Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin.

The time has come to bid Berlin farewell.

This semester has been full of highs and lows, but everything worked out in the end. I traveled around Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Ireland, the UK and Greece. I had the opportunity to intern with an international business and meet some amazing people who are going to do great things. I took interesting classes with professors from all over Europe. I was a part of the first year of CIEE Berlin Open Campus and I learned so much about Berlin. I was in Europe during the immigration crisis and witnessed it first hand. I was a part of Berlin’s Christian community. I met people I know will be apart of my life for years to come. I was able to have another life changing semester.

This semester was not short on its tough moments; actually, things were often difficult, but I wouldn’t change this semester at all. Hard times foster growth and I know when I return to the U.S. I will begin to see the extent of that growth.

Please go abroad! There is really no experience that compares to your first time boarding that plane with 4 months worth of clothes, a heart full of excitement and passport in hand. You are living in a different country and are able to decide who you want to be and what you want to think. You see that the U.S. is not the center of the universe and learn about all the other cultures out there. You learn so much about yourself and grow in ways you could never imagine possible. I cannot even believe I spent a semester living in France and another in Germany. Wow. When else would I be able to do that in life? Being that I am now a Hope College graduate and I’m beginning to look for jobs, I know I am truly going to stand apart. My international experience and the lessons I’ve learned are invaluable and not easily obtained. As dramatic as this sounds, I know that after this semester I will never be the same person I was a couple of months ago. I’ve grown, I’ve changed, and I’ve gained greater wisdom through my experiences. I have learned more about the world and look forward to the future.

So, Berlin, this is goodbye. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but thank you for challenging me in ways I would have never expected. I’ll always have love for this wonderfully strange city.

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Sincerely,

Bri <3

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

Wow, my semester in Berlin is coming to an end. Its hard to believe that it has been 5 months! As my final days are approaching I’ve been reminiscing of the things I’ll miss most about Berlin. Here are several of them. : )

Mustafas

Oh my goodness. I am going to miss Mustafas every day for the rest of my life. Mustafas is a famous food stand only a five minute walk from where I live that serves the most amazing doner kebabs. Mustafas doners are filled with chicken, potatoes, fresh veggies, different sauces and topped with feta cheese. Words don’t do it justice, you honestly have to try one for yourself although the line is usually down the street. This is hands down one of the best things I have ever eaten.

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My Berlin roomie and I enjoying Berlins late night treats; her with Curry 36 fries and myself with a doner from Mustafas of course.
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After his first bite, one of my friends described the doner as life changing.

Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg gate is one of the most iconic monuments in Berlin and is also incredibly beautiful. Its always so nice to be in that area and appreciate its beauty. When you see it you can’t help but think, “Wow I am really in Berlin.” I remember one day after class I just sat at an ice cream shop, right in front of Brandenburg, reading a book and enjoying the busy, but calm atmosphere. I’ll definitely miss being able to jump on a train and arrive at this beauty in 15 minutes.

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The Parks

Although it hasn’t been warm for too long, I have still seen some of the great parks Berlin has to offer. I love finding different parks to explore because they are the perfect place to read, catch up on my journaling, people watch or even have a little picnic with some friends. Usually gelato stands, which are often in sight when I’m craving a cold, refreshing treat, are the cherry on top.

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Saddleback

During my time in Berlin I attended Saddleback Church Berlin. Saddleback is international with numerous locations in California, Berlin, Argentina, the Philippines and Taiwan. At this church, my friends from the program and I were able to join a small group with amazing young people who love God. I was so thankful to have a church home while abroad and get to know some locals at the same time.

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Biking around the city

I LOVE to bike! In the fall when I biked around Hope, I would always think to myself that soon I would be biking around Berlin, and that I did. Biking is such a cool way to see and get around the city. After classes, when the days were nice, my friends and I would bike to different parks to meet up with friends and explore other parts of the city.

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Berlin is such a bike friendly city. Biking made me feel more like a local.

“Happiness is Only Real When Shared”

I have met so many interesting and great people during my time in Berlin. From my professors, to CIEE staff, to my coworkers at my internship and of course my friends in the program; I have developed some great relationships that I will be sure to maintain. It’s great to reminisce with friends, from the semester in Berlin program, who went through similar experiences.

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My closest German friend Bekka, I will miss her soo much!
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The original group. <3

Those are just several of my favorite things, but the list could go on and on. I encourage you to go abroad so you can create a list of your own. : )

Interning Abroad

Before leaving for Berlin I was made aware that my program offered internships during our time abroad. Like everything else, I knew I had to take advantage of this opportunity. I imagined how much of a truly invaluable experience it would be, so I began the process. While filling out the questionnaire I was torn between being honest and having no idea what I want to do, or doing what I thought I should do, a corporate internship. I decided the former and was placed at Rainmaking Loft Berlin; which is exactly where I needed to be without knowing it.

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Photo credit: The Rainmaking Loft

Rainmaking Loft Berlin is a co-working and events space for tech startups with locations also in London and Denmark. They offer working space, facilities, events, and a sense of community. The members of the loft work closely together in open spaces and come from all over the world to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. One can walk in and hear countless languages and innovative ideas which is pretty amazing.

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photo credit: The Rainmaking Loft

My internship lasted for six weeks and consisted of a plethora of task. I went in everyday for about 4 hours, sometimes more depending on if there are any events going on. I have been able to see behind the scenes of how you run a business, have been given my own project, have met so many amazing people with great ideas and have learned more about myself in the process. It’s great to be in such a driven setting that is also so much fun at the same time.

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My project was a members wall of current and past members.
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The finished product!

Although I have had a variety of jobs from working in a restaurant to being a study abroad peer advisor in the US, I had not yet completed an internship. It was really nice to be able to see aspects of how a business works internally. I was able to attend weekly staff meetings and hear about each position, have lunch everyday with my team and others, as well as learn and speak to many successful people. That was one was my favorite parts; the people. I loved being around intelligent and driven entrepreneurs at the Loft. Everyone was so open and willing to share about their company and vision, and give me advice for my future endeavors.

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We have some loftees that are great chefs. This was lunch one day!

CIEE did a great job of matching my personality with a company and I believe the same for my classmates. I am so thankful I was able to do an internship while in Berlin. I learned so much in such a short time from working in an international setting. I know as I enter the working world, the skills and values that I’ve learned at the Loft will be a great asset. Companies are valuing international competency more and more as the world becomes increasingly interconnected . Although I’m sad my time has come to an end at the Loft, I’m looking forward to what is yet to come and thankful for my time.

The Perfect Holiday Pt. 2: Le Carnaval de Nantes

The highlight of my spring break in Nantes was the Carnivals parade, which had the theme “Around the World.” The floats in the parade represented different countries and cultures and were accompanied by many dancers and performers. These floats were the most amazing ones I have ever seen! You could tell that everyone involved with the parade dedicated a lot of time, energy, and money to make it great. There were so many families out, confetti was everywhere, and everyone was enjoying the festive atmosphere. Despite a little rain, it was the perfect weekend to visit. Here are some pictures from the day for your enjoyment 🙂

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The float to begin the parade; let’s go on a trip!

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Ireland!
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Spain
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I wasn’t sure what this was… there was also a toaster on the back with toast and bacon? lol

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Dancers for Brazil
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Satirical Cuban float

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I can’t imagine how long it took to make all these floats, but they did an amazing job. I was glad to be in town for the parade and had a great time. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed this cotton candy 🙂

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xoxo,

Briana

The Perfect Holiday

Hey there 🙂  The craziness of study abroad has come to a halt because I am now on spring break! Or as Europeans say Holiday. I love to travel and learn about new places but for spring break I decided to return to where I studied last spring; Nantes, France. Sometimes in the midst of all the new it’s nice to take a break, I wanted to go someplace I knew I would enjoy and I knew Nantes would be that for me.

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A few of my favorite things. Maybe I love France so much because it has macroons?

Chelsey and I left Berlin at 4am for our flight to Paris where we would take a bus to Nantes. Long story short, it was a rough journey, but it was all worth it when I arrived in Nantes again. I was a bit nervous to visit Nantes again; What if I romanticized my experience so much in my head and I was disappointed when I returned? That fear quickly left when I was greeted by the shining sun, the French language and the city that I love.

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A pro of terribly early flights are the beautiful sunrises 🙂

We stayed with my French host family and it was so nice to see them again, although it was a little strange for me that I was just a visitor now and they had a new host student, but that’s life : ) We made traditional French galettes (salty crepes) and crepes for dinner and it was just like old times.

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Looking ratchet but happy after a day of traveling with my galette.

I took Chelsey to my favorite places, some being a beautiful park that my friends and I would have picnics at often, a little town right across the river called Trentmoult which has the best crepes, and the park that has a life-size wooden elephant that you can ride and sprays water from its trunk. We spent all day going around the city eating plenty of delicious French pastries and practicing my French. I was so relieved to see I hadn’t lost it! Visiting Nantes, it was like I never left.

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Colorful houses in Trentmoult 🙂
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The Elephant! A must see in Nantes.
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Jardin de Plantes

The highlight of our visit would have to have been the Carnival of Nantes which theme was “Around the World.” I will dedicate a whole blog to it because I loved it so much so look out for that next. 🙂

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The Japanese float at the Carnival

Overall, my spring break in Nantes was great. It was the perfect weekend to visit. I got to see old friends, visit my favorite places and see how Nantes has changed since I left. Even Chelsey loved it, telling me I have to get a flat there so she can come visit. : ) it’s great to love many places and I encourage you to find those places that you love as well.

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This city will always have a special place in my heart.

À plus tard!

My Weekend Homestay

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a post. Life in Berlin is crazy busy! With classes, excursions, church, friends, babysitting and traveling, it’s hard to find time to sleep! Nonetheless, I’ve been having some really great experiences; one being a weekend home stay with a German family.

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Stephanie, Me, Zoe and my friend Chelsey : ) (the wind was really blowing)

Everyone in my program had the option to spend a weekend with a German family in Berlin to see and experience their everyday life. Living with a native family gives you a completely different experience compared to only living with students, so I knew I had to take advantage of this opportunity.

I stayed with Stephanie, an artist, and her 15 year old daughter Zoe in their flat by the East Side Gallery. As soon as we met, Zoe asked me “Sprechen sie Deutsche?” (Do you speak German?) After I admitted that my German was very basic, (I really need to do better with German) we had plenty to talk about in English and I knew we were going to have an amazing weekend. Here are the highlights!

Berlin is that you?

Stephanie and Zoe showed me so much of Berlin! I honestly felt like I was in a different city. We took a bus around the city which allowed me to see new sites and really soak all of Berlin up. I usually take the underground train and didn’t realize how much I was missing! Some of the things we did were go to a movie in English and one in German, visited a mall that was connected to the zoo where you could see monkeys while having a coffee, and went to an opera concert and an art gallery. The weekend was full of new experiences!

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The opera concert was at this beautiful church.
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The view from the double-decker bus!
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So many interesting things around the city!

Live like a Berliner

Stephanie and Zoe showed me how to appreciate Berlin. We went to an outdoor market, sampled and brought things that we enjoyed, and Stephanie even had a bouquet of flowers made for their flat. Then we explored the city while always stopping for a mid-day coffee. It was great to actually relax and enjoy myself. So often we get caught up trying to have the perfect plan or save money when we just need to simplify and enjoy life a little.

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The flowers at the market were so beautiful.
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You can’t forget the midday pick me up!

Food

Stephanie is an amazing cook! I was eating gourmet food all weekend and am sure I had a third helping at every meal.

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Stephanie was so sweet and made me a German Easter baked good 🙂

Stephanie and Zoe

Stephanie and Zoe were great hosts! They were so open sharing their life with me and showing me a good time. It was nice to have a girl’s weekend. They even invited me for Easter and we had a great day going to a photography exhibit, grabbing a mid-day coffee and cake, and eating a delicious dinner afterwards. They always made me feel so welcomed : )

I’m very glad I did the home stay weekend! It’s nice to have a host family when studying abroad so you can get that sense of a home away from home. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and look forward to many memories to come 🙂

Dublin, We love you!

Hey everyone! These past two weeks have been quite crazy, filled with finals and traveling. After getting the finals out the way I prepared for my first trip. I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t like anywhere I’ve ever been before. As I checked Ryanair for some cheap flights Dublin caught my eye! Shortly after the ticket was booked. So here are some highlights from my weekend in Dublin, Ireland.

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In front of the Dublin Castle 🙂

Rush, Ireland

Long story short, my friends and I booked an Airbnb out in Rush, Ireland. Rush is a little village about a half an hour drive outside of Dublin. Whenever we asked for directions to get to our house in Rush everyone would look at us with a confused face and say “Rush? Really?” It was actually pretty funny. It was the most affordable and I was looking forward to see a real Irish village away from all the tourism of Dublin. After getting lost on the bus twice and a 40 minute bus ride we finally arrived in Rush. Our host was so friendly and helpful and the village was quite cute! The night we arrived was one of my friends birthdays so we went out to an Irish pub in the village. We had a hearty meal of roast, potatoes and veggies and had an overall great time. Everyone was so welcoming and we got an authentic experience. Overall I’m glad we stayed in Rush, it’s always nice to truly be with locals and see a part of the city tourist do not usually see!

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Low quality picture with our new friend smiling in the back.

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The Friendly Irish

Wow, the Irish have to be the friendliest people I’ve encountered in my travels! From the custom officer at the airport to the random man on the street everyone was so friendly. Our taxi driver took it upon himself to give us a whole history lesson and make endless jokes at 6am. We stopped for a moment and a man came up and asked us sincerely if we were lost and needed help. I have plenty more examples and, now I know why Ireland is in the top 10 of friendliest countries.

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Downtown Dublin

Downtown Dublin is amazing; it’s like a little London. There’s so many people out, so many cool restaurants, museums, parks, you name it. We got to visit Trinity College; where Oscar Wild attended and home of the Book of Kells. We saw the Guinness factory, St Peters greens and the castle of Dublin. A very interesting place was the Kilmainham Gaol, where many Irish revolutionaries were executed by the British. The remains of St Valentine also reside in downtown Dublin. You can spend all day wandering around and finding hidden gems.

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The book of Kells
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St. Stephan’s Green; a beautiful park in the middle of the city.
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Trinity College

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Cliffs of Mohr

On Valentine’s Day my friends and I decided to take a day trip to the Irish country side. It was great to be able to learn so much of the history of Ireland as well as see so much of the country which is truly beautiful. We rode up the side of a mountain (terrifying), saw plenty of sheep and visited various sites. The main attraction were the cliffs of Mohr which are one of the natural wonders of the world. We were blessed to have a beautiful sunny day to climb the side of the cliffs. Fun fact: 15 people die a year at this site, so I was extra cautious. After the muddy journey we made it to the top and I was very proud! It was truly a beautiful site and a great way to end the trip.

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I made it!
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Our muddy journey.

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Sleeping in the Airport

Okay, this wasn’t a highlight but it was memorable. Our flight was so early there were no taxis at that time so we ended up sleeping in the airport. It was an experience to say the least. I arrived back to Berlin right in time for classes, of course exhausted, but it was worth it. 🙂

That’s a little bit about my trip to Ireland! Dublin is truly great. I would encourage you to look up the country’s history and of course visit if you ever get the chance! Look out for my next post about my time in Venice. 🙂

Tschüs!

 

“You Need Dirt”

This past week, I and 20 other CIEE students had the great privilege of touring the East Side gallery with the amazing artist and co-founder, Günther Schaefer.

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Gunther and I 🙂

The East Side Gallery is the largest remaining portion of the Berlin Wall. What differentiates the East Side Gallery from all the other graffiti covered areas in Berlin is that it is full of beautiful and powerful paintings by artist from 43 different countries. It is one of the highest trafficked sites in Berlin; everyone has to take a picture in front of the East Side Gallery.

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Our obligatory East Side Gallery picture.

We met with Gunther in the early afternoon as he greeted us with a smile. He was more than ready to share his story with us as we walked along the Gallery. Each piece is a powerful depiction, either gives insight into life during the time of the Berlin wall or other hardships going on in the world.

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This painting depicts an 18 year old young man named Peter Fetcher. He was the first person shot attempting to cross the wall over to west Berlin.

 

After walking the length of the wall we finally arrived at Gunther’s piece called “Vaterland (fatherland)” a grand German flag with a blue Jewish star in the middle. It represents a warning against fascist ways of Germany’s past. With pride, Gunther begin to pose in front of his self proclaimed most important piece of work. Gunther told us “Cleanliness is the enemy of art; you need dirt.” You have to get messy, you have to be real. I feel like that quote encapsulates the heart of Berlin.

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The quote that accompanies “Vaterland”

After our tour, Gunther had us all over to his house and studio for coffee and cake. He shared with us more of his art work, specifically from during the time of the fall of the Berlin wall. It was a moving experience to hear him speak about the background of the photos.

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Gunther took this photo of an East Side solider the day after the wall fell. the soldier told him after “if this was yesterday, I would have shot you for this”.
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Some students admiring Gunthers vast array of work.

As a number of tourist were crowding the wall to get their perfect selfie for Instagram, we had a truly valuable experience listening to Gunther. We were able to see the pieces the way they were meant to be seen, with a deeper meaning. (If you have any spare time I would highly recommend reading about the different pieces and artist 🙂 It was a great honor to be able to meet Gunther and hear his stories. The result of Gunther’s work and dedication to the East Side Gallery will enable it to be preserved as a memorial for years to come.

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An Insider look into CIEE Open Campus-Berlin

CIEE’s Open Campus Berlin program is a brand new program; they just opened their doors last semester! It’s pretty cool to know that I am a part of one of the first groups of students to participate in this program. Throughout the semester, I’ll be referencing different aspects of the program and I wanted to give you all a run down since it’s a new and interesting concept.

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Entry Way into CIEE G27 (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)
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First floor lounge which now has a TV; great for chill night. (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)

CIEE created this open campus concept first in Berlin (Yay!) then later London and Rome; which allows students the ability and flexibility to study abroad in whichever facet they need. The semester is broken up into three blocks (six weeks each). If you wanted, you could spend one block in each location which I think is pretty amazing. Each students is given the opportunity to choose an academic track; business, communications, health sciences etc.

Each block I take two classes of my choosing. It’s really nice to have the freedom to take classes that interest me for example, International Marketing and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, while also pursing my major. Another perk is that CIEE makes possible for everyone to have the opportunity to take German classes. I’m currently in Survival German which is a 0 credit, fun, low pressure environment to pick up some Deutsch.

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CIEE G27 (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)
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What you see when you first walk in; not pictured is the little cafe and cozy fireplace. (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)

We live, eat, and take classes all in this amazing old renovated factory. There are at least 120 students here. Between 2-4 students are placed in a room and each room has a personal bathroom. We have 4 kitchens, 1 laundry room, a café, and multiple classrooms and work spaces. The building is filled with amazing art work from Berlin artist. If you are worried about safety they have plenty of security measures in place and we have 24 hour security guards on duty.

We have German RA’s and students living with us which is great to already have an insider’s perspective into the city. They plan weekly dinners for us if we’d like or even let us tag along on their daily activities.

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One of the rare moments the kitchen is empty. The bright side of sharing a kitchen with so many people is that our rooms come with microwaves and mini fridges 🙂
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One of the many works of art we’re surrounded by.
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Every room is a little different. (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)

Our program plans optional weekly excursions around the city to places like the Outdoor Turkish market, or more serious places like the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s a great way to learn Germany’s history and get to know the city. Also we have plenty of clubs, or even better- you can get out and get connected to Berlin.

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Exploring Berlin
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Class excursion to a local brewery, great way to start the day.

CIEE Open Campus Berlin is a great program filled with lots of opportunities. I hope this helped you to understand my program a little better!

Until next time,

Briana

First Impressions

Wow the time has finally come; I’ve made it to Deutschland! It’s Friday and I arrived in Berlin on Monday and it has been quite a week to say the least.

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My good friend from Hope and I getting ready for take off!

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Studying abroad is crazy because everything is new; the country, the school, the language, my luggage (thank you Macy’s Black Friday sale), my roommate (she’s great), the food and even water! (99% of Germany’s drinking water is carbonated for some reason.) All the new can be overwhelming if you don’t have the right mindset, but it should make you excited! It is the most amazing feeling to know you have so many new experiences ahead of you, especially in such a great city. Berlin is bursting with character; there are so many quirky little cafes, shops and anything else you can think of all around you. There is so much street art and of course Germany is filled with a rich history. For instance, CIEE set up a city tour for us around Berlin during which I learned that Germany is a country that truly acknowledges and embraces its past, despite its dark history.

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One of the last remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall; this is where the most people died attempting to escape East Berlin.

We’ve been going nonstop between orientation and trying to soak up the city. One thing that I truly love about Berlin already is the vast array of restaurants from all over the world (it’s all delicious). I’ve been doing more than eating though. For example, I’ve visited the mall of Berlin in all its beauty, started some really interesting classes and have been meeting so many new people; American and German. All while trying to learn some basic German to better navigate the city which has been challenging but I’m loving every second of it.

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Berlin has so many great restaurants! This Thai place was delicious and so close to my program center.

Even though I have only been in here for a couple of days, I can already tell Berlin is a very unique city. I feel that anyone and anything is accepted here. You can be who you are. My program center, where I will be living and taking classes, is in the up and coming neighborhood of Kreuzberg. It’s great to be close to the heart of the city; only 3 train stops away from the Brandenburg gate, but also far enough to really experience Berlin away from all the touristy sites.

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The view from some of my friends window.

I can’t wait to explore and truly know Berlin and share my experiences with you all. From what I can tell, it’s going to be an amazing semester in a one of a kind city.

Until next time,

Tschüs!