Navigating uncertain waters

I started off the week with a bit of uncertainty when my laptop broke last Monday. Navigating that for the past week has been a difficulty I have faced while living abroad. Fortunately, my roommate was kind of enough to let me use her laptop for submitting these assignments. Nevertheless, this week was a short work week as we had Thursday, May 30 off for Ascension Day. Many of us took or were given that Friday off and decided it was a good long weekend to take advantage of some travel. My roommate and I had booked flights to southern France a few weeks prior, and were looking forward to this trip since then.

On Thursday in the late morning, we awoke and prepared to head to the airport for our fun, adventurous weekend. After arriving at the airport, we soon after realized our flight had been delayed and had to kill some time at the gate. We sat at a cafe and chatted for a while, planning out some more details for our relatively spontaneous weekend. 

Upon arriving in Toulouse, we checked into our quaint, old-fashioned hotel, and proceeded to walk around and explore the beauty of this small but eclectic city in southern France. Nicknamed the “pink city”, we admired the gorgeous architectural styles and plentiful Spanish roofs. We stopped in a square for delicious French food and drinks, and then continued to walk around, enjoying the stunning sunset and observing the local culture. One main difficulty we noticed throughout the trip however, was the lack of English spoken in these towns. In some ways, this acted more as culture shock in comparison to anything we’ve experienced here in Berlin thus far.   

The next morning we arose rather early, trying to seize every bit of the sunny day as possible. We explored our last bits of Toulouse before heading to the train station to make our way to Carcassonne, an enclosed city from medieval times. Though we only got to spend an hour in Carcassonne, I’m so glad we decided to make the stop. It was beautiful to see how well maintained it was and something I will always remember about this trip. After Carcassonne, we made our way to our destination for the next two days: Carcassonne to Beziers to Serignon, where our airbnb was located. From Serignon, after walking around there for a bit, we headed to the beach, Valras Plage. After more exposure to southern French culture with a delayed bus and public transportation system, we finally arrived at the beach and enjoyed a nice evening laying out in the sun. We had an interesting occurrence trying to get back to our airbnb later that night as we didn’t realize the public transportation system shut down before 9pm. We began walking home before coming across a outdoor shack restaurant where we met really kind locals who offered to drive us home. We all had our guard up, as this is not something that typically happens in the states without an accompanied feeling of worry and anxiousness. To our delight and surprise, it was simply a good, kind, benevolent deed. This resonated with me and reminded me of South Africa’s ubuntu culture I fell in love with in my time studying abroad there.  

Saturday morning, we enjoyed sleeping in a bit longer than we had the past few days and then grabbed coffee and pastries in Serignon before making our way back to Valras Plage for a relaxing beach day. We spent most of the day at the beach and in the surrounding town before heading back to pack and get ready to head on home early Sunday morning. After a long day of traveling – planes, trains, and buses – we finally made it back to our home in Berlin around 4pm and enjoyed a hot but pleasant dinner out. 

With regards to my internship, I think I experience the most uncertainty when it comes to receiving direction and being heavily self reliant. I don’t always get a lot of direction in terms of what work to do specifically, and am left to navigate that independently. But, I have come to appreciate it at a growing and maturing experience. Ambiguity also comes in the way of the evident language barrier. Many of them speak German alone to each other, and as as absolutely beginner learner of the language, I’m clueless as to what they’re saying almost a hundred percent of the time. This makes contributing my voice much more difficult than would be in an internship back home in the states. However, as we are only three weeks in, I believe I will continue to develop and hone these skills, and learn to navigate the waters of my work place, pushing myself to speak up and ask questions when necessary, giving the work a shot even without full guidance, and showing interest even when they are communicating in a foreign language. I’m excited for what the next several weeks have in store for me and my peers!