Sofia Patino-Duque - Stanford in Berlin
Major: History & German Studies
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: On one of my last days in Berlin, after spending six months in this fascinating city, I went and visited the Reichstag-- the German Parliament-- with my roommate Anna, a fellow Krupp Intern. We scheduled to go around sunset because we wanted to see the city as it was painted in golden and pink light from the setting sun.
Questions and Answers with Sofia
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
Berlin fascinates me for a multitude of reasons. The rich history and the center of modern-day European politics, Berlin is the place to be for someone whose interests lie within European Affairs. Stanford’s Berlin option is particularly unique because it offers its students the opportunity to immerse themselves into the city, culture, and academic scene.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Berlin?
I did not realize how international Berlin was until I kept meeting incredible ex-pats from around the world who were attracted to this city for its culture, art, and history. My homestay was right above an artist's studio, and he had so many fantastic art events which brought this multinational and cultural side of Berlin to my literal doorstep.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
I improved my German language skills and comprehension, not only in the classroom but also by stepping outside and interacting with the people around me. I also made incredible progress on my German Studies major as every class I took counted towards my degree.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I think anyone who studies abroad learns a bit more about what independence looks like, especially as one leaves the comfort of familiarity for the unknown. I actually loved the feeling of independence and knowing the world was my oyster. I now envision myself living abroad in the near future and even thinking about establishing my career and life outside of the United States when graduating from Stanford.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
I knew I wanted to do my Krupp Internship in a German-speaking organization to improve my language skills. Working in a formal office setting, especially when the the working language is not your mother tongue, is a challenging scenario, but I could not have been luckier and happier with my experience at the Europäische Akademie Berlin. They were so understanding and helped me acclimate to a new workspace in a foreign country.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
This is not really cultural adjustment but learning how to deal with the different time zones was a big adjustment I had to make. With friends in California, family in Colombia, and my parents in New York, I had to be very organized and conscious of everyone's times to figure out the best slots to communicate with loved ones and friends. I found the best way to handle all these different times was to add them to my phone!
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
My favorite thing about Berlin is the pedestrian crossing lights. The little East-German figure that lives on virtually every traffic light even has its own name: Ampelmännchen. The history of this figure goes beyond just its cuteness; the traffic light symbol was carefully developed from both technical and psychological aspects to create greater safety for pedestrians. The use of Amplemann is living history and one can find it at almost street corner in Berlin.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?
During the summer of 2018, I participated in the Krupp Internship Program and worked at the European Akademie Berlin (EAB). Besides improving my language skills, since the working language was German, I gained valuable knowledge regarding how political organizations differ between the United States and Germany. I felt really lucky to have an additional three months in Berlin which totally solidified my love for the city and the German language!
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Dönner, U-bahn, museums, & thrift-shopping
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
Hands down the falafel halloumi from Tutti Island in Berlin-- it was love at first bite
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
Downloading Google Maps-- Berlin has an incredible public transport system and I found that Good Maps was the most up-to-date and could be used offline when I did not want to use my limited data.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?
AnnenMayKantereit-- think Mumford and Sons meets German music. Once I could start singing the lyrics, I felt more local.