My name is Zac and for 4 weeks in June and July I completed an entry-level German language course at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. I flew in to Frankfurt, Germany’s biggest airport, and did not waste much time before getting a taste of Germany’s cross-country rapid transit rail system. I arrived in Berlin in a flash (or what was really four hours later but it felt fast!).
My first full day in Germany was definitely interesting. My Australian friends and I got amongst the sunny streets of Berlin in an effort to kick our Jetlag. It didn’t take long to encounter my first few culture shocks:
- Berlin, like much of Europe does not see the sun set until after 9pm in Summer: It can be quite jarring to see bright twilight sky at 10pm but for the locals it is normal and they adjust their schedules accordingly. A 7pm dinner reservation in Summer might attract some looks.
- Germany does not open on Sundays: Everything short of pharmacies, public transport and some restaurants. It was nice to have a day each week of enforced rest but at times it was quite inconvenient to be unable to go to a supermarket.
- Alcohol is cheap, really cheap: Perhaps the best thing about Germany is the availability of Bier for less than 1€, better yet, you could buy bottles in supermarkets in the same place you’d find any other non-alcoholic drinks.
My experience at Humboldt was great; my class timetable consisted of 3 3-hour lessons each week. The lessons themselves were intensive but I was afforded a lot of time during the week to see and explore Berlin. It was really interesting to see the local museums and historical sights including the surviving Berlin wall segments, the Brandenberg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie.
Humboldt graciously facilitated a tour of the Reichstag Building for students. The Reichstag Building houses the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament. Its dome was famously destroyed, and it has since been rebuilt, a mix of modern influence and intentional preservation of history (the role of Germany in WW2). We were able to enter the viewing area of the parliament (pictured) and ask questions about the German system of government. Fun fact: Unlike Australia, the physical arrangement of seats in the German Parliament changes after each election based on the number of members from each party!
Overall, I loved it. The Global Short Program was a great way to experience the city as a short-term resident instead of solely as a tourist. It was great to experience a distinctly different city and learn a language along the way. I would recommend the exchange experience to anyone.
Bachelor of Information Technology
Global Short Program student