Sunday, February 20, 2011

Berlin, quand tu nous tiens

Berlin, Berlin, Berlin. This word sounds so sweet in my ears now. It has not always been the case, but four months spent in this wonderful city totally changed my perception of it.

When I first looked at the Erasmus destinations, I quickly skipped the line ‘Berlin’. It was too big a city, too gray (I thought so) and most of all, far too German for me. I could picture myself riding a bike in the Netherlands or drinking Guinness in Ireland, but not really mumbling some German words in front of the Brandenburg Gate. However, the idea kept popping in my head. Berlin? After all, why not Berlin? Putting my fears aside, I decided to give it a go. The professors agreed, but not without warning me that ‘it is going to be a real adventure’. Jumping into Germany after just a year of learning the language is indeed an acceptable definition of ‘adventure’... But I love adventure and I was ready for this one. After three weeks of intensive German lessons in Aachen, I finally boarded my plane and flew to Berlin.

When I arrived there, adaptation was needed. Fortunately I had two guides with me to help me acclimate, namely my sister and ‘le Guide du Routard’ (warmly advised). One flew back rather quickly, the other remained a loyal friend throughout my stay. I had found an apartment with two German boys and this was a brilliant choice: the two guys were extremely friendly, the apartment was a real palace and it was situated near the U-/ S-Bahn station Heidelberger Platz, a direct tube line to the university. Berlin is such a huge city (eight times bigger than Paris) that it can easily take an hour to reach the Freie Universität. My advice for the lucky students going to Berlin next year: start looking for accommodation really early, competition is harsh.

I spent my first weeks visiting Berlin and four months were not even enough to see everything. The city offers something for everyone: theatre and opera at very reasonable prices, museums and monuments (Berlin is the place of history par excellence), cinema in the famous Sony Center, great parties, festivals, events and the list does not stop there. I got the chance to try a bit of everything and make unforgettable memories of it! Brandenburger Tor, Potsdamer Platz, Reichstag, Berliner Dom and Alexander Platz (to cite but a few sights) made me turn into a Japanese tourist. Living in Berlin is also not at all expensive, which is by no means insignificant.

As for the Freie Universität, I loved it. Let’s say the size of it has nothing in common with the University of Namur. The German system is also quite different from the Belgian one with much more emphasis put on personal research and active participation during the seminars. As I didn’t have a lot of courses, I had all the time in the world to meet with friends and to enjoy all that the wonderful city of Berlin has to offer to its citizens.

To conclude, my stay was more fantastic-terrific-you-name-it than I could ever imagine. I ended up making myself understood in German without problems, spending amazing time with amazing friends and discovering a culture I knew nothing about before. Berlin is a little treasure, a city which never sleeps, a destination worth heading to without second thoughts. One thing is for sure: once you have tasted Berlin, there is no way you can forget it! And I won’t.

Mélanie Dessouroux

1 comment:

dejavual said...

Thank you for your description of it! I am moving to Berlin and know nothing of it other than friends living there and internet searches.