Impressions from Students Abroad

Emily Bell ‘13

Cake and Coffee Report from Germany

April weather in Berlin has been quite fickle.  Snow days and picnic weather in one week make it hard to decide whether putting away my winter coat would be a good idea, but as Germans say, ‘April does what it wants.’  However, including the April weather, I have enjoyed these past eight months living in Berlin!  After overcoming a bout of culture shock my first month or two abroad, one difficulty I continued to encounter was forming successful friendships with my fumbling German.  However, this problem was nothing that German ‘coffee and cake time’ couldn’t solve!

This official mealtime is situated between lunch and dinner hours where cake and coffee are exclusively served.  Thanks to my guest family in Berlin who hosted my first experience of ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ at their house, I not only enjoyed the delicious German cake and Streusel and strong black coffee, but this was also a time where I was able to form a strong relationship with them.  Our conversations would range anywhere from celebrity gossip to our own family life and discussions about cultural differences.  Sometimes, we would just sit in a comfortable silence, enjoying good company and the goodies.

This fourth “meal” also proved quite useful for meeting new students at the university.  Since many in Berlin consider the university only as work environment, it was hard to form a ‘non-professional’ relationship that did not surround schoolwork.  However, with a simple invitation to grab coffee and cake after class at one of the university cafes, forming good friendships at school suddenly became effortless!  For many Germans, especially busy students, this is an important transition between work and leisure, and eating a well-deserved “piece” of cake (most of the time much more than that) and drinking a tall cup of coffee with friends is the perfect was to unwind from a long day of classes!

These days, I am always finding excuses to relax and eat cake with a friend.  Astoundingly, even during final exam period last semester, I was still able to sip my coffee and nibble my cake.  (One can never really tire of cake in Germany; there is just too much selection!)  Since I just realized that I only have a short period left in Berlin, I am compiling a list of cake recipes, in hopes of bringing this wonderful German tradition home!


Lauren Woelfel ‘13

I can't believe we've been in Berlin for seven months already! It's surprising how quickly you can feel at home in such foreign place. My time in Berlin has definitely had its ups and downs (I'm sure the other students would tell you the same thing), and I wanted to share with you all on of the highlights, which actually happened today! Before we went abroad our advisors suggested that we apply for a stipend that would allow us to have an internship while in Germany. When they first told us this, I almost died laughing. Me? Have an internship? Auf Deutsch? No way. I had trouble speaking up in German class at Wellesley, how would I ever be able to work in a German office? Nonetheless I applied for the stipend and forgot about the frightening thought of interning in Germany until I absolutely had to think about it.  Luckily the process of finding an internship was quite painless. We have a wonderful team here in Germany, Heike Fahrenberg and Barbara Wagner, whom researched and contacted several companies for us. I found myself situated at the DEFA-Stiftung. For those of you unaware of DEFA, it was the film production company of eastern Germany. The stiftung works to preserve the films and to also educate citizens about the amazing works that DEFA created. Today was my first day of interning and I could not have been more nervous. But, as soon as I walked in the door, my nerves floated away. Never have I been in a more friendly office. I was taken on a tour of the premises and everyone I met gave me a "Herzlich Willkommen" and made me feel right at home. I was astounded. We all know the cold, stern stereotype pushed on to Germans, but I would have to  argue that they seemed to go above and beyond in the hospitality department. Last summer I had an internship with a film company in Los Angeles and I was never greeted with the warmth that I was greeted with today. It was absolutely marvelous. I wish I could explain a little bit more about what I will be doing during my internship, but it was only my first day. When we were granted our stipends, the college asked one thing in return. Upon our arriving back at Wellesley, the college would like us all to hold a Tanner conference and speak about our interning experiences in Germany. Perhaps then can we explain, what I can predict will be a unforgettable experience, in greater detail.
 

Jennifer Marble ‘13

Deciding whether or not to study abroad was a really difficult choice for me. It meant a year away from my Wellesley courses, a year away from my soccer team, and a year away from all my friends and family in the United States. Fortunately, I was able to summon the courage to leave behind the familiar and embrace what Berlin has to offer-which is a lot!

Berlin offers one of the most interesting perspectives on modern history that I could hope to come across.  This is a city brutally punished by WWI, ravaged and shamed by WWII, and then split and forged into the front lines of the Cold War. The city is overrun with memorials of all types, and it’s clear to see how the face of Berlin has been influenced by the tragedies in its past.
Luckily, I haven’t spent my entire time abroad exploring the history. I’ve also been able to explore the many hidden corners of Berlin, filled with artsy cafes, modern bars, energetic clubs and individuals from nearly every country of the world.  I’ve enjoyed the intensity of the Bayern’s run for the Champions League title and mourned the demotion of Herta BSC into the second level of the Bundesliga.  I’ve also spent much of my time filling myself up with homemade schnitzel, Gnocci and (of course) the Turkish döner.
I’ve never been good at languages. I’m not a natural talent at grammar and I struggle to imitate the natives’ accents.  But there is something about being surrounded by a foreign culture that makes the language learning experience less about academics and more about communication.  My focus is no longer on understanding things like past predicate, but has instead shifted to understanding the wonderful, interesting people around me. That’s what a language should be about-bridging the gaps between people and creating friends out of strangers.  Being here in Berlin has made me realize that, and it’s changed my perception of the world and, even more dramatically, my perception of myself.

 

YanAn Tan ‘13

After spending half a year in Berlin, this Ausländer is finally beginning to feel like a true Berliner. As I go about my daily routine - taking the U-Bahn, hanging out in cafes in Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain, working at my internship in the House of Representatives, walking around the flea market at Boxhagener Platz (which is conveniently located directly outside my apartment) - I keep coming back to the thought of how much I really love Berlin. Sure, Berlin doesn't have the same impressive charm of Paris or Vienna with their abundance of grand palaces and monuments (although the Brandenburger Tor certainly measures up!), and there are parts of Berlin that are rather run-down and even downright ugly, but it is, as Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit says, "arm aber sexy". What Berlin lacks in opulence and beauty, it more than makes up for in the energy and endless activity that takes place daily on its streets. Berlin is a city constantly under development; Karl Scheffler described it in the 1930s as "eine Stadt, verdammt dazu, ewig zu werden, niemals zu sein", but I don't see its state of flux as a curse. I've loved being able to experience something new every day and can hardly anticipate what the coming summer months will bring!


Lauren Steinman ‘13

Servus aus Muenchen!
Spring has arrived in Bavaria and everyone is coming out of hibernation. The Englischer Garten is full of sunbathers and picnic blankets, and the Beer gardens are filling up with people as the canopies of the chestnut trees above them are coming into bloom. No one conveys the snapshot of Munich in the spring quite like  T.S. Eliot:

"Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour."

It's all very picturesque and lovely, and it's around this time of year that Munich earns the reputation of being Italy's northernmost city. Now that the new Sommersemester is about to begin, there's an end in sight to my unstructured and "gemuetlich" days. The Ludwig Maximilian's Universitaet is made up of about 50,000 students and a sprawling city campus, so it could not feel more different from Wellesley's contained bubble. I can't wait to experience life as a typical German student, bad cafeteria food and all.


Denisse Ruiz ‘13

Complete with delicious new foods, a foreign language, new friendships, awkward cultural misunderstandings, and a few tears, the seven months that I have spent in Berlin have been the most exciting and most terrifying months of my life.

When I first arrived, I had a fear of speak because I had the language skills of a child.  So instead of speaking, I relied heavily on the “smile-and-nod” technique to get through every German conversation.  All you have to do is smile pleasantly and nod your head to seem like you understood.  Occasionally, you can add a laugh or tilt your head for extra authenticity.  That is how I survived life as a foreigner...until people started asking questions.

Surprisingly, Germans like the American culture.  Once people found out that I come from the California, they would ask endless questions about American cities, the university system, the weather, and Mark Zuckerberg.  But I didn’t always understand everything, so when I heard something incoherent, I would resort to smiling and nodding, even if it was a question.

But with the bad, comes the good.  For the past month, I have interned at Mare Verlag (Mare Publishing House), which I categorize as one of my most rewarding experiences.  Mare Verlag publishes literature that relates to the ocean.  The area in which I work in publishes a magazine every two months, and I had the opportunity write a small paragraph in the latest magazine.  I only wrote a paragraph of about 3-4 sentences, but I will treasure that magazine.  Seven months ago,

I looked like clueless child, but now, I have tangible evidence of my progress.

Berlin has been an intense roller coaster ride, and I’m very sad it has to come to an end in three months.

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Contact Us

Contact Us

Department of German

 

Inquiries regarding our Study Abroad program in Berlin and Mainz or our January-in-Berlin program may be directed to Faculty Director Thomas Nolden.

 

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Wellesley, MA 02481

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