So I’ve been in Berlin for about five weeks (or so), and wow! Time flies! Lately I’ve been reflecting on the reasons I decided to leave my family and friends and travel to a continent I’ve never visited before for most of my summer. Previously, I had only been up and down the East Coast, and twice to Arizona when I was under the age of seven. I wasn’t satisfied for a long time, and I thought that if I didn’t take advantage of study abroad, I’d enter grad school/work life and just become complacent with barely travelling. I waited until I found the program that suited me most: a place where I knew some of the language, had cultural significance, could provide me with credits and work experience. So when I searched programs in Germany on the Pitt study abroad website, about a year and a half ago now, this one stood out to me. I was a freshman at the time, so too young to do it that summer, but I kept this in the back of my mind until I was eligible. It’s been so satisfying to be able to follow through with what was once just a vague hope. Of course, reality has also struck. Travel can be annoying, it’s really difficult to be away from everyone I know, and working an unpaid internship from 9:30-5:30, 5 days a week, is draining wherever you are. I think not making money this summer has also been frustrating. I can’t really take up another job here in Germany, because I don’t really know how international working laws would work and I already spend so much time at Awin. However, I think having an international internship really helps so that I can land a wonderful (paying) internship next summer, so I’m sticking with it.
There were a few reasons I decided on Germany. My family background is primarily English/Irish, but on my mom’s side there is German and Scandinavian as well. Her maiden name is “Lange” and yet the only thing I knew about Germany growing up was the horrible events of 70 years ago. I was always very familiar with the British/American colonial side- I grew up with British movies and TV, was just about as fluent with their history as I am with America’s, and in the past my family has visited places such as Plymouth Rock to learn about our ancestors’ history. I knew next to nothing about the German side. Understandably, a lot of families with German history ditched that influence after the World Wars, leaving most descendants unable to speak a word of German and unfamiliar with traditional dishes (with the exception of the Pennsylvania Dutch, perhaps). I completely understand the reasoning behind this, but I think the script has flipped a bit. Germany has accepted more refugees than most countries in Europe, they have banned any symbolism of Nazism (except for educational purposes), they have tributes all over the country to their past, and are openly ashamed with what happened. America is, in some parts, going backwards. With a president shutting down borders and backed by those who wave the Confederate flag with pride, I take comfort in a country that has come to terms with its past as gracefully as Germany. It gives me hope for my own country, that has its own despicable history (and present) that it likes to so conveniently forget about. I do love what America tries to stand for, but I am very worried for it at the moment. Since I’ve been overseas, I’ve heard clips of children being stripped from their parents, seen some of the most groundbreaking civil rights advancements such as marriage equality and reproductive freedom face their most significant threats in years, and complete political polarization. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen any of the “huge spike in crimes by refugees happening in Germany” that the US president goes on about. I have seen a multicultural city that has learned from the mistakes of its past. So as America takes a disturbing direction, I have been very grateful to spend time in this unique city.
ON A SIDE NOTE: had a very fun party with my co-workers by the Spree River on Wednesday… and they responded to Germany losing in the group stage of the World Cup by turning up the music even louder, not a single tear shed, classic German attitude 😉
Other side note: Am I just bad luck? Why does EVERY country I visit/live in crash and burn at the World Cup. SMH.