A Summer Abroad: Berlin
Lifestyle

A Summer Abroad: Berlin

The beauty, history, and challenges that marked the beginning of my first Eurotrip.

3
A Summer Abroad: Berlin
Caitlin Jones

The first time I flew on a plane, I was seven-years-old and headed to Disney World with my family. It was a pre-9/11 world, but flying still frightened me enough that I burst into tears as we prepared to take off. I still vividly remember a flight attendant handing me a plastic winged metal to mark my first time in the air, all smiles and cheer. I haven’t been scared to fly since.

Still, I said goodbye to my family and crossed through the TSA on June 19th, 2016. I was bawling by the time I found my gate. Some things don’t change, I suppose.

Eight months ago, I got one of those “golden opportunities” that everyone likes talking about. The kind that don’t happen to people, realistically anyway. The CEO of a indie publishing website I had long inhabited offered me a community management job. I often joked that this job was “$11 an hour to play on Facebook all day”, but I managed the entirety of the company’s social media, most author-related projects, and generally kept their community happy. Big job, and it got even bigger when I was invited to spend two weeks working at the home office in Berlin. Another two weeks to do whatever I wanted in Europe. A few months of extensive planning later, I had flights and hotels lined up for Berlin, Rome, Paris, London, and Dublin. I was traveling abroad for the first time, and I was going it alone.

“Are you sure about that?” I got asked this question (and variations of it) a lot. I got asked if my longtime boyfriend couldn’t join me. I got disbelieving looks, because I’m 5’2, a young woman, and generally considered what we would call a "country mouse." In the small percentage of Americans that travel abroad, less travel alone and even less of those are women.

I remembered that while I sat at my gate, wiping my eyes as I blared Amanda Palmer over headphones and watched the plane I was about to board.

“Am I sure about this?” The answer was no. I boarded my plane anyway.

Since that first flight two months ago, I have become hopelessly in love with transit days. The in-between days of trains, airport transfer buses, and plane seats. They are slow, and draggy, yet enthralling for the simple act of travel. The anticipation of a new country and an imagination running wild for what you’ll see when you get there (you are always wrong, and it is always awesome). When I finally made the hop from Newark to Berlin, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn't know Berlin was so diverse, beautiful and so very huge. My first stop in Europe, with the least amount of English of all my stops. Two weeks there on my own. No pressure.

The first three days were the scariest. I quickly discovered my former employer was disinterested in helping me navigate the basics of living in Germany, so early hurdles such as the U-Bahn (Berlin’s metro system) and figuring my way around signs dotted my time in the city. To a tune of wicked jet lag, I worked long office hours and commuted back and forth across the vast city. One night heading back, the German writing in the metro turned me around and I ended up on the opposite side of Berlin around midnight. The metro shuts down at 1am. It was a rather unnerving adventure getting home. I also had the pleasant experience of finding out that my train ticket, which my employer picked for me, was only worth a week’s worth of U-Bahn rides, but only after after a 60 euro fine and an anxious trip to the German equivalent of the DMV. I had never gotten a ticket in my life: this one makes for an interesting story, at the very least.

At the same time, I quickly discovered how beautiful Berlin was. Majesty and creativity marry beautifully in the streets, where street art dots anything it can touch and history seeps out of the city's pores. Brass stolperstein mark Jewish lives on the cobblestone. East Side Gallery sprawls around its block with flooring imagery. I went to Brandenburg Gate on the same day as a football match, so the whole are had been transformed into a viewing area, complete with a truck-sized screen and food vendors. There was a thrill about joining the crowd of a thousand Berliners, passionate and joyful for every goal their team scored. Germany won the game, too.

There is a peace to Berlin, too. Due to its central position and polices, Germany has one of the most diverse populaces of any European country. Every day at my flat was a new one, sharing a building with college students from Germany, France, Haiti, Norway, Russia, South Africa, and yes, even America. We exchanged stories in the elevator, held doors, and offered helping hands where needed. I was offered food and, more often, beer when coming in at night. I found the same in the office, where my co-workers had flocked from all over the world. Our neighboring restaurant was run by a Russian family, who spoke only their native tongue and German. They called me the “pretty North European girl”, and smiled whenever I came in to order lunch with rough sign language. I also frequented a kiosk down the street (which are like gas station stores in America): the Turkish man that worked there had come from Istanbul two years before, with his young daughter. Our exchanges were awkward and messy until one day, when I apologized for my bad German while buying ice cream.

He shakes his head and says, “In my country, we say that when you eat and drink in a place, it is your home too.”

I think I visited him every day after that.

The instant understanding and compassion of Berlin was incredible, and humbling, because I kept thinking back to my home. Back where there had been screaming over immigrants from Mexico and Syria, whichever was the latest ‘threat’ to the American public. I thought about that as I wandered around this big city with little to no German experience, in a culture vastly different from my hometown of 10,000 people. I thought about the challenges I had living in such a place, on my own, for a mere two weeks. And then I considered what it would be to move here- to pack what I could carry and settle where no one spoke my language or knew my customs. Where everyone screamed for me to ‘go back where I came from’.

By the time my two weeks in Berlin were up, I had seen and done a great deal in the city. I had experienced so much of the beauty and strength of the city, and still, there was so much more left to experience. It was worth every second, difficult or otherwise. Given the chance, I would love to return to Berlin one day, and I'm so glad it was my first European experience. It helped set the stage for my next stop, Rome, and helped prepare me for the next two weeks of incredible travel!
Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Being a pharmacy technician never held as many risks as it does now. Exposure too hazardous conditions were little to none, and garbing up was only conducted in IV compounding. But, now, in order to give nurses the medications they need to help their patients, they need us, pharmacy technicians.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Epic Activewear Deals Every Leggings-Lover Needs To Know About From Nordstrom's Biggest Sale

Wearing my pleather Alo leggings till someone physically removes them from my body.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not an athletic person, at all. Since junior high school, I've been happily cheering my friends on at their football games and soccer matches from the sidelines as long as I could go home to my yoga mat and spend Sunday mornings at Pilates with my mom's friends.

Weekends are often spent in my casual wear, from the second I throw them on for morning meditation through running errands and evening walks. No, I won't be running a marathon or joining my friend's volleyball league anytime soon.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less

TikTok was banned by the president, but Instagram is here with its newest feature called Reel. Many of us are still wondering why TikTok was being banned in the first place. Was it all the dangerous TikTok trends? It was because of a security concern, but not in the way you might think.

TikTok is owned by Dancebyte, which is a China-owned company. Basically, just like any other app, TikTok collects the user's data. The main question to ask yourself when investing in any app or marketing tools who will be owning my data? So yes, China currently owns all the TikTok user's data worldwide.

Keep Reading... Show less
Disney

I've always been a huge Disney villain fan — whether it was for their cryptic one-liners, enviable outfits, or sidekick banter. Some of the most iconic lines from cinematic history have been said by the characters we love to hate and occasionally dress up as once a year.

The fear-mongering Gaston I now find hilariously cringe-worthy is now charming and oftentimes considered by fans as rightfully justified in his actions. Die-hard fans of the Disney villain fan club claim alternate egos in their favorite evil characters, adopting their hilarious witticisms into everyday life.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Reasons To Put The Damn Mask On, And Stop Fussing With It

COVID-19 is real people, do your part to protect yourself and others.

Ilana Stein

With the ever-changing reality of our world due to COVID-19, there has been one constant throughout these past unforeseen months, masks. Ever since coronavirus hit the ground running in the US, the CDC has been recommending social distancing and mask-wearing to stop the rapid spread.

Many people have been great about adhering to these policies, mandates, and suggested uses, but others, not so much.

Keep Reading... Show less

Anyone who goes to Panera Bread will tell you that their mac and cheese is to die for. If you're a huge fan of their mac and cheese, you won't believe the new recipe they're coming out with!

Keep Reading... Show less

I've been an athlete my entire life. I love movement and I've been jumping, kicking, swimming, dancing, throwing, you name it since I was in diapers. I'm also pretty competitive and probably went through a few sore loser phases. What can I say? I like to win, and losing can sometimes feel like I've failed. Especially, when your competitor is your best friend or someone that you worked all year long to defeat.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

I Asked My Boyfriend His Opinion On Liking Other Girls’ Pictures, And, Spoiler Alert, It's Cheating

"When you get into a relationship and you're in love, you have to realize that liking photos is for the single lifestyle."

Ladies, listen up. If you are in a relationship with a guy and he is liking other girls' pictures on social media, then it's a red flag. A man who can look at someone else and show interest by liking it means he doesn't care about your feelings AT ALL.

Keep Reading... Show less

Picture this, we're settling into our date, the conversation is flowing, we're ordering drinks, laughing, and then it happens... the job convo.

Him: "So what do you do?"
Me: "I'm a dating and relationships editor."

Keep Reading... Show less

- I have extremely sensitive skin, which is why I have always resorted to a plant-based organic beauty line such as Radha Beauty.

- Radha Beauty won me over years ago when I was looking for organic skincare brands.

- I was so excited to see they launched a new line incorporating USDA organic rosehip oil, so when their PR team sent me some, I could not have been more thrilled.

- After a week of using the products, my face felt as smooth as a baby's, looked more glowy than ever, and even cured some of my summer sunburn.

Radha Beauty isn't just a best-selling beauty brand on Amazon — it's a USDA-certified organic beauty brand I live by, and anyone who knows me knows I am all about holistic wellness.

Typically, it only takes three days for me to tell if a skin product is working or not because I have extremely sensitive skin. It's also why I have always stuck by plant-based organic beauty lines such as Radha Beauty.

Keep Reading... Show less

I have definitely had my fair share of breakups. I broke up with my high school sweetheart my second semester of college (he was cheating on me), I had a breakup with another guy I thought I was going to marry, and others in between. Regardless of whether you're the one doing the dumping or being dumped, breakups can HURT.

Keep Reading... Show less

Social media is something many of us have been addicted to (whether we want to believe it or not) since the moment we got it. I remember getting Facebook at 10. Instantly I was hooked. I loved being able to share my life with people, a little too much in my opinion, and I loved being able to see how/what other people were doing all the time.

Keep Reading... Show less

I am not in any way any sort of medical expert. These are just some tricks that work for me and have worked for others who also suffer from anxiety. These may not work for everyone, but I do hope these help some people in their fight against anxiety.

Keep Reading... Show less

-Having struggled with acne prone skin for years, I was cautious to try a new serum on top of the other products I've come to trust.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments