by Justine Ruhlin
After completing my first year at Goucher in 2012, I embarked on my study abroad to Berlin, Germany. I settled on the idea of completing Goucher’s study abroad requirement with a three week Intensive Course Abroad for a variety of reasons (field hockey, financial considerations, etc) but I was mainly just excited to return to Germany after visiting Bavaria in 2008.
When I first landed in Berlin, my skepticism set in. Where were the dirndls and lederhosen? The massive steins of beer? Wasn’t Bavaria the very staple of Germany? Being in the north of Germany, I hadn’t realized what a different, progressive and modern city Berlin was and the impression it would leave on me. My experience in Berlin was very much like my arrival at Goucher; eye opening and life changing. I quickly embraced the vibrant street graffiti, the Turkish population, the lush, green trees and parks, and the rich history which I devoured with every tour and wandering escapade.
My host family was more than hospitable and we still keep in touch. My host mother was Brazilian and spoke only Portuguese and German where I could only speak English and little spurts of German. Our first interactions could be comparable to a twentieth century silent film with lots of pointing and charades and improper use of German articles and verb endings. However, over the course of my three week language class at the Neue Schule, my German improved so much that I could text my host mother while I was out and about in the city. Grammatical correctness is (and still is) another story…
Some of my happiest memories were made while I was in Berlin and backpacking in Europe. I indulged on delicious German and Turkish cuisine and watched the 2012 Euro Cup with thousands of Berliners at the Brandenburg Gate. I danced in the street during Karnival and went to the opera. I paid my respects at the Ravensbrück concentration camp and learned about the East German political system at the Stasi Museum. Like many others, my experience abroad has given me just a taste of what’s out in the world and since then, the hunger to travel and desire to learn has never fully been satisfie