U-Bahn, Doener, & Sprach-Cafes

Wow, the past two days have been jam-packed. I honestly feel like I’ve already been here for a week and a half, but I’m only on day 5. That’s how much stuff I’ve been doing.

So yesterday was the first official day of class. When I arrived at Humboldt, the class lists were hung up on a bulletin board in the entrance. These told us which Sprachniveau (language level) we were at and also which group we would be with for Unterrticht (class/lessons). I was anticipating getting somewhere between B2 (~intermediate high/advanced low) and C1(~near native fluency), so when I was placed in B2.1, I was pretty content. (Tbh, I was hoping I’d be in B2.2, but it’s all turned out okay.) My class has about 14 people in it, which I think is a perfect size. My Lehrer (teacher) is very charismatic and makes Unterricht fun for us! The other students in my class come from all over the world. They come from Poland, Russia, Turkey, Tajikistan, the Netherlands, China, and so many other places. I didn’t realize just how international this program was, but I think it’s honestly great. I’ve already learned so much about not only Berlin, but about other countries and other people.

After Unterricht, we have an hour Pause (break) for lunch. Yesterday I found an Asian place and got some delicious Pad Thai. Today, I had Döner Kebab (finally!), which is literally my favorite food ever. Two or three times a week, there’s a Nachmittagsprogram (afternoon program), which consist of seminars, excursions, and tours. These Nachmittagsprogram correspond with a specific course/theme, and mine is called Zoom auf Berlin! and we’re talking about politics and history in Berlin specifically. I find it quite interesting, so I’m looking forward to learning more. About half of the people in my Nachmittagsprogram are also in my Unterricht, so I know a lot of them already.

Lucky for me, today I didn’t have anything scheduled for the afternoon, so I was able to take more time eating lunch and also finish my homework for tomorrow. When I was done with that, I didn’t have enough time to go home and then come back before the Sprach-Cafe (I’ll explain shortly), so I hung out in the courtyard of the building (which is on the second floor, strangely enough) with one of my classmates, where I was able to connect to the WiFi and therefore, the rest of the world. After finishing our homework, we wandered over to a nearby bookstore. This store was so cool. It was like a Barnes & Noble on steroids. There were two floors for books, and in the basement was, I assume, a restaurant. This store sold books, CDs, records, notebooks, pens, markers, you name it. There was even a section specifically for English books, which was interesting because I assumed that meant American books, but I was very wrong. There were all sorts of books in this section, and the only unifying factor was that they were all written in English. My favorite find from the English book section was what appeared to be a self-help book written by Putin.

Once I’d killed enough time, I headed to the train station to catch the U8 to Hermannplatz, where I met up with the two other students in my program and a group of students from Dartmouth. Together, we headed to a cafe nearby that holds a weekly Sprach-Cafe (direct translation: language cafe). At the Sprach-Cafe, there were a bunch of tables set up, each labeled with a sign for a specific Sprachniveau. At each table were individuals who were at that specific language level, and the goal is to practice German, which we did. I headed to the B2 table, where a young woman sat. I soon learned she had come here from Iran about 14 months ago and had been learning German for about a year. Other people joined us, and the conversation grew and changed and we all learned about each other, where we’re from, how long we’ve been learning German, what we studied at the university level, etc. One man I spoke with was a refugee from Iran and had been here for three years. Another was from Afghanistan, and another from Canada. It was a really great experience. I likely never would have done something like that all alone, so I’m very glad my program made a point to do it. Depending on my schedule, I’d love to go back next week.

That pretty much sums it up for the last two days. Tomorrow, my Nachmittagsprogram is taking a tour through the Deutsche Welle production studio, so I will have some photos to add. I’ve loved each day here so far, and I’m excited to see what the next three and a half weeks have in store.

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