When I think of my study abroad, a series of images cross through my head. The first image is walking into Die Fabrik. It feels normal, like I should be doing every afternoon. The next, is laughing on the U Bahn. It took a long time to felt comfortable with showing that I was American on public transportation. The first week, I wouldn’t say a word on the train and I wouldn’t even read my book because the Germans might have seen it was in English and known I was a tourist. But soon, this feeling disappeared and retrospectively, I think it was because I made great friends and I didn’t care if we were laughing or talking because we were having fun. Another vivid image is Lindsey, Karinne, Anna, and I sitting at our regular spot, which we called “The Green Bar” because we couldn’t pronounce the name. And finally, I see myself looking around the classroom seeing everyone look at the professor while we hear crazy statistics about the underrepresentation of minorities in the education system. If I start to deeply reflect on my trip, I can recall a lot more images and memories, but these are the ones that are superficial.
Being back in Seattle feels strange. It’s a mix of being so familiar and feeling wrong. When I first landed, I was so relived to be home and with my family and friends. However, after just 2 days I started to seriously miss Berlin and my Berlin friends. I felt this weird sense of hopelessness because I knew I wasn’t ever going to experience something like this trip ever again, or at least for a very long time. I was surprised at this sorrow because when I was in Berlin, I didn’t know I felt this way about Europe. As I’m writing this, so many memories are rushing to me, flooding me with nostalgia. It’s funny because I wrote one of the supplementary essays on the honors application about nostalgia and now I don’t think I knew what true nostalgia felt like at the time. Looking back, I had associated it with a happy feeling, like “aww those were the good times”. But now it’s more of a deep sadness, like something is missing from me and I don’t know how to get it back. I want to start planning another study abroad, but it’s so unrealistic with my schedule and the price of being over seas.
One of the things I miss most is the quality of conversations my classmates and I had at the most random times. I miss the intellectual input about research projects at the dinner table, or eclectic commentary about the current political situation while we were waiting for the tram. I felt like everyone at home moved at a slower pace, which is weird because Berlin was so relaxed. So far my conversations have been “oh man look at the weather” to “the crops are growing great this summer”. I miss the deepness of stimulating conversation and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that I’m excited for school to start.
I don’t mean to badmouth my home because I love Seattle and Camano Island with all my heart, but it’s a very different feel from Europe. My study abroad has shown me that 1) I could live in a big city and be ok. Seattle feels very small to me compared to many other cities and I previously thought anything bigger than Seattle would be “too big”. I’ve learned that I actually love the vastness of a huge city and if needed, for a job or something, I would be perfectly fine with moving to a “big city”. 2) I could live abroad. At first, I never wanted to, or thought I could, live abroad. But now I’m seeing that it’s a very comfortable thing for me to think about. Of course, this wouldn’t be for many many years, but if an opportunity came up that I could not refuse, I would do it. That was a really cool realization for me to have because I felt so much more independent after the trip. Living in an apartment next year is going to be easy peasy.
With this last post, my Berlin blog is done. Thanks for everyone who took the time to read my posts and hear my thoughts about being abroad.
“Berlin, I will never forget you” – scratch graffiti in the bathroom of a bar that used to be a brothel