zu Hause

After an 11-month adventure in Berlin I’ve arrived safely in the United States. I’m trying my best to readjust to the American culture but part of my mind is still stuck back in Germany. I could probably write an entire book about my experiences abroad, and one day I just might, but for now I’ll have to keeps things short. On Tuesday morning four of my closest friends in Berlin were kind enough to accompany me to Tegel Airport and bid me farewell before my flight. The night before had been full of laughs and stories in our favorite brewery, where I enjoyed my final sip of fresh German pilsner for the year. The morning after had a slightly different tone though. I was thrilled to have my friends by my side until the very end but there was a bittersweet feeling to everything.

The reason I chose to participate in the BCGS program was the combination of fantastic resources and a large degree of independence. Even though I was part of the program, the majority of my favorite experiences in Berlin had nothing to do with the university. I had the opportunity to go out and make friends with people I never would have met within the boundaries of a typical exchange program. Especially during my second semester I felt that I had established my own life in the city, making it that much harder to let go when it all ended. I found myself attending birthday parties, helping friends move, and painting apartment walls. Maybe not the most exciting activities, but the very fact that these sometimes mundane tasks entered into my daily life is proof that I truly found a home in Berlin. I’d trade a thousand trips to Greek beaches and Roman villas for a few more quiet afternoons in the park with a Sternburg beer and a few good friends by my side.

I certainly didn’t expect to be so drawn to Germany. I thought the trip would be fun and that I’d learn a lot, but I never guessed that I’d arrive home in New York and immediately start contacting faculty about masters programs in Berlin. I’m not sure what I want to do with my life in a few years time, but I know I need to go back, if only for a few more years. I’d like to thank Carmen and Niko from the BCGS program for all of their help over the past few months. But most of all I want to thank Niclas, Marie, and Vic (if they’re even reading this) for stumbling into my life almost by accident, but changing it for the better.


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WM Fever

The end-of-term workload has begun to pile up quickly. While I’ve been managing to chip slowly away at my three final papers, a game theory exam is still looming on the horizon. To top it off, I’ve got a German C-1 level proficiency exam next week, which will determine if I have the language skills to directly enroll in a master’s program here in Berlin. I’m familiar with the stress from the winter semester, but it’s nevertheless going to be a long couple of weeks before everything is officially over. Luckily however, the World Cup (German: Weltmeisterschaft, or simply WM) is in full swing and helps to take my mind off of all the work. It’s become all the more exciting now that Deutschland has moved on to the final round of the tournament after this week’s remarkable 7:1 victory over Brazil.


Just as exciting as the games themselves is the atmosphere that comes with them. Football is more of a passion than a sport here (or anywhere else outside of the U.S. for that matter) and the fandom that comes along with it is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. During the preliminary rounds of the tournament it was hard to find a television that wasn’t tuned to a game, regardless of which teams were playing. But as soon as Germany takes the stage, work, school, and significant others all become secondary priorities. In most major cities around the world public viewing screens are installed so fans can watch the matches outdoors and join together with others in celebration (as well as defeat). Berlin is certainly no exception. The largest venue here is known as the Fanmeile and is located in Tiergarten near Brandenburger Tor. So far I’ve gone to see two games there, Germany vs. Algeria & Germany vs. France. One thing I’ve learned is that no matter what the weather looks like, there’s no party compared to the one after a Wolrd Cup victory.

Fanmeile in rain:


Fanmeile in shine:


I’m certainly devastated that I’ll be leaving Berlin in a few short weeks, but I’m glad that my farewell has corresponded with the tournament. It’s given me a few more excuses to put off my term papers to go spend an evening with the friends I’ve made here. Hopefully I’ll be back in 2018 for the next WM. In the meantime, I’m anxiously looking forward to Germany’s win over Argentina on Sunday…


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As my time in Berlin slowly creeps to a close one of the thoughts that’s constantly been on my mind is the impending “reverse culture shock” that so many travelers have warned me about. I may have spent 20 years of my life in the US, but I have a feeling that a year in Germany has done away with many of my American habits and rituals. I suppose some customs will return relatively quickly, such as j-walking and the regular consumption of red meat, but something tells me that my penchant for schnitzel and sauerkraut will never fade. However, I think the most glaring cultural difference will prove to be the structure of the American university system. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that the German system is better than the one I was accustomed to at Cornell, but it’s going to take more than a few weeks for me to really get back into the groove of things again.


For starters, studying in Berlin is a much more independent experience. Courses only meet once per week, usually for 90 minutes, which means students are expected to learn much more on their own from assigned readings. While class discussion is important and helpful, I’ve gotten the impression that participation isn’t a particularly huge requirement. This likely has to do with the Hausarbeit/Klausur system here. My grades in each course are entirely based on either one term paper (Hausarbeit) or one final exam (Klausur). No assignments, no quizzes, and only in some circumstances a mid-term. Furthermore, the term papers are written about specific topics of the student’s choosing. In contrast to my classes at Cornell, in which the aim is to encompass a broad range of material over the course of the semester, my seminars here require me to go much deeper into one particular theme or subject. For example, in the winter I attended a class about the First World War. I certainly learned a lot about the subject matter in general, but because the topic of my Hausarbeit was the use of american bank loans to finance Britain and France, I spent most the semester independently researching the economics of the war. In all practicality I barely needed to know anything about the Eastern Front, for instance, in order to successfully complete the course.


In addition to the Hausarbeit, students will sometimes be asked to give an oral presentation, know in German as a Referat. These can range anywhere from 10-20 minutes and are often related to the theme of the student’s eventual term paper. While it’s been stressful to prepare and present Referats in front of audiences of critical, German classmates, I find the system useful for two reasons. First, it forces you to condense your research and ideas into a comprehensible and concise presentation, which helps later on when drafting the Hausarbeit. Second, students have the opportunity to learn from and eventually engage their peers with minor interference from Professors, who typically only chime in to correct facts or add their two cents on the subject.


I have to admit that when I first arrived in Germany I found this system disorienting. At Cornell I was accustomed to much busier schedules: class every day (often 3 or 4 times per day) in addition to regular writing assignments and problem sets. It may have been stressful, but there was strong sense of structure and the regular workload kept me on track for the most part. Here in Berlin being a student is like having a job. I commute to class, get some work done at my own pace, and at the end of the day go home, where I live a life completely separate from the FU campus. All that matters in the end is that I turn in my work on time in July. It sounds strange, and possibly even unappealing to many American students, but I’ve come to love this independent system of education, so much so that I’ve already begun to prepare applications for several different masters programs throughout Germany. At this point, I’m basically looking at my final year at Cornell as a year abroad from the country I’d really like to live in…

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1. Mai

For decades the first of May has been known as an International Worker’s Day all over the globe. In many countries, such as Germany, it’s a federal holiday during which demonstrations (usually peaceful) are held in support of the labor movement. However, May 1st (known in Germany as “Erster Mai”) holds a somewhat special significance in Berlin. Since the late 80s extreme left organizations have organized protests in districts of the city such as Kreuzberg during which riots have unfortunately broken out, leading to violence and police intervention. In more recent history extreme right groups have also proven to become hostile in the streets of the capital city. The violence has thankfully declined in the past few years, but we were nevertheless all warned by our program director to be wary in certain neighborhoods.

Demonstranten am 1. Mai

Anyone who has been to Berlin would recognize the small, embedded cobblestones that line the sidewalks of the city. As can be seen in the above photo (which I did not take), these stones, known in German as “Pflastersteine”, are the common form of ammunition for rioting citizens and have thus have become somewhat symbolic for Erster Mai.  With this thought in mind, my always creative landlady decided to make an anti-establishment demonstration of her own…only without the violence.

Over the course of a month she collected Pflastersteine that had been loosened from the cement during the winter. Soon she had over 40 of them, which is when the real work began. There is a newly built park only five minutes down the street from my apartment. There are volleyball courts, open fields, and playgrounds but, as my landlady says, there’s nothing for the brain. Her plan was therefore to create a large scale scrabble game, using the Pflastersteine as game pieces. By the time May rolled around each stone had a letter painted on it, some of them even had symbols from the Turkish alphabet so that those with immigration backgrounds could play along as well.


The day was a bit cloudy and eventually it began to rain, but I couldn’t help but admire the drive that my landlady had to bring her idea to fruition and install a game in the park that everyone could enjoy.






Unfortunately the game was removed the following morning by the Berlin Parks Department, probably because we had no permit to install the game. However, knowing my landlady she will not allow the mighty fist of the establishment to prevent Berliners from sharpening their vocabulary in the park. I believe her next plan is to collect so many Pflastersteine that the city couldn’t possibly clean them all up…


(Riot photograph take from berlin.de)


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It’s commonly said that there is a difference between Berlin and Germany. Sure, German is spoken here, German food is eaten here, and the German government convenes here, but the experience one receives in Berlin is generally thought to be incomparable with most other German cities. I experienced that firsthand back in Autumn when the BCGS group traveled to München. Everything seemed more conservative and slowed-down. That proved to be a great trip, but at the same time, the amount of museum visits and excursions on our itinerary gave it a bit of a hectic and touristy feel. This past weekend however, I had the opportunity to head north to the small town of Fliegenfelde, located just outside of Lübeck, where I was able to enjoy a radical change of pace from the sometimes stressful Berlin atmosphere.


Even before I first arrived in Germany I was told how easy it can be to socialize with other international students studying abroad, such as those in the European Erasmus program. Since most of these students live together in university housing and virtually all of them speak English, they tend to form their own social circles and never truly integrate into German culture. I’ll see some of these students from time to time, but I’ve been fortunate enough to befriend a few Germans with whom I spend most of my free time here. Breaking out of the international social circle has undoubtably had its advantages. Not only can I practice my German with people who actually speak the language, but I’ve also gotten to experience things that I otherwise might not have had I fallen back on the crutch of the english-speaking Erasmus crowd. Most recently I was invited to visit the parents of two good friends here in Berlin: siblings who moved here from Lübeck, a famous port city on the northern coast of Germany.


My friends frequently make the ca. 2.5 hour drive to their parents’ home and decided to bring me along this time. We arrived on Friday evening to find a home-cooked meal of goulash, red cabbage, and Semmelknödel waiting for us. Their parents were both incredibly friendly and welcoming, and it took almost no time at all for me to feel right at home. As we polished off our plates I was asked the usual questions about what I’m doing in Berlin, why I decided to learn German, and how long I intend on staying. At this point I have a more or less memorized set of answers to satisfy even the most curious German. It wasn’t long after dinner was finished before their mother fetched a stack of photo albums and yearbooks to embarrass her children with. All in all it was a very relaxed and enjoyable night filled with stories, laughs, and of course beer.


The next morning I was able to see Fliegenfelde by daylight. It’s a rather rural community so there wasn’t much around, but I found the landscape quite beautiful and enjoyed the change in scenery from my Berlin apartment. My friends were planning to catch up with some of their old classmates while in town, so I spent the day on my own doing a bit of sightseeing. Their mother drove me about 10 minutes or so into the main city of Lübeck, which is tiny compared to Berlin, but nevertheless the main hub of the region. Lübeck is actually a medieval city known in German as a Hansestadt. Along with other northern cities such as Hamburg, Bremen, and Braunschweig, Lübeck was a member of the Hanse merchant/trade confederation. There are several old structures and churches that still stand, which has helped to preserve the city’s medieval feel. Probably the most recognizable landmark is the Holstentor:


I first took an hour-long boat tour on the Trave, the river that flows through the town. It was nice to get a quick survey of the city, but I found that simply walking through the narrow, cobble-stoned streets was the most enjoyable way to take everything in.




As is the case with many small cities, Lübeck prides itself in any claim to fame it can find. Probably the most famous figure to come out of the town is Nobel laureate Thomas Mann, author of the novel Buddenbrooks, which is also set in Lübeck. I’ve never read the book myself, but I nevertheless decided to visit the Buddenbrookshaus, a small museum dedicated to the life of Thomas Mann, that of his family, and his path to international fame. I’ve been to more exciting museums, but the exhibits were interesting enough for the 3 Euro entry and I might just consider giving the novel a try now. After the museum my friend came and picked me up so we could stock up on meat and beer for dinner. Later that night we feasted on Bratwurst and Steak until we couldn’t anymore.


On my final day in Lübeck we all packed into the car and drove about 30 minutes north to Travemünde, which is on the coast of the Ostsee (a.k.a. Baltic Sea). It was a bit brisk outside, but I hadn’t been to a major body of water in almost a year, so I was looking forward to visiting the coast. It was refreshing to experience the seas breeze and smell of fish after spending so much time in a big city like Berlin. And of course I was just happy to be with a group of good friends.


We all relaxed a bit back at the house before packing up to drive south again. As I sat on their couch watching an episode of Friends dubbed in German, I took a minute to appreciate how nice it was to spend a full weekend away from the stress of school and internships with people that I’ve come to really care about here. I can only hope that I’ll be back to visit again soon. Until that time comes, I’m going to have to get used to the Berliner Luft once more.

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It’s certainly no secret that Berlin has arguably the biggest club scene in the world. Ever since the wall, fell clubs of all shapes and sizes have popped up throughout neighborhoods such as Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. DJs and music enthusiasts flock here from all corners of the globe for a chance to take part in the Berlin nightlife. What many visitors don’t know is that the city has also managed to cultivate a fairly large opera scene. I enjoy the electronic music of a loud, underground club as much as the next guy, but some days I prefer to sample Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi.


Since arriving in Germany I’ve been able to see five operas (four of which were in Berlin) and I have plans to see several more before I leave. To this day I’m astounded by how accessible the opera is here. Back in New York I only once had the opportunity to go to the Met, and even then we were lucky to find tickets. In Berlin alone there are three separate opera houses, all of which receive funding from the city. This means that the already cheap tickets (cheap by opera standards at least) are even less expensive for students. On top of that, if you were to buy tickets with a student i.d. within an hour before curtain, there is a flat rate of only 13,50 Euro. I went one step further and subscribed for the “Classic Card”, which costs 15 Euro per year. It has practically paid for itself already, because when I present the card at the evening box office I automatically receive the best available seat for 10 Euro.


There is always a risk involved in purchasing the tickets on the evening of the performance, but that’s part of what makes opera in Berlin so enjoyable. For instance, two days before New Years Eve a group of friends and I decided we wanted to see an opera together. As luck would have it, La Boheme was playing on the afternoon of the 31st. Before we knew it, we were sitting in the front row of the mezzanine in the Deutsche Oper enjoying Puccini’s masterpiece, and all for less then 50 Euro for the four of us. That’s still one of the best days I’ve spent in Berlin.


As I mentioned before there are three opera houses in the city: die Deutsche Oper, die Komische Oper und die Staatsoper. I’ve seen performances at each house at least once and find that the theaters all have their own unique feel. For the most part the repertoires are quite similar across the three operas, which means visitors sometimes have the luxury of selecting an interpretation that best suits their tastes. The Deutsche Oper in Charlottenburg is considered the West-Berlin opera house and is also probably the most traditional in terms of the the productions. There I saw La Boheme as well as Tosca, both of which were wonderful, although I certainly enjoyed the former more.


The next house is the Staatsoper, which is normally found on Unter den Linden near Humboldt Universität, but it’s currently undergoing renovation so all performances have been taking place in the Schiller Theater near Ernst Reuter Platz. This theater is considered the East-Berlin opera, and therefore the productions have a much more experimental and modern feel than those at the Deutsche Oper. Thus far I’ve only seen Il barbiere di Siviglia, which I found very funny and entertaining.

transform (2)



The third opera house is the Komische Oper, also found on Unter den Linden near Brandenburger Tor. Winner of the “Oper of the Year” award, the Komische Oper has a large repertoire of amusing operas and operettas, including quite a few by Mozart. Back in December I saw Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, a hilarious German operetta that I’d be willing to see a few more times. This opera house is rather small, but it has a very warm and inviting atmosphere. I’ll actually be going back on Monday to see Die Zauberflöte, which should prove to be a nice break after 3 weeks at my internship.




Photo Sources: berlin.de & staatsoper-berlin.de


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Kaffee kochen

After several weeks of juggling term papers, rugby practices, and even a bit of traveling, I’ve finally seemed to settle back into a somewhat normal rhythm here in Berlin. One major advantage of studying in Europe for a full year (as opposed to one semester) is the enormous amount of free time I have in between terms. For about two months my only academic obligation is to choose my courses for the Summer. Otherwise, I can more or less do anything I want until mid-April. Given the stress that comes with final exams and papers, many students choose to take a break from Berlin and travel. In fact, I believe several of my fellow students hopped on a flight the day after their work was completed. I certainly plan on doing some more traveling during my time in Europe (my likely next destinations are Prague, Krakow, and Budapest). However, I’ve decided to use my two months of freedom for an internship.


It feels as if it’s been an eternity since I first arrived in Berlin and began my guest-stay with a host family. I still make sure to stay in touch with them though, a decision which has paid off greatly. My host mother is heavily involved in politics and when I mentioned that I was looking for potential internships, she offered to send my Lebenslauf (resumé) to some of here colleagues. I initially assumed that nothing would come of it. After all, I’m neither a German native-speaker nor a student of political science. But as luck might have it, I received an email in January from a member of the Senatskanzlei (Senate Chancellory) of Berlin. After a rather brief interview I was offered a 6-week (unpaid) internship at the Berliner Rathaus, which is, for lack of a better description, the mayor’s office. What’s particularly exciting about this opportunity is the fact that Berlin, in addition to being the capital of Germany, is also a federal state. Therefore, the men and women I’m working with are policy-makers on a rather large scale.


I was, however, clueless about what my job would actually be. In the U.S., depending on who you work for, internships can range from boring and clerical to engaging and interactive. When I discussed my job with my landlady, she seemed to lean more towards the former.


“Bin eher gespannt, zu sehen, was ich morgen beim Rathaus machen muss,” I said to her on the night before my first day. “Ich kann dir schon sagen,” she answered, “Kaffee kochen.” While I knew that I was lucky just to have received the internship offer in the first place, I was certainly hoping that I’d be doing more than making coffee for six weeks.


As it turns out, the internship has proven to be quite exciting. As far as menial, clerical tasks go, I have virtuallly no part in them, which actually surprises me seeing as how there are always  bottomless stacks of paperwork to be completed in government offices. Instead, I’ve been assigned a couple of small research projects, which I’ll be presenting in the form of a written report at the end of my time here. There is of course the added challenge that I’m writing in German but, with several long term papers under my belt, I’m confident that I’ll do just fine.


What’s probably most exciting about this job is the fact that I get to commute to Alexanderplatz every morning. It’s not so much that Alex is a fun and interesting part of Berlin (I’ve been here so many times that I hardly even notice the enormous Fernsehturm anymore). Instead, it has to do with a feeling of integration. Alexanderplatz, the Berliner Rathaus, and other landmarks have simply become the backdrop to my life here. Don’t get me wrong, Berlin never ceases to excite me and there’s plenty that I’ve yet to discover, but as I begin my last few months abroad I can’t help but feel that I truly fit into this city more than anywhere else. In fact, there’s more than good chance that I’ll be back for graduate school, but that will have to be the topic of another post…



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From Rugby to Football

As I mentioned in my previous post it’s crunch time here at the Freie Universität as students continue to prepare for exams and write their term papers. That doesn’t mean, however, that I haven’t found time for leisure. After all, I’m only here for a few more months and I can’t spend all of my time on schoolwork. This past weekend I traveled with a few rugby teammates to Hannover, a city about 3 hours west of Berlin. There, we took part in the Hannover City Cup, a fun-going beach rugby tournament with teams from several North-German cities like Hamburg, Kiel, Lübeck, and of course Berlin. In case you might be wondering how a beach rugby tournament took place in the middle of winter in a city without any beaches, sand was carted into a large sport hall where a small arena of sorts was constructed


Sporting a new set of yellow jerseys that we ordered specially for the tournament, the SC Siemensstadt Rugby team stepped into the giant sand pit with few expectations. Almost none of us had previous experience with beach rugby, which is a very different game from the one we were used to. For starters, the halves only last five minutes each and only five players are allowed on the court at a time. Each team is then allowed two substitute players, which is quite important considering how tiring the games are. As we all learned immediately, running in sand is much more difficult than it looks.





The games therefore flowed at a relatively slow pace compared to normal rugby union. On top of all of that, once you’re tackled there’s sand in your eyes, in your hair, down your pants, and between your teeth. Despite the setbacks, however, we managed to win four out of six games, taking 4th place at the tournament (there were 12 teams in total). Covered in sand and exhausted, we piled into our cars on Sunday evening with our heads held high, ready to return to Berlin. (Below is a short video that was posted on the tournament website):


My weekend wasn’t over though. Later that night I met up with some fellow americans to watch the super bowl. The experience was, I must say, lackluster. Not only was the game boring, but we couldn’t even see the commercials due to the British broadcast (although I heard those weren’t great either). Nonetheless it was a nice way to unwind after a fun but tiring weekend. Being in Europe for so long, I almost forgot how over-the-top the U.S. can be. It was nice to get a brief taste of that once again via the super bowl.

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Jetzt geht’s los

I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that the last 5 months I’ve spent here in Berlin have been not only fantastic, but also the best months of my life. The experiences I’ve had will be one’s that I’ll never forget and many of the people I’ve met will likely be friends for life. That said, I am occasionally reminded of the fact that I’m not just living abroad, but studying abroad as well. The 2014 spring semester at Cornell may be only starting up, but I’ve yet to complete my first term here at the Freie Universität and since we’ve returned from Christmas break the workload has certainly kicked up a notch.

IMG_20131017_112609_022I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that a large aspect of university study in Germany is the oral presentation, called a “Referat” in German. I was unlucky enough to have two Referats scheduled within 4 days of each other, which wouldn’t have been so terrible had they not required a great deal of research and headache-inducing translation challenges. My first Referat last Thursday was also the most difficult. It was for my “Marx Reloaded” seminar, which is a course on the relevance of Marx’ theories in the present day. It’s hard enough trying to unterstand and then explain the theory of “strukturelle Überakkumulation” (English: structural over-accumulation of capital) in my own language. The fact that I had to do so in German in front of an audience of ever-critical German students made the experience all the more nerve-racking. Much to my surprise, however, the Referat went quite smoothly, an experience made sweeter by several compliments from my professor.Slide01

My second Referat went equally well and now I’ve earned a small amount of relaxation time. The next hurdle I’ll have to jump is the end of semester work, namely 3 term papers roughly 10 pages in length each. I know I’ll survive this brief stretch of stress, but one thing I’ve learned in past couple of weeks is that the Germans don’t play around when it comes to University work.

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Festtage mit Freunden

As 2014 begins I’d like to take the opportunity to do what I always enjoy at the start of a new year, namely reflect on where my life has taken me over the past 12 months. Since coming to Berlin in September I’ve learned an enormous amount about how people live and interact in this corner of the world, from how they drink their beer to how they serve their food to how they cross the street. I’ve attained a fairly comfortable level of fluency in the German language and I’m no longer a deer in headlights when attending a lecture at the Freie Universität. I can navigate the U-Bahn system blindfolded and I know where the best seats are at the Comic Opera on Unter den Linden. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in Berlin that is sure to stay with me for the rest of my life, it’s the importance of surrounding yourself with the one’s you care about and enjoying the time spent with them. It’s a simple and almost childlike idea, but I think I needed the experience of being away from home during the holidays for it to sink in.

I had a rather untraditional Christmas to say the least. While most of my peers in the BCGS program traveled to meet with friends and family elsewhere in Europe or the US, I chose to remain in Berlin. Knowing, however, that I would not be the only one doing so, my landlady and I decided to host Christmas Eve dinner at our apartment with other foreigners who were not with their families that week. Admittedly it felt strange waking up that morning and realizing that I was not in my house on Long Island. In fact, the entire day had an air of peculiarity to it, as I didn’t really do or say much for hours, just the occasional exchanging of words with my landlady. Once friends began to arrive though, things suddenly felt right. We dined on wild boar goulash, red cabbage, and Christmas beer, sharing stories and laughs about our time in Germany thus far. I may not have been with my family, but for a few hours it sure felt like it.

When New Years came around I was initially hesitant about what to do. At that point many of my friends were already back in the city and trying to plan a fun evening. Berlin is notoriously dangerous on New Years Eve because fireworks can be legally set of by the public without a permit. Consequently, people throw explosives of various shapes and sizes out their windows throughout the entire week. Suffice it to say, many choose to remain indoors throughout the night. I, however, was in the unique position of beginning at a rugby event on the west side of the city before heading over to an apartment on the east side. Dodging explosions left and right, half blind from the smoke, I managed to reach the second New Years Party just after midnight. My heart was racing but I was with my good friends at last.

We all stood on the apartment balcony watching at the assortment of fireworks displays across the city. It was absurd, surreal, and wonderful all at once. But it wouldn’t have really mattered where I spent that night as long as I had been with these people to my left and right on that balcony. There’s something magical and almost indescribable about a real friendship among a group of people. Despite the amazing sights I’ve seen and experiences I’ve had so far in Europe, and despite the many adventures that have yet to come, what I will always be most grateful for are the relationships I’ve formed here. They’re the kind of relationships that help to determine who you are and that will hold fast in spite of the longest distances.

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