Beep beep! Beep beep! At 10:30am on 2nd July 2017, I woke up to the sound of my alarm and was immediately greeted by butterflies in my stomach. My suitcase, having been packed for the past week, was at the front door, ready to go. I couldn’t wait for my two week adventure in Berlin!
The plane journey was about an hour and a half (I got the window seat!) so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to read over my German grammar notes and start practising my German accent. I was seated next to a girl who looked about the same age as me. We got chatting and I found out her name was Niamh. Little did I know we would both be heading to the same German Language School in Berlin and would become great friends within the next two weeks!
As soon as we landed in Berlin, my heart was in my throat. I was so nervous. What if I forgot all the German I had learned for the past five years? What if I didn’t understand what anyone was saying? What if I found the classes too difficult? I started to relax when Niamh and I were met by two women in bright orange GLS t-shirts. However, they spoke to us quite quickly in German and I would end up replying with an unsure ‘Ja’ or ‘Nein’. They eventually realised that they were speaking too fast and slowed down for us. It was much easier to understand then!
When we arrived, I was amazed to see how large the campus was. There were vast accommodation buildings nearly everywhere I looked and the college itself was huge! Everything looked so quaint and welcoming, and I soon started to feel like a real college student! After I got my key, I found my room on the second floor. I was sharing with four other girls: two Italians and two Slovenians. At first, I felt like a bit of an outsider because these girls were speaking to each other in their own languages and I didn’t know what they were saying. However, I soon got to know them and I realised they were actually great fun to be with!
Breakfast and dinners were provided by the college but we had to buy lunch ourselves. This worked out well as not only did we get to try out different cafés and restaurants but we also got the chance to interact with restaurant staff in German! Sometimes after dinner at the college, my friends and I would visit a waffle shop called ‘Glücklich’ for dessert (which means ‘happiness’ – the perfect name for a waffle shop!).
Every day consisted of two ninety minute classes of German conversational and written work. With only 12 students per class, I found it very unusual compared to my German class back in Ireland, where there would be close to thirty students in my class! With the smaller class size, however, I felt as though we got to know the teachers a lot better. At first I was worried that the classes might be too difficult, but because my teachers were so helpful and patient, I soon became very confident and very comfortable in class. When classes ended at half past four, we were free to do our activities!
I tried to take part in as many activities as possible to get a deep understanding of the German culture. The tour guides, Bennet and Innes, brought us all over Berlin. We walked around copious streets from Oderberger Straβe to Husemannstraβe and we also visited Mauerpark, a vast green area with big beautiful trees surrounding it. Every Sunday a Flea Market takes place there and I have never experienced a market quite as big as this one!
We visited the zoo, the amazing street art of Hackescher Market, the East Side Gallery, the Brandenburg Gate, and we saw the hilarious movie ‘Tschick’ in an open- air cinema! We cycled all around Berlin and saw so many beautiful gardens and parks. We even got to go to the top of the Fernsehturm!
We also visited the Berlin Cathedral which was absolutely amazing. I have never seen such a beautiful and intricately detailed cathedral in my entire life! Inside, we were given a headset and a radio which gave an account of the history of the cathedral and its architecture, which I found very interesting. What I found most breath-taking about my visit to this amazing cathedral was the view at the very top. I could see all of Berlin! It was gorgeous.
One Saturday when we didn’t have class, myself and my friends decided to go to Alexanderplatz. It was such a hot beautiful day and when we arrived, we saw loads of people having a giant water fight in the fountain so we all thought – why not!? And jumped right in! My face was sore from laughing! All of us were then too wet to dry off in the sun, so we hit the shops and bought fresh dry new clothes.
I can honestly say that those two weeks in Berlin were the best two weeks of my life. I made so many great friends and amazing memories and I definitely feel as though my German has improved. I would whole-heartedly recommend a trip like this to anyone. Whether it’s to improve your German or even experience the rich German culture, all I will say is book that plane ticket!