Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
First of there was a small culture shock. Trying to understand everyone and every sign in new language and context was a little difficult at times, but I quickly learned that small difficulties can make huge hold ups. I started my visit with one such hold up. Directly after I got my passport stamped, I started towards the baggage carousel. Before I could get close, a woman in a bright yellow vest remarked kindly to me in German. I panicked. Not wanting to seem out of place, I nodded and kept walking. She looked confused and repeated louder what she had first said. At this point I knew something had literally been lost in translation (since I couldn’t translate) and I stopped to tell her I couldn’t speak German. She, in an exasperated tone, asked if I had a connecting flight. I’m sure my face was red as I replied no and she let me on my way, but not before rolling her eyes. Germany was amazing, don’t misunderstand that. The scenery, comparatively ancient architecture, the history of great kings and daring escapes, having ice-cream cafes and train stations at basically every corner, doner (ask me some time about doner), all of that was amazing. However, I can’t help but realize that the first interaction I had with a Berliner in Germany will stick in my mind as long if not longer than the Bremen Cathedral will. Those small moments of shameful helplessness were sprinkled through the trip. Some were funny, some were challenging and encouraging, but that first one was humbling if not humiliating. In Germany I learned that trying to fit into a new culture is very hard. By the end of the trip and with the help of an amazing German teacher (Christoph), I finally had a basic understanding of how to act like a Berliner, but I hadn’t even scratched the surface of what it meant to be one. I think I can understand now in some small capacity what it must be like to actually live in a foreign land and to become a part of a second culture. It must start off as a very confusing and alienating experience, especially if you don’t have someone to guide you through it. But I think I can see how rewarding it might be to have a second home, a second place of comfort and familiarity. I’m incredibly glad I went on this trip and I learned so much more about myself and about personal responsibility than I had expected to. I’d like to thank my mom, dad, grandparents, and Calvin College for making this trip financially viable, as well as professor DeRooy, professor Nielson, and other Calvin staff for pouring their effort into planning and executing this trip. All of us on the trip are so grateful to those who supported us from home. Thank you for Reading.