Kim Ngo (she/her) - Stanford in Berlin
Major: Computer Science & German Studies
Minor: Human Rights
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: On my daily commute.
Questions and Answers with Kim
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
I've been to Berlin before, and I remember really enjoying the place, the people, the weather, the adventure, the ambiance and the possibilities. I was also pleasantly surprised to see so many immigrant neighborhoods and multicultural pockets. I also find it an exciting city in how many diverse enclaves (those corners with prolific street arts) and attractions it has, like arts center that hosts exhibitions, conferences, film screenings, and workshops. I also really liked its selection of bookstores, from the commercial paradise of Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus to the more niche St George’s English Bookstore.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Berlin?
I thought that I'd have to travel hours to immerse myself in nature, but the green landscape is embedded as a part of Berlin itself.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
I took classes that engaged more social inquiry rather than technical exactness. It was a quarter without CS classes, which was a first.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
The world generally doesn't care about I did and how I dressed or represented myself, so I should behave in a way that pleases and truly embodies me.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The fetishization of Asian women made me feel very objectified and miserable, as well as the persistent racial microaggressions, microinsult, and microinvalidation. I was stopped more often than not while walking down the streets or on my way to catch the subway with inquiries about my ethnicity. Strangers would say greet me in Chinese or Japanese. People would follow me down the streets with crass attempts of "Asian" language. I was once asked if I was a virgin by an absolute stranger, randomly and seriously. I learned what it's like to feel like I don't belong somewhere because of my race, to feel fundamentally different from other people.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
In German restaurants and cafes, the customer is seen as a guest to the facility, and it's not a given that customers are always right. Also, the smoking culture is rampant in Europe, and Germany is no exception.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
Remembering that Dussman closes at midnight almost every night on the weekdays. Visiting a baklava bakery.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?
I once got lost in a forest while hiking, and somewhere along the way I saw children who looked less than 10 years ago running around and playing without adult supervision. I felt like I was involved in a Hansel and Gretel plot.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Humbling, different, reflective, influential, difficult.
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
Memory of home.