I’ve been home for about a week now, and every day I miss Berlin. Adjusting back to my regular life has been pretty easy, but it’s also sad because it means that I’m not in Berlin. I loved the feel of the city and how I could just hop on the UBahn and go anywhere. During my whole month in Berlin, I was in a car only twice – once from the airport to my house and once from my house back to the airport. Realizing that was kind of shocking because here in Whitewater, being in a car is an every day occurrence.
I’m back in my old schedule of things, and I’m getting ready for classes to start in a few week. I wanted to take one last post to reflect on my goals and see what I accomplished from them.
1. Language Goal: I want to continue gaining confidence in my language skills and be able to hold spontaneous conversations with people I meet about topics that I may not have as much experience in. I want to be able to have conversations without really thinking about the words I’m saying. I’m aiming to speak as little English as possible (only with American friends/family who cannot speak German) while in Germany.
I initially thought this goal was going to be the easiest to achieve, and in a way, it was. I would only speak German with my host family, in my class, and anytime I interacted with Germans, like in a store or ordering food. I initially spoke mostly German with the friends I made, but some of them were at a lower German level than I, so we ended up switching to English. I wish I had stuck to speaking strictly German, but I know it would have made interacting with my friends a lot more difficult. My host mom did tell me in my last week that she could tell I was speaking more spontaneously and didn’t have to think as much about what I was saying. That bit of praise made me very happy with how my language skills had progressed.
2. Cultural Goal: I want to learn more about the immigrant populations in Germany, specifically in such a big city as Berlin. The recent immigrant influx has had significant influence over local culture, as well as German culture as a whole, and I want to learn more about it and the impact it has had.
I didn’t learn many specifics about the immigrant population, rather more general things. I learned that there are different areas in the neighborhoods around Berlin that have become pocket communities for different immigrant groups. For example, in Kreuzberg, there are a lot of eastern Europe/Middle Eastern restaurants due to many immigrants from that area settling in the neighborhood. Near Prenzlauerberg, there is a large Vietnamese population, so there are tons of Vietnamese restaurants there. I also learned some from the people I met while participating in the language cafe, since the participants were mostly immigrants working on their German skills. I learned that most jobs require at least a C1 level of German, and that those learning German have to take intensive courses and tests to see if they’ve accomplished the necessary skills to move up a level. One man said he had taken the B2 exam a few weeks ago and was waiting on the results from it. If he didn’t pass, he would have to wait another three months or so before he could take it again. This experience made me more empathetic towards what these people are going through on a daily basis in a new country.
3. Professional Goal: I want to bring back artifacts that are interesting, and be able to show my future classrooms that knowing and speaking German is not a useless skill. I want to gather various books, puzzles, games, movies, etc., that I can use in my classroom to make learning German more interesting and engaging.
I only brought back one item that is classroom related, and it’s a grammar book I got for free from the book exchange at the Prinzessinnengarten. It’s a German Grammar for English Speakers book, and I’m hoping to use it to help me better teach different aspects of grammar. I did also get to keep the workbook and textbook we used in class, but my students will either have their own copy of the textbook or be using a different one. I might be able to use the textbook to guide some lessons, but it won’t be as much of a help. I think that the knowledge I gained about the life, history, and culture of Berlin will be more beneficial than the tangible things.
Although I’m back home for the foreseeable future, I’m counting down the days until I can go back to Berlin. The city will always have a piece of my heart, and I can’t wait to be back there.