I studied German in high school and went on to continue studying German in college. I wanted to be able to experience and learn the language from native German-speakers while being able to earn credits towards my degree. I thought that studying abroad in Berlin, the capital of Germany, would be a great experience to see how much Germany has changed in the last 100 years and be able to immerse myself in the German language and culture.
Hunter is always ready to experience what is next, whether it be a spontaneous trip to the Fjords of Norway or an Indian place downtown that has some super good reviews-- it is always the "what is next" factor.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
There was not too much that I was needing assistance with for the FU-BEST program as the program itself provides you with your own housing, your public transportation tickets, and your own health insurance. Obviously, my home university helped me with figuring out which classes I should take and what I could expect from entering another culture or country, but ultimately there was not too much that I personally needed assistance with.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I would definitely tell them to not expect to be fluent in German by the time you leave Berlin or that you will have enough time to see every single thing that was on your "to do" list.
I really wish I would have known that the FU-BEST program itself is its own program within the Freie Universität Berlin and you will pretty much only get to meet other students from around the United States. I initially thought that I would be able to practice German and meet students from around Europe and around the world, but the program is so isolated to itself that in order to meet others, you have to truly put yourself out there.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Every single person in the program must enroll in a German language course, either experiential (for those who have never taken German and do not really want to learn) and advanced (for those who have taken German before or want to truly learn the language). These courses are every day, 9-12 so by the time you are done practicing the language, it is lunchtime and time to explore the city.
Students either take 2 or 3 subject courses and those take place throughout the week for about 2.5 hours. All the courses are super interesting and are taught by some amazing professors.
Thursdays, Thursdays are the best day of the week. Thursday is the last day of classes for the week AND Stammtisch! Stammtisch happens every Thursday during the semester and each week a new bar is picked for all the FU-BEST students to grab a drink, mingle with one another, and live like a Berliner. I went to Stammtisch every week and always had a blast.
On the weekend, most people travel outside of Germany or they stay within and see all of the cultures and experiences that the country has to offer. It is always an adventure no matter where you are on the weekend.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear going into studying abroad was how I was going to make friends.
I tend to be paranoid and think that no one is going to like me or want to be my friend, but the truth is: everyone is nervous, unsure, and not comfortable with where they are at upon first arriving. I swallowed up my nerves and talked to almost every person in the program that I came across because everyone was feeling the same things I was feeling so why not bond about the excitement of being in Europe and what the semester has to offer!
Top 10 Things to do in Berlin and why:
- Visit Teufelsberg; it is this huge building on this hill in the middle of nowhere but the views and the artwork here is breathtaking.
- Go to a Hertha BSC game; soccer or football might not be as big of a thing in the United States but trust me, Germans LIVE for soccer. It is such an amazing feeling standing in the sold-out stadium, chanting "HA HO HE HERTHA BSC".
- Eat some Döner. You might not know what Döner is at this moment in time but the second you step foot in Berlin, Döner will be your favorite food.
- Try and visit every museum on Museum Island: The Bust of Nefertiti is located in one of these museums, what more do I have to say?
- Visit the Reichstag: You have to sign up weeks in advance to get a tour of the Reichstag building but the amount of history behind this building is amazing, plus, maybe you will see Chancellor Merkel
- Check out the abandoned Tempelhof Airport: during the Berlin Airlift, American planes landed and took off from here every minute, now it is a giant field where in warm weather, you can watch the clouds and kites roll by
- Go to Potsdam: Potsdam is right outside of Berlin and has some beautiful palaces surrounding the city, it is a great day trip when you are feeling an adventure but not too far.
- Try to find all of the Berlin bears: Located all around Berlin are these bear statues designed to fit where they are at. They are pretty cute if you ask me.
- Take a train from Hauptbahnhof: This is the main train station in Berlin. There are few opportunities to take a train in the US, so take advantage and get on a train to anywhere with Deutsche Bahn.
- Experience Life as a Berliner: There is so much that Berlin has to offer so it is worth your time to spend some weekends in Berlin and see what the Capital of German has to offer.