Stanford in Berlin, Winter 2014-15 Major: Symbolic Systems College year while abroad: Sophomore
questions and answers with Ishan
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
I began learning German almost two years ago because I had always been fascinated by German culture. I’d always wanted to study abroad during my Stanford career and realized that Germany and Berlin were the perfect fit for me.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
I think there’s great value to learning about certain aspects of a culture while being able to totally immerse yourself in it. Almost every class in Berlin has a field trip aspect where you get to experience the things you're learning about, like the culture of German sport, or the history of German film, and discuss these topics with local Berliners, not just your fellow students.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
The answer to this question is far, far too long to put on this webpage. I’ll say that I went to Berlin with a clean slate, with an open mind to any and all experiences, and after I returned to Stanford 9 months later I realized that I had left the person who I was before far, far behind me.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
I tried to make every day a challenge for myself, by doing things that I may not have been comfortable with, and spending as little time as I could at home. It was incredibly rewarding.
How was your experience living with local families?
My host mother was fantastic, she had traveled all over Europe and Asia when she was younger, and would host a group of her friends over every Wednesday to play cards and drink wine. I enjoyed speaking with her whenever I could, and hearing about her life in Berlin before and after the wall came down.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Honestly, I felt like I could relate to Germans better than I relate to Americans. They may be blunt and straight to the point, but so am I, and honestly, they have a hilarious sense of humor.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
I enjoyed stopping at a café on a square surrounding a huge church a few subway stops from home to write and draw, and I would always catch the weekend’s football games at a local sports pub. Eventually the owners of both the café and bar recognized me and would stop to chat, bringing out my standard cup of black coffee or dark beer. I enjoyed speaking to them, they always had the most amazing stories.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?
There’s so many. Watching the sunset from a rooftop garden, drinking our way through the entire menu of beers, traveling to Dortmund to watch a BVB game. I don’t think I had a single experience I wouldn’t call memorable
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
What advice would you give to someone who was considering studying abroad in Berlin?
There’s not many cities like Berlin in the world. Berlin has such an incredible history but at the same time is so young; it’s been less than 30 years since the wall came down. Honestly, stop considering it and grab this amazing opportunity with both hands.
Berlin is an incredibly exciting, unique and weird city. In fact, it’s so weird that there’s something about it for everyone, that everyone will love. Stop thinking, stop considering. Just go.
If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
How has the experienced changed or enhanced your future academic and career goals?
I knew growing up that I could never live in the same place for very long, and traveling in Europe proved that. Whatever I do in my life, I’ll always be ready to be on the move.
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
Mustafa’s Döner. One of those things you think can never live up to the hype, but then proceeds to fully justify, if not exceed your expectations.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?
I learned a lot of football chants and songs; some of them still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up
Every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying overseas.
Regardless of the academic path you choose, you will be enriched by time spent in another country. Achieving cultural literacy and gaining substantive understanding of other perspectives in the world will deepen your awareness of yourself, your educational goals, and your own society. Nearly one-half of each graduating class studies abroad through one of Stanford's overseas programs.