Note: Extremely Long Post Ahead (I broke it into two sections – Part I and II)
April 2012 – April 2013
I spent a year abroad in Germany and went to the university in both Potsdam and Berlin. I spent a few months in Potsdam, then spent the majority of the time in Berlin and Hannover. I would commute back and forth every few days since I was seeing someone in Hannover at the time. My year there was eye opening, and miserably cold. I witnessed about 10 days of actual Summer, and hardly saw the sun. I don’t really enjoy being under the sun in California and take it for granted, but when I was there, I relished moments when I was able to actually see the sun. In terms of traveling and visiting, versus living in Germany, it was an extremely different experience. I much enjoyed my visit through Germany, but living here was a whole different story. People were incredibly racist towards me, and although I polished my German language skills rather quickly, just simply not looking Caucasian hindered me from things like renting an apartment with someone to getting a bank account. I had to go through more steps and try different methods to actually get what I need done. I spent time traveling to the neighboring countries when I could, and taught English outside of my studies. I studied Political Science and International Relations at the time in Berlin, and had intensive studies on German and European history centered on Germany. I wanted to be a diplomat and work for the EU, so I did what I could to gain political experience necessary for me to live there eventually. I managed to land a gig with the Berlin Rathaus by reaching out and sending them an online resume I made, and had the chance to work with politicians from all over the world for a project they had. After my year there, I eventually decided that I would never want to actually spend the rest of my days there. I was studying at the time, and had to make it back to my home university in San Diego to graduate in June, so everything had to go according to plan. I started my first days of my classes having to know exactly what research paper to write, and began writing throughout the course without prior knowledge of the topics covered in class. I had 6 classes total, and it was an intense semester. German students not only get to learn the subject for a semester, then have an entire month in the Summer to research and complete their research paper (25 pages – single spaced).
When I arrived in April of 2012, with a suitcase packed with mostly Summer clothes, thinking it’s going to be Summer soon. It was freezing and hailing when I arrived, and for about a week or so, I practically wore everything I owned to not freeze to death. Shops weren’t selling Winter clothes because they were preparing for the Summer season, so I had to turn to Amazon to get what I needed. The people in Germany are more “cold” than people from other countries. Unless you really get to know them, it’s hard to break into their circle of trust. I soon became extremely depressed towards the end of my trip, wanting so badly to return home. Most of my friends I made had already returned to their home countries, since they only took a semester, whereas I had opted for a whole year here.
I started missing and longing for things that I don’t usually want. I sought for everything and anything that reminded me of home. I had a hard time finding cheddar cheese, maple syrup, or even pancake mix. After awhile, I eventually found places that sold these items, but were marked up at least 4 times. The food here eventually got really bland, and steak was considered a luxury here. I would purchase Argentinian imported steak from the supermarket (that’s the only thing sold) and made my own steak with baked potato every few days. Butter was imported from Ireland, and Tony Romas was my only escape to get descent American food in Berlin. It was double the price here, but worth every penny when I became so tired of the food here. I was able to find Asian supermarkets that I was able to vary up my diet. I had no car, so all groceries were carried by hand/backpack, often times taking several buses and metros and walking a lot just to get there. I also found a sushi place I liked for awhile, and I kept returning until the manager there asked me to marry him.
During the winter time, which felt like the whole year to be honest, I remember not being able to take my fingers out of my pocket for more than a few seconds before my hands lost feeling because it was so cold. Sometimes, I stayed in more than I should’ve because I just didn’t want to face the cold. I was fortunate enough to get a relatively expensive apartment (looks like a size of a prison cell) that had heater coming from the floor, so I cranked that to 80 degrees every day, so it was Summer in my room no matter what it was like outside. It was quite a lonely existence, and the person I was seeing at the time was extremely controlling, so it wasn’t a good experience either. I spent the rest of my time painting, and baking when I couldn’t travel.
First trip out of living in Germany – Prague. These kinda taste like churros, but in bread form.
Beach close to Hannover. Since it’s usually cold in Germany, people really enjoy being by any bodies of water.
Beerfest in Prague
Street of Hanover
Fireworks in Hannover
Overlooking the new town hall of Hannover
New town hall of Hannover
Elephants from Hannover zoo
Artistic elephant is painting for us
Baby giraffe born 9 days ago in Hannover
9 day old baby giraffe and mama giraffe
Schützenfest in Hannover
Street art in Berlin
Saw this little guy peeking out of someone’s backpack on the Bahn (metro) in Berlin
Art in Berlin
Memorial stones of Jewish people that lived there that were sent to Auschwitz.
Poetry in Berlin
Street art in Berlin
They call the little half circle on the left side of the picture “the washing machine where Merkel lives.”
Inside the Deutscher Dom
My Lithuanian friend
I ate so many of these meals. All their fast food or “American food” was trash. This was actually really good.
Art of Berlin (pin points of places)
Me sitting on the street I lived on in Berlin
Racetrack in a city near Hannover
Random church in Berlin
Name tag when I worked at the Rotes Rathaus (town hall of Berlin – home of the government of the Federal State of Berlin)
Sighting in Berlin
Rotes Rathaus (my new work place at the time)
Inside the Rotes Rathaus for the mayors and governors of Europe and Asia
Christian Wulff (President of Germany at the time makes an appearance, along with a gang of press people)
Checkpoint Charlie – Crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War
Pieces of the Berlin Wall