It has almost been a whole entire month in Berlin and boy does that feel weird to say. I really cannot believe how fast the summer is flying by here, but I am enjoying every single moment of it. I think that over the course of this week I have really started to truly love Berlin. When I first arrived I was a little overwhelmed with the language barrier and was partially expecting a more compact large scale city like New York, however, as my time has progressed here I have found Berlin to be one of my favorite places I have ever been and I have really grown to appreciate how unique it is as it is unlike any city I have ever been before. Although Berlin is the second largest city in the European Union behind London, I have found it to be one of the most clean cities I have ever been to. Additionally, I love how the city is not tourist dominated and truly has a very young, culturally diverse, and artistic vibe unlike some of the other places that I have been. I also think that my trips to other European cities have made me appreciate Berlin even more and reinforce how happy I am to be spending over 2 months here!
Sirius officially filed their annual reports and financial statements on Monday (06/03) and although the results were officially released I continued to help my boss who was in London for the week for a shareholder meeting with preparing the investor relation presentation. I feel like I am finally getting adjusted to the routine of working 9-5:30 and am glad to feel like I am starting to become apart of the office environment even though I only really interact with the people within the Finance department. Outside of the office I spent my whole Tuesday volunteering with Coca-Cola Germany by cleaning up trash at a local park in Haselhorst, Berlin. It was a really cool experience and I even got the time to speak with a younger kid working at Coke who is a Syrian refugee attending school in Germany while also working for the company. It was extremely interesting hearing his perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis, what it is like to live in Germany and the EU as a refugee, and his aspirations to one day be able to travel to the United States for a vacation. All in all, it was an extremely humbling experience and he encouraged me to see as much of the United States as possible as he expressed regret not taking more time to see Syria since he never knows if he will ever get to go back home. Following the day of volunteering in the forest I headed over to Kreuzberg where a few friends and I went to Badeschiff, a pool that actually sits in the river. It was so cool being able to lay on the beach area and swim in a pool that is actually located in the river that flows right through Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Finally, my busy Tuesday finished up with dinner with my family before the left to head back home. It was really nice getting to see my mom, dad, and brother and share my experience in Berlin and Prague with them. Wednesday I again went to another Alba Berlin Basketball playoff game against Oldenberg with my coworker, her husband, and my roommate Dylan. Berlin won to go up 2-0 in the series and ended up sweeping Oldenberg so they now play Bayern Munich in the finals this week.
Thursday was a hectic day as I had to rush home from work to finish packing up my things and then took an hour long subway ride to Berlin Schoenefeld airport for my flight to London! I was so excited to be able to get to see a city that outside of Berlin probably would have been my second choice for a study abroad location. Additionally, it was really nice that Monday was a holiday in Germany so I got to spend all Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and half of Monday in such a cool city. The flight into London was an experience to say the least as I flew Ryanair which is essentially the equivalent to Spirit Airlines and the boarding process and seats on the plane were not too great, but I was going to London so I really should not complain. I arrived in Stansted around midnight and had about an hour commute to Camden Town to the Airbnb that I would be staying in for the weekend. Friday in London was jammed packed with fun things! I started off the day by going down to see the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and the Tower of London. It was beautiful on the riverbank where there were lots of skyscrapers, shops, and music going on. I also got to see the Shard which is a very interesting skyscraper in London that is almost shaped like a thin Pyramid. Following my time at the Tower Bridge I headed over to spend time in and around St. Paul’s Cathedral which was absolutely beautiful. Next, I headed over to Buckingham Palace, walked through St. James Park, saw the memorial for the Battle of Britain, walked to the London Eye, and saw Westminster and Big Ben. Everything was so cool, however, it was sad that Big Ben was completely covered in scaffolding so you really could not see it. Finally, I finished the day returning to Camden where I walked along the river walkway before going on a pub crawl with some friends from Pitt. Saturday it was the Queen’s birthday so I we headed over to the parade, walked to an art market, and went to the British museum. Finally, we finished off the day going to Primrose Hill which is a beautiful park and hill one stop from Camden that overlooks the city. It was a beautiful sunsets and one of my favorite things thad I was able to do all weekend. Sunday I took some time in the morning to walk around Camden and see all the vendor shops which was absolutely packed with tourists and local residents. Overall, I found Camden to be a really interesting place that was packed with shops and places for a fun night out. The area that students were staying in Camden from Pitt, however, is much different than my location here in Berlin. In Berlin we stay in Charlottenberg which is one of the most affluent and wealthy areas in all of Berlin and is mostly dominated by up-scale shopping. Camden, on the other hand, is full of bars, clubs, and lots of the night life in London has to offer. Although it may not feel as safe, I wish our location was similar in Berlin as it would make exploring the parts of the city that younger students like myself would be interested in seeing. I think that if we stayed in Kreuzberg, for example, it would be a similar experience. Sunday I again went to the Tower Bridge area, walked to a cathedral, went to the Borough Market, went to a really good breakfast place where I had my first full breakfast since leaving home (boy did I miss bacon), went to a ping pong bar called bounce, visited SoHo and Chinatown! Finally, on Monday it was pouring rain all day so I was slightly limited as to what I could do so we went bowling at an arcade center, had lunch, and went mini-golfing. The trip in London was absolutely amazing and full of unforgettable experiences. It was a really cool experience being able to travel to a city that I have always dreamed of visiting while also getting to compare the similarities and differences between London and Berlin. I think London would be such a fun and exciting city to spend a summer in as there are literally endless things to do, and the night life seems to be extremely fun and much more similar to what we are used to in the states. It was also a really nice break being able to spend a weekend in an english speaking city as well. However, I did find London to be a lot dirtier than Berlin in general even in the nicer places but I think that is just because Berlin is the cleanest city I have ever seen in my entire life. Additionally, the food in London is horrible to say the least so I can officially say I will not be missing that part. After two long commutes to the airport I am finally back in Berlin and can officially say I have been in the two largest cities in the European Union!
Finally, I would like to talk about assimilating in German culture and what parts have been the hardest to adapt to. As I have discussed in previous blogs I found that I did indeed experience culture shock about a week into the trip, Whenever I first arrived I was in complete awe with all the city had to offer, however, I soon began to get frustrated with the fact that no one would ever speak English and that I would get some interesting looks whenever people heard my american English accent, yet I now do not mind the language barrier and have found that almost every single person I interact with can speak the language in one way or the other. The language barrier as a whole has actually made me become much more appreciative of other people who come to the United States and are able to learn to speak English. You often hear kids complaining about teachers accents at school but I find it amazing that those individuals can even teach a class in their non-native language. Finally, I think it is amazing that people are so willing to immediately switch over to English whenever I reply to them whereas in the United States people would put in absolutely no effort and be extremely annoyed if someone tried to speak something other than English.