Student Blogs/Lauren in Germany
It can be hard adjusting to a new environment, to a new language, new culture, new city, new country. I’ll put it bluntly – moving abroad can be really hard. It can be very easy to isolate yourself; not yet adjusted to a new life but not a part of your typical life at home. Sometimes I still feel like I’m stuck somewhere in between.
When I first moved to Carleton, I met my best friends within the first few days. We became very close really quickly, and that was my most recent comparable experience to this. I was worried when I moved to Berlin that I wouldn’t find such good friends. I was particularly worried because a lot of students knew others from the same home university, or large groups of students from the same country formed immediate groups. I’m the only student from Carleton, and the only one from Canada; I immediately felt like an outsider. I was very anxious about being left behind without a group of friends. Just voicing this concern to a friend that I’ve made here made me realize I wasn’t alone in this; she felt the exact same way!
I tried to extend my network and meet lots of new people and I have met some great friends. I think it’s important to recognize that meeting people and making friends, requires effort and it’s not immediately easy. You have to really put yourself out there. It has taken me a while to adjust and to find a comfortable group and I’ve met lots of other great people in the short time I’ve been here. I’m very grateful for all the friends I’ve made so far in Berlin. They’re people I can rely on and make the city even more fun than it already is. I think if I can say anything about this experience, it would be that some things take time, and that by just continuing to put yourself out there you will eventually find people you connect with.
When I’m feeling really low, I know I’m just a phone call away from my friends and family at home. I’m so grateful for my support system. I have several people who I know I can call when I need them. I was surprised by the amount of relief I felt when I spoke to my fellow Sprott exchange students, even those who I wasn’t close with at home. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to meet up with other BIB students too because I feel like we understand each other particularly well since we’re all dealing with a lot of the same situations. Talking with people who are experiencing almost all the same things gave me the confidence boost I didn’t know I needed! Just knowing that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling lifted some of the weight off my chest. Every time I walked away from seeing someone from home, I felt like I was lighter, and I was reminded of the enormous group of people supporting one another.
Another new experience for me has been travelling with friends! I recently visited Prague with a group of friends I met in Berlin. It was actually the third country I had ever visited, which my friends all found a little crazy, but I was excited! I was so excited the entire weekend, even minor inconveniences and hours of walking couldn’t bring me down. I had a great weekend seeing beautiful Prague and taking an embarrassing number of photos.
I’ve travelled to southern Germany twice to see my best friend, Ceiledh, who’s studying there for the year. During my first visit to Munich we celebrated Oktoberfest for the weekend and saw the city on our last day there. This is definitely a German festival worth participating in!
During my second visit to Augsburg, we took a day trip to the Alps to see a beautiful German castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein, which the Disney castle is based on. It was the first castle I’ve ever visited, and it made me want to pack up my things and move to wherever they still have castles. I was in awe all day of the beauty of the castle and the surrounding area. We also took the time to explore her new home and plan our next visit. I am so grateful to be so close to my best friend – opposite sides of the country maybe, but still closer than our hometowns in Canada. We get to see each other every six weeks or so and we talk often. Just having someone I’m so close to in the same time zone makes a huge difference. Six hours between here and home can definitely take its toll.
It’s taken me some time to realize that just because I’m on exchange, it doesn’t mean everything is going to be awesome all the time. That’s something I feel like we didn’t talk about enough before going abroad. Exchange can be really isolating, if you let it. You have good days and bad days, just like you do at home – only now my good days and bad days are in German. But that’s the point of going abroad; to actually live in a foreign country you have to experience all sides of it.
Lauren is a third-year Bachelor of International Business (BIB) student studying abroad in Germany.