I visited Europe for the first time when I was 17, and I distinctly remember sitting on the flight home, trying to recall the events of the hectic 10-day experience.
In that moment, I could not remember any specific details of the marathon excursion.
Of course, when my brain recharged on American soil, this issue was easily remedied; my memories restored.
My current mindset is running in a similar, yet drawn out fashion. In the final weeks of this undertaking, I feel unable to offer streamlined thoughts, opinions or pieces of advice. Rather, I will take my information-logged brain and comment on the varying standout details.
At this very moment, I am working on final exam preparation, finishing this story, planning my remaining travel before returning stateside and trying to enjoy a Thursday night out. Gaining the mental agility to navigate the heightened layering of mental functions has been a crucial development.
Mental agility comes to play when things don’t go according to plan, naturally. Although obvious, this develops rapidly when put in a foreign study environment.
Gauging how I would have handled being pick pocketed at a flea market, missing a flight out of London or being shuffled around western Germany with 60 other American students prior to studying, compared to now — the difference in my attitude has distinctly improved.
Abundant, and often cliché, loads of advice dumped on study abroad students pre-departure seem laughable, but have actually proven to be largely true. You will “grow” — as gross and boring as it sounds — because you have no other choice.
Thoughts on Europe
- In general, it seems to me that Europeans have it figured out. Germans in particular seem to have found the perfect balance of hyper-productivity and a stress-free mentality. Truthfully, most seem functional almost to a fault — don’t bother talking about feelings with a German — but their ability to achieve tasks while simultaneously having a good time is brilliant.
- I have also been happily surprised by the kindness shown to me in the duration of my time here. The communal atmosphere, and absurdly good fortune, resulted in my stolen wallet’s return through a message via Twitter. And locals were never condescending in my first few weeks of asking directions.
- The population’s diversity is special to Berlin. There does not seem to be one specified list of characteristics to appear as a born and raised Berliner. This is evidenced most obviously in public transit, with undefined languages and origins moving at a constant. This makes living here exciting, and moving here less stressful.
- A lot of smoking indoors, and handsome dads.
A Nearing Return
Only a week left of exams, with a few sporadic weeks of travel to follow, and then I’m back in the homeland. It is too early to predict my reaction upon returning, but the transition from Berlin to Fargo is obviously dramatic.
Certain elements of cultural comfort are worth looking forward to, but I find it disappointing that I’ll be leaving right as the city just begins to feel comfortable.
Until then, I will continue to enjoy the inexpensive, and awesome, German wine and the fact that the sweet little corner café I’m working at is (still) playing Kid Cudi.