Snapshots from a summer abroad
Berlin is a city like no other. I’ve never been in such a diverse, open-minded city, and I’ve spent my time between multicultural Miami and liberal University of Florida.
Berliners are open to just about any way of life, and it shows. The city has artists, hipsters, children, the elderly, gays, straights, people and food from just about every country (especially Vietnamese restaurants and Middle Eastern bistros) and the usual smatter of tourists.
The artistic scene is huge there. Artist Christoph Niemann, who draws for the New Yorker, told us that Berlin is the place to be if you’re an artist. The city itself is stunning. Some of the architecture isn’t the best, especially where East Berlin used to be, but the contrast of the grandiose cathedrals and paintings done on the side of buildings several stories tall is something that you won’t find many other places.
As far as the history goes, Germans take their guilt seriously. We saw a public holocaust memorial near the Brandenburg Gate, a massive World War II memorial to Soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin and many sections of the Berlin Wall. Everything is on display for everyone to see, to remember and reflect.
The experience of photographing Berlin was an invaluable one, and I wish I could have stayed longer. I feel like I could stay in Berlin for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy (once I learn German, that is).
When I decided to study abroad, I knew to expect something special. What I didn’t know was that I would befriend a new neighbor who was an Italian, opera-singing gourmet chef who would sing out the window and throw my roommate and me food across the small alleyway each day. But it was experiences like this—opportunities to live and breathe a new culture, and grow and understand the people in it—that made my time abroad truly meaningful.
I love meeting people and telling their stories, but studying journalism in another country took it to an entirely new level. As a journalist, it stretched me to report across language barriers and within a new culture and mindset, and the opportunity to do all that while seeing (and tasting!) a slice of Italy for a month is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. Also, as students from all different disciplines in the college, the study abroad trip to Italy allowed us all to come together and learn from and alongside one another. I’ve made friends from the trip that I likely would never have otherwise known; plus, there’s no other way to get know someone like living with them for a month overseas!
From the canals of Venice to the coast of Sorrento, we were able to visit and see so much of Italy that it’s hard to believe we were only there for four weeks. Yet part of what made the trip unique for me was that we weren’t simply bussing through countless city streets like tourists, but we lived in the city of Florence. We had our own addresses, we got to know the local grocery store, and some of us even made new friends, whether it was a student in our own college we’d never met before or a Florentine opera-singing chef.
I am moving to Berlin.
This is what I decided after my time abroad there this summer. This past May, I, along with 11 other students, one professor and a plethora of camera equipment, spent two weeks in Berlin on a photographic journalism study abroad program.
The real fun, though, would happen when we weren’t working on the project. Some of it was very informative; we went on walking and bike tours of East Berlin where we uncovered Berlin’s communist past and how that has affected life there today.
We saw some incredible architecture and some even cooler graffiti, and I mean entire sides of 20-story buildings covered in graffiti. Some of it was unique, including a three-story building that had been taken over by artists after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Every inch was covered in art, people just wandered in and out and the whole place had quite a pungent odor to it but it was still a very awesome place to see.
We saw an old Turkish family living in a house with a tree growing out of it, a karaoke pit where hundreds of people would sit and watch people sing (poorly) and we went to a “freak show” that had an underground night club.
Oh and don’t even get me started on the food! Words simply can’t do the city of Berlin justice. If visiting Berlin isn’t on your bucket list than you are seriously missing out on the coolest city in the world.
Until this summer, I never thought I would have the opportunity to eat gelato while walking through the streets of Venice, listening to people yell and dance around in the streets.
Living in Florence, Italy for four weeks made me so much more aware of different cultures and lifestyles. I had the chance to eat all kinds of pasta every single day and not care about how much weight I would gain by the end of the month. Most importantly, being in another country helped me learn more about myself.
If I had to choose a favorite memory from my trip, it would have to be climbing to the top of Mount Vesuvius. We had already traveled to the island of Capri and spent most of the morning and early afternoon there, so naturally a lot of us were pretty exhausted. As tired as I was, I couldn’t wait to get to the top of one of the world’s most famous volcanoes.
After hiking up the steep, gravelly trail for about 20 minutes, I was eating my words. Because we were already at such a high altitude, my ears began popping and I found myself constantly out of breath, my huge walking stick forcefully piercing the ground as I walked. I kept thinking, “I just want to get up there already!” I felt like everyone else was already ahead of me!
After about an hour, most of us reached the summit. As I looked all around me and saw the entire city of Naples and beyond, I felt invincible. I ended up scribbling my name on one of the announcement boards to prove I had been there. While we all took pictures on the volcano, I decided to do a classic Rocky pose, signifying one of my greatest achievements.
Climbing Mount Vesuvius was something I never expected to accomplish or even have the chance to do in my lifetime. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my entire Italy experience, this was one moment I will most certainly never forget.
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