we went to the National Contemporary Art Museum. Was very surprised to see so much from American artists. There was a good amount of Andy Warhol as well (shoutout Pittsburgh). It was one of the cooler museums I’ve been to. Cannot really speak on art because I am not an artist, and I probably do not know what I am saying, but I will say that I enjoyed the various digital pieces from the late 70’s that were made using early computers. Cool stuff for sure. After the museum we went to a bar that overlooked the zoo in Berlin. Nearly every song that came on in the bar I had heard before. I was in my element, and in that moment I was very happy that I made the decision to come here. Berlin is #hip.
It must be noted that Britta showed us around the entire first week. She was great all week. I had no idea how to manage the public transportation system. At one point I am sure all of us Pitt students looked like little ducklings following her into public transit and such. Hopefully, I will pick it all up in no time. I really have to because I work about a 30 min train ride away.
Will touch base again soon with some updates about my first week of work.