Stanford in Berlin, Spring 2013-14 Major: Electrical Engineering College year while abroad: Sophomore
questions and answers with Nick
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
My cultural heritage is largely German. My family immigrated about a century ago, so I wanted to explore my roots as well as practice my German.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
I took a break from my Engineering major to explore the arts and culture, something that is easily forgotten back at campus. Courses abroad are significantly different than courses at Stanford; there is a certain special “something” that I cannot put into words about them.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I intended my abroad trip to be a “self-searching” time, and I found a thing or two. Ask me about it in person though, because it is very difficult to put into words. Long-story short: I’m much happier now. I also found long lost family in the phonebook and called them up. I visited them on two separate weekends, and was able to meet my 95-year-old great-great aunt – my grandpa’s aunt. How crazy is that? My family in Michigan had never met them before.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
I found relating to Germans and other Europeans very difficult; they are very different, even though they’re not. There are different ways of expressing everything over there. I found that I had to put myself in uncomfortable situations in order to become comfortable with them.
How was your experience living with local families?
My host mother was great. Honestly, she was so much fun. I did not see her all the time because she would always go out, but whenever she was home, we would have very interesting conversations about my life (auf Deutsch).
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Not being so easily offended was something I needed to adjust to. There is a lot of “straight talk” and forwardness in Europe as a whole that I really do appreciate, but it was difficult to not take personally right away.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
Most days I would go to the little food stand outside of my apartment. The man that worked there – who could not speak any English – eventually remembered me every time. It is just a small taste of my routine life in Berlin, though it was never boring – always refreshing. Life always had something new to show me there.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?
Going for a rowboat ride in the Schlachtensee (a nearby lake) with many of my European friends on a simple Saturday is my fondest memory. We rowed out to the middle of this small lake, talked to the other people rowing by, and jumped out to swim.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Changing, Personal, Satiating, Fresh, Fun (yes, just fun)
What advice would you give to someone who was considering studying abroad in Berlin?
If you are worried that your reasons for going abroad are not good enough, you are wrong. There is very little to lose when compared to what you can gain from Berlin.
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?
An open mind and a wanderlust will take me places, I suppose. We will see; I am excited to find out.
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
Mustafa’s Döner Kebap. Duh.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My laptop: I was able to Skype my family and show them a little bit of Germany – somewhere they have not seen either.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?
Typical Berliner experimental techno – it’s pretty gnarly.
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.