It seems crazy that three weeks have already passed on the program. That isn’t to say, however, that Berlin isn’t starting to become more familiar. Almost 21 days in and I’m finding that the streets and the shops are starting to look familiar in places not just around the hotel or the office. When I can I’ve tried taking multiple different routes to and from places like work or the gym, while also asking my coworkers places I need to check out. Whether on the day-to-day schedule or exploring the city in my free time with the group, I can really say that Berlin is starting to feel less foreign and more familiar.
Getting set into a weekly schedule has been nice. More and more places are easy to remember and the adventuring is also getting easier. It’s nice when you can get yourself across the city without Apple Maps or when you genuinely recognize a street when someone says its name. That being said though, the adventuring certainly hasn’t stopped. Thanks to a holiday last week, a couple others and I were able to take a weekend trip to Munich to discover more German culture.
The trip to Munich was such an interesting time. From the old city with its churches to the suburbs and train rides, there was so much to see and discover. We were able to explore the English Garden, take a morning trip to Dachau to learn first hand about he holocaust, and the others were even able to go for a hike in the mountains. It was such a wonderful experience catching a glimpse of an entirely new (and unique) German city.
However, as I have said, the past weeks have been a balance of discovery and settling in. When it comes to work it definitely feels good to really be in a routine and finding ways to adapt to challenges while learning from the tasks at hand. However, even with a routine, there are plenty of curveballs and ambiguity that arises during the daily 9-5. Working in an office that speaks German (unless asked otherwise), I can definitely say that I have faced my fair share of uncertain or unclear moments since starting at Residea. Although my German skills have served me well and are improving by the day, the challenges can at times seem pretty daunting.
From day one it was clear that the expectations for the office were for me to communicate to the best of my ability in order to improve my German skills (and make it easier for everyone else) while only using English when a task was unclear or I couldn’t say what I needed to. This has definitely been challenging but I can honestly say that my skills are improving very well and it is an amazing feeling to have a full conversation in a foreign language without really thinking twice. However, this improvement hasn’t come without a set method of improving and practicing.
One part of my daily routine when arriving at work after saying hello to my colleagues and checking my emails is for me to open up two online German-English dictionaries, google translate, and a verb conjugation webpage. I have a large notebook in front of my keyboard at all times and whenever I see a word I don’t know on the computer, on a paper, when I hear one from my colleagues or if I think of something I want to say, I will either use the computer or ask my coworkers and then promptly write it down in my notebook. My ultimate goal isn’t to have my face buried in notes trying to find a word, but it is a great resource if I know something I need to know is in there, and on top of that the process of looking up and writing down a definition is a prime way to add something to your vocabulary; I’m sure some words are in that book as many as 6-7 times by now.
I would say that there are definitely times when I just don’t know what was told to me and in the moment it can be nerve-wracking. But the last resort is to politely ask if they could repeat themselves in English. Beyond the language barrier, however, the tasks and expectations have been straight-forward. The office is a fairly relaxed atmosphere and everyone is open to answering my questions or helping me out if something appears unclear to me. My goal is to keep improving and working to keep the ambiguity at bay, and by the end of the program I have set my sights on going (at least) an entire day one speaking German.