Carly Lave

Carly Lave - student profile | BOSPBERLINSA@LISTS.STANFORD.EDU

Stanford in Berlin, Spring 2012-13
Major: International Relations
College year while abroad: Sophomore
Internship: The Wye International Art House, Berlin

Questions and answers with Carly

Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?

I chose to study abroad in Berlin, Germany for multiple reasons. Firstly, my family’s heritage is German. Growing up, many of my relatives traveled to Germany and raved about their experiences there; thus I always had an embedded interest in visiting—and in this case living there for a period of time. Secondly, I’ve always been enamored by the German culture and specifically Berlin’s culture. As I learned while being abroad, Berlin is truly an anomaly within the greater German country, as it’s an international epicenter for art and youth. Other German cities are more classically German, less ethnically diverse, and take great pride in German heritage of beer gardens and large meals. Ultimately, I wanted to experience and learn about both of these “Germany’s.”

What were some of the academic benefits from studying in Berlin?

Naturally my German skills improved tremendously. A combination of taking intensive German while living in the city really forces you to utilize what language skills you have learned, no matter the level of German. I found that many of the everyday people I would interact with (baristas, waiters, etc.) really appreciated me speaking with them in German rather than English. Another academic benefit I really appreciated was the more individualized attention students receive. While this exists on campus to a lesser extent, the professors who work in the Stanford Center in Berlin are there just for the students and have more time to devote towards teaching. I was able to learn a lot more about German culture and society just through our conversations during and outside of class. Furthermore, all our academic work was enhanced with field trips! We took day trips with our professors to various German cities to learn about the culture and history. Examples include the German cities of Dresden and Potsdam among others. My quarter also had the privilege of visiting Riga, Latvia as a part of our academic trip funded by Stanford Alumni George Will. All of these trips were a much more experiential way of learning and I came away understanding much more about the people and culture, than simply what I would learn from a textbook.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

I learned to be much more self-reliant. Although I’ve always been an independent person, while living abroad you are accountable entirely to yourself and have many other responsibilities—traveling, managing living expenses, and the language. These were all things I learned to be more prepared to deal with, and handle maturely. I also learned to just go with the flow! As students we are constantly learning, both in and outside the classroom. Being able to adapt to any environment, especially when in a foreign country is especially important. Cultural norms will be different, the rate at which daily life is lived, social interactions, and other simple things. Learning to respect these new customs and keep an open-mind about how people live will allow you to learn more and not be made uncomfortable or distressed by these new experiences.

What was the most challenging experience while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

During my Krupp Internship in the summer, my purse was stolen. This was a very traumatizing experience at the time, but I learned a lot from it in the long run. The most important point I took-away, is that it is necessary to never grow too comfortable in a new place. While I did call Berlin home, I was still a foreigner, and thus had a lot more to risk by losing all my belongings. This was something I wish I hadn’t taken as much for granted before the event. I had to go through an arduous process in filing a theft report with the police, personal bank accounts, and cell phones among other things. I’m now even more aware of my surroundings when I travel in new places and areas I feel super comfortable in.

How was your experience living with local families?

My host family was very helpful in acquainting me with Berlin. My host mother had lived in the city for quite sometime and gave me great advice on the best museums, Berlin lakes I ought to visit, great shopping districts, etc. I appreciated the insight from a local versus just guidebooks and blogs. I also became good friends with another female student, Aletta, who lived in my flat. She was very welcoming and always invited me to different events/ parties with her friends. This was an awesome way to meet Germans and learn about all the cool undercover cafes, bars, and restaurants in Berlin. 

What was the biggest cultural adjustment that you had to make?

The type of people and human interaction is very different in Germany. People are much more frank and direct in their conversations. The way German language sounds in combination with the culture causes Germans to come off rather cold at times. This was a huge adjustment for me, as American people are more expressive and warmer in conversation. It took some time for me to acclimate to this while in Berlin; however, after awhile I learned it is simply the nature of German culture and wasn’t as offended by it any longer. 

What was the favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?

The atmosphere and people in Berlin. It may seem like a general aspect; however, the environment of Berlin gives off this energy that all are welcome and can make a home in the city. The bustling culture of Berlin is super inviting and affordable to students as well. There are tons of bars, nightclubs, and cafes to explore in different neighborhoods of the city. I ended up meeting great people from all over the world on such occasions. Furthermore, the city offers tons of public events which adds to the inclusivity of Berlin; these include participatory art exhibits, free plays and performances, concerts, outdoor music festivals, and free nightly movie screenings in the Summer just to name a few. So really, my favorite part of everyday life was just picking what to do! As there is always something exciting, new, and hip happening. While this is a subtle undertone of the city, it is truly what makes Berlin so fantastic and perfect to study abroad in.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?

There are so many wonderful memories. While difficult to narrow down, one of my favorite days was on “Mai Tags,” or May Day in Berlin. This is a national holiday in Germany, like in the States, but is also their Labor Day. Of course, it is celebrated in only the most robust and German fashion, with lots of beer, meat, bread, and people. The celebration happens mostly in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg in Berlin, which is where I lived. The streets are lined with food vendors, stages with live music, face painting, etc. I spent the entire day with two other Stanford students, and my host sister, exploring and partaking in all the Berlin revelry of dancing and drinking in the streets. After living through a German holiday, it was that defining moment where I finally felt like an initiated German.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Züge, post-hipsterism, fashionable, transcendental, Kuchen

What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?

Döner. It’s infamous in Berlin. And everywhere.

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

A very warm black peacoat.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour—Danish band, but hey, Berlin’s an international melting pot.