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Editor's Note: Katie Work is spending the semester abroad and will blog about her experience here. You can also follow her on Instagram @runaway.kate
For the last month, I have been falling in love with the new location that I am studying in - Berlin, Germany. No matter what words I use to try to explain Berlin, I will never be able to place a finger on what makes Berlin so Berlin. It is synonymous with the word cool. But Berlin is not just any kind of cool. It is a particular kind of cool. The uniqueness of Berlin has made me not want to leave the city. Here, it is about who you are not what you are.
This motto that the city subconsciously runs by has seeped into my studies and my activities. I find myself acting as a Berliner. I have done things that the Germans would say “das ist so Berlin” or “that is so Berlin.” I studied at a local park while drinking Apfelschorle (apple juice with sparkling water). I rode a bike throughout the city. I celebrated May Day. I ate currywurst. I even left my mark in Berlin by creating my own graffiti on a wall. Let’s pretend that that wasn’t a school-organized activity, because that is so not Berlin.
As I explored the city, I quickly discovered that I blend into the German crowd quite well. With my blue eyes, blonde hair and last name that hints to Germanic roots, many Germans are shocked when they discover that I am an American. A shop owner once told me that I look more German than many of the Berliners.
Because of this, Germans will automatically start speaking German to me instead of English. It is quite amusing when I am surrounded by my American friends, because locals will speak English to them but German to me. This has allowed me to pick up the German language quite quickly, though.
Before coming to Berlin, my knowledge of the language was limited. Now, I can carry myself quite far in a conversation in German. I will admit that I am still an amateur in the language and have to use English to aid conversation most of the time. However, my brain has been able to connect German words to English words. Therefore, when it comes to reading and hearing the words, I can connect just enough to gain context of what I am reading or hearing.
Looking back on my challenges with the languages (Editor's Note: Katie also learned Italian and French while abroad), I laugh a bit to myself, because I realize that German has not been as difficult for me. The real challenge will be when I return to the States, because now I have this habit of mixing languages into my English. For the first few weeks home, I am almost sure I will confuse people a bit. Even simple words in English have been replaced in my vocabulary by other languages. Instead of “thank you kindly” I say “danke schön.” “Excuse me” has been replaced with “scusami.” “I am sorry” has been replaced with “je suis désolé.”
Unfortunately, in less than two weeks, I will be saying “tschüss” to not just this city, but to Europe. I will be a repatriate to the United States. There, I will slowly discover how much of an impact that this incredible study abroad experience has had on my life and how I will be able to use it in my personal and career path.
See you soon,
Almost a month ago, I stepped out of an airport into a world of warmth. The sun washed over my skin as many smiles were passed along to me from the strangers walking by. A light breeze carried the familiar, comforting smell of freshly baked pizza. It was in this moment I thought to myself, "Ah, Rome, sweet home. We are going to make great friends."
This I found to be quite true. No time was wasted for me to fall in love with the city. Vines of ancient Rome and modern Rome intertwine to form an immense city that has quite a humbling effect. Standing in the Colosseum and looking out to the paved roads sprinkled with vehicles only hints to the feelings of surrealism the city makes me feel. Along every street, around every corner, in every nook and cranny, it is simple to run into ancient ruins, gardens, churches, cafes, and fountains.
The food is just as wonderful as I could have hoped it would be. I have learned to say “pasta la vista” to my diet, because it is so hard not to have pasta or pizza for dinner. Finish it off with a sweet treat of gelato and I find myself eating Italian favorites almost daily. No worries, I don't forget to start mornings off with a cappuccino and cannoli to really top off the experience.
The Italian language is beautiful and was simple for me to pick up on. Within the first week, I did have a few problems speaking it, though for a reason I did not anticipate. Just months ago, I thought that speaking any of the new languages that I would experience would be quite the task. Oh, no. The real task is switching between the languages. After six weeks of speaking a language, you feel confident. Move to a different country and that confidence is completely wrecked when you are stammering through conversations again. This time with an interesting twist, though. This time your brain thinks it is fun to pull out every language you know except for the language you are trying to speak. Yes, that includes the Arabic that I learned three years ago.
It never fails. Each morning when I am greeted, I always start to say “bonjour,” and panic, realizing that is the wrong language, and awkwardly morph it into “buongiorno” (or as I like to say “bongoooorno.”) Somewhat smooth, right? It definitely is until the afternoon when this morphing task does not carry over since buena sera, or good evening, sounds nothing like bonjour.
While in the evenings I return to my bed exhausted from admiring and eating and speaking, I am incredibly satisfied to have yet another city with more experiences to fill me up. However, in just two short weeks, I will be once again be packing my bags to do it all one more time. This time, it will be in Berlin, Germany.
Until next time,
My name is Katie Work. I am a business management and marketing major with a minor in information sciences and technology. I am currently a junior at Penn State Beaver; however, for this semester, I took the opportunity to study in Europe. The program that I am enrolled in is called CIEE Global Institutes.
Through this program, I have a semester that is split into three blocks that last six weeks each. Not only do I have an amazing opportunity to study in a different country, I am able to study in three different countries. Each block, my location changes. For the first block, I am in Paris, France. In the second block, I will be in Rome, Italy. For the third block, I will be in Berlin, Germany.
At the moment, I am halfway through my first block in Paris. I must admit, I was hit with complete shock when I first arrived. It was immediately different than what I was used to. I live in an apartment that is about a 15-minute metro ride to my academic center. This is the first time that I have lived in a city. Nothing like diving head-first into one of the biggest cities in the world!
Paris is one of the most populated cities in Europe, so leaving a small community to go to such a populated area is overwhelming at first. Add in the facts that I can only babble through a conversation with an awkward mixture of French and English – which has earned me a reasonable amount of haughty looks – and that I do not fully understand the metro system and norms, and it equates to almost pure panic.
Once that panic is (mostly) set aside, there is so much beauty that can be found in Paris. The Eiffel Tower is just as breathtaking as could be imagined. Notre Dame is enchanting. Touring the Seine River on a boat is a must. The Louvre is absolutely amazing. The food is wonderful. Especially the bread ... oh my baguettes. If you think that I am eating my weight in bread and pastries, then you are absolutely correct. Every meal is most certainly washed down with a cup of espresso, as well.
Aside from all of the amazing stuff that I get to see and eat in Paris, I do still have to focus on my classes. Those classes that I used to dread on Monday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.? I’ve got that beat. I have two classes – Entrepreneurship in Europe and Global Cinema – that last three hours and run three to four times a week. Fortunately, each class balances out lectures with activities. For my entrepreneurship class, we got to visit a start-up brewery and complete a beer tasting. For Global Cinema, we get to visit a local cinema to watch and analyze a foreign film.
For my last three weeks in Paris, I cannot wait to continue to explore and learn (and eat) my way through. To follow my adventures more closely, check out my Instagram @runaway.kate
Until next time,