PREFACE | Note from the Author
Tickets – check. Luggage – check. Passport – check. You may think that I’m ready for whatever trip lies ahead. To you, my friend, I’d say you’re partially right: I have my documents, my clothes, my gadgets, and my tangible things, but I’d stop there. No matter how much I pack, repack, look up things, or learn a few phrases in the native tongue, nothing will prepare me 100% for studying abroad. That is a very scary thing to admit – I don’t know what to expect in Berlin or in London. Follow me as I post weekly blogs about my journey of discovering new lands, new cultures, and (I hope) a new me.
ONE | Finding Home
Sunday, 26.06.2016. Late Afternoon.
The anxiety accumulated like Tetris blocks on level 20 the moment I arrived at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station. Fear struck like lightning when the polizie and information desk assistants gave me confused looks when I attempted to show them my notes to the Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin (the BSEL accommodations). I don’t remember having this sinking feeling before in my life: I was lost in a foreign country marked with foreign words – and I just got off the train!
My luck changed when I stumbled upon the train ticket office. Despite the exchange of broken English and German, the assistant understood what I was looking for and mapped out my route on the metro. Just follow the S75 for 5 stops and get off. Whew, that was easy. At least, that’s what I thought.
When I got off the metro, I had to walk about 20 minutes to the Citadines. No wifi. No Google Maps. No idea how to read the language. No stores open on Sunday afternoon (what is this?!). This, my friend, was the basic equation of getting lost in a large city.
Again, I struggled to understand German as I asked nearby pedestrians hurrying to their destinations on a Sunday afternoon. The typical Berliner stereotype was half-true: they were determined to get to their destination and to avoid helping an obvious tourist lugging a suitcase down Kurfürstendamm. I say half because an elderly lady, who barely spoke English, was kind. She showed me how to take the bus M29 to Olivaer Platz (where the Citadines was located) – I must have been beaming because she smiled in return and said best of luck.
Now that I’m settled in my room (finally!), I felt the weight of exhaustion seeping in. Traveling with a full suitcase, backpack, and duffle bag around the capital of Germany was draining. So, future travelers beware! Pack lightly.
But another feeling was chipping away at me. At first, I thought: no way, it’s too early to feel like this. But there’s no denying the feeling. Not having met my roommate, who is out at the moment, or seeing any other Drexel student (because I came from Prague by train), I felt alone. I felt homesick.
I unpacked and convinced myself to go outside for a walk. Maybe I can cure this feeling with learning more about the city. On my way down to the lobby, I noticed there was a person watching the Euro 2016. What the heck, I ditched my walk and sat down to enjoy the game. And that started an unexpected adventure.
More to come in TWO | Finding Home Part 2