After getting back home from a day in the studio or out seeing the sights, the number one thing I seem to look for is a traditionally turkish food called döner. Our neighborhood Kreuzberg has a lot of Turkish influence so their food, clothing, and language are all sprinkled throughout the our sidewalks. Their food is really what gets me though! Döner is made of hot sliced meat, grilled vegetables, a special sauce, and then it is either wrapped in a fluffy tortilla or tucked in a crispy, warm slice of bread. Everything is just SO delicious and I have no idea what I will do when I go back home and can’t grab one of these on any street corner. Today I also tried a german junk food staple: currywurst with pommes frites, which are french fries. We stumbled into the food cart cart by the gallery our class went to today and inhaled our plates of food. It was pouring rain and super cold outside so this heavy, traditional street food was perfect. It tasted like a hot dog with some spices on it, but it was amazing. They give you a tiny plastic fork to eat it with so it is just fabulous and fun.
Germany is also known for their pastries and pretzels. Almost every morning I cannot help myself and end up buying a new kind of german pastry. None of them have disappointed me. Almost every train stop and corner has a tiny bakery that sells anything you could ever ask for. You also cannot go a street block without seeing someone trying to sell pretzels as big as your face.
I have become a regular at the little deli and minimarket right below our apartment complex and the people at the small restaurants around the studio are starting to recognize us as well. Lunch spots do not seem to be too crowded around eleven in the morning, so I am guessing that lunch is also traditionally eaten a little later in the day. The younger Berliners eat dinner much later than we do in America and the pubs and bars that serve food are packed with people around nine or ten because the sun does not set until around nine fifteen. People are out an about all the time and at all hours of the night.
Berlin keeps surprising me at how funky and worn-in it feels, and I can’t believe I will have to say goodbye to this city so quickly.
It is hard to pin down where my favorite place in Berlin is. There are so many monuments and historical sites plus really cool new spaces that have been built recently. Before coming to Berlin, I had read a lot about the Jewish Holocaust Memorial site and everyone I know who had been to Berlin posted pictures from this tourist hotspot. I expected to get there and experience something really deep and introspective, but I was shocked when little kids were climbing all over the large block stones and other tourists were shouting in the maze of pathways. To top it all off, there was a memorial guard who would pop around corners and yell at people who stood up on top of the massive blocks, but he allowed people to sit on them. It was like no other memorial I had ever been to and it really changed my perspective on what a memorial is or what it could be. They do not necessarily have to be a place of silence and seriousness because they can provide a space to celebrate life.
The Brandenburg Gate is another tourist spot that I love. A massive structure sits on the edge of a large square of embassies and tourist traps. So much history happened at this location and it is just incredible that people can casually visit where so many historical hot shots had stood before. I remember seeing paintings and pictures of people like Napoleon and Hitler storming through the gate to make their presence known so it was so crazy to visit this place with our class. Other pictures show a bombed out Berlin with a damaged gate covered by soot. Today it stands clean, tall, and strong.
The next place that I hope to venture off to on my own is Berlin’s East Side Gallery. This is a portion of the Berlin Wall that is still standing and it is right in our neighborhood Kreuzberg. Mural artists came in and emblazoned the wall with huge works of art and pattern work and I am so excited to see it in person. Graffiti is considered an art form in Berlin and it is very much a part of Berlin’s aesthetic and its people as well. In America, graffiti can mark territories and make an area seem threatening, but here it is just a way people express themselves and contribute to the overall feel of their city.
Each Friday we have been going to a city or town outside of Berlin to explore Germany a little more. For the past two weeks we have met up with a local german man named Helmut who is the best tour guide we could have asked for. Even though he is around seventy years old, he was definitely the leader of the pack and marched us all around Potsdam and Dresden in his matching sweater and oxford shirt combos. Even though we were exhausted by the end of these tours, we covered so much ground and heard so many stories about his childhood and what it is like to live in Germany. Potsdam was a gorgeous place. It may sound odd, but it really reminded me of a European Cape Cod. There was beautiful dutch architecture, little shops lined the streets, and street performers stood on the busier corners. We got to go inside palaces and walk through a huge park that housed a few other palaces as well. Dresden was more modern and spread out than Potsdam was. It had other large and beautiful government buildings and former palaces mixed with clock towers and huge churches. In one of the city squares a man had his xylophone and was playing the Titanic song. The song was echoing throughout the whole city and made it seem like a surreal place.
This Friday we are going to Dessau to see the Bauhaus which was one of the first schools of modern design. The founders and students of this school revolutionized architecture, graphic design, and theatre. I have done so many papers and projects about this amazing place and I cannot wait to get on the train and see it.
-A Broad Abroad
As a vegetarian, food has been a bit of a struggle here in Turkey. I’ve mostly been surviving on whatever I can get. One vegetarian on my trip actually suspended her vegetarianism for the same reason. Turkish food is very meat-centric, so I’m probably not the best person to tell you about Turkish cuisine. We don’t have a kitchen in the hotel, so I do all my eating out, and I mostly rely on a few staples: cheese toast (grilled cheese), lentil soup, and rice and beans when I can get it. My first night here, I spent two and a half hours waiting for food in a restaurant because I tried to ask for literally anything vegetarian that they could give me, and they didn’t understand, so eventually they just gave up and didn’t bring me food. I was eventually able to get some plain pasta. I’m hoping that this will be less of an issue in Berlin.
The good news is that food is extremely cheap here in comparison to the United States. Thanks to the exchange rate, I can spend what feels like way too much money on dinner, and still have paid a lot less than I ever would in the US. Food culture here is also very different. Whenever we walk by any restaurants, I assume because we are American, there are waiters (and I mean waiters, I have only had one waitress the whole time I’ve been here) waiting on the street trying to convince you to eat in their restaurant. If we’re lucky, they’ll bring us English menus. Otherwise, finding vegetarian food when everything is in Turkish is basically impossible. I’ve had several experiences where the waiters hover over you while waiting to take your order. They usually expect to take your order immediately rather than giving you time to look at the menu. It’s very similar once you get your food. The waiters will often stand next to you waiting for you to finish your food and then take your plate away before you’re even sure if you’re done. Contradictory to this rushed service, there is definitely more of a culture of spending long hours relaxing at the table than their is in the United States. Dinner doesn’t always end once the meal is taken away. Often times the meal is followed up with delicious Turkish tea or Turkish coffee, which is the strongest coffee you will ever have in your entire life.
Once I get to Berlin on Wednesday, I’m going to have a kitchen, so I hope that I will be able to find more nourishing meals for the rest of my trip. Even though Turkish hasn’t been the best place for me food-wise, it’s definitely been great to experience the culture around food here.
These past five weeks have changed me for the better. I feel stronger, more mature, and ready for anything. My professional and academic goals have actually gotten less focused because I realized that having a career is not the only purpose of life. Traveling just for a little made me just want to travel more, so I now want to save up and set aside time to travel before I am tied down by a family or a career.
I have often felt fairly confident and capable, but this experience tore this perception down, and then built it back up. When I signed up to go to Peru, I thought, “I can totally do this, this’ll be a walk in the park.” But when I actually was on my way to the airport I got pretty nervous because I didn’t know anyone on the trip, I was going to be living alone with a family that spoke no English in a foreign country, and I had no idea what to expect. But I just pushed through and kept a positive attitude the entire time, and I not only made it through, but also had a fantastic time doing it. I now know how much more capable and independent I am because of it.
My favorite experience by far was the sea lion encounter. On our only free day in Lima, a group of about nine of us signed up to “swim with sea lions”. After an hour and a half long boat ride, we saw an island covered with over 8,000 sea lions. We then climbed into some wetsuits and swam right up to them. I felt like I was in an episode of Planet Earth with hundreds of sea lions swimming all around me and even brushing my legs. I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to experience something like that again.
My advice to people considering studying abroad would be to pick something crazier than you think you can handle. If you have the right attitude, you will accomplish things you never though you could have, and you will love yourself for doing so.
I really want to co-op abroad to experience working in a different country, and I am hoping to get the chance in either Spain or Italy. But I’m not dead-set on those places, so we’ll see where I end up.
Five weeks wasn’t quite long enough to go through all the stages of culture shock, but it was the longest I had ever been outside of the United States. There were many things that I noticed were very different, but it took about two weeks to really notice those differences.
First of all, Peru has a very service based culture, meaning people rarely do things for themselves, and help each other often. At fast food places, people would never take their trays to the trash can, which would make me feel so guilty, but it was normal. Also whenever my host mom or housekeeper would make me a meal, they would serve it to me and never let me clear my own dishes. America has a very self-sufficient, independent culture, and I think we could learn something from more connected cultures like this.
I also noticed that every single person loves to dance and is great at it. When we spent a week at the high school, some of the students would try and teach us salsa, and they were all fantastic, even though they would deny it. In America some people can dance, but many, especially boys, don’t like dancing because they feel dumb. I love to dance, so I really enjoyed getting to dance with the locals.
When I thought about what I missed most from the US, it was really the food. I loved the Peruvian food, but I started missing my comfort food, especially peanut butter. I also missed cereal, pizza, and water. I say water because we were served juice with every meal, and I missed drinking my plain old water. With that said, I’m going to miss jugos, ají, lúcuma, and all of the avocado.
I’m excited to go home and see my family and friends, but I will forever be grateful for this amazing experience to live and experience a different culture.
It is a bit ironic, because my typical days are now over, but I did grow to love my routine for the last 4 weeks.
Every weekday, I had class at El Sol from 9am-1pm so I would wake up and eat a fried egg, a piece of bread, coffee, and a papaya jugo, prepared for me by the housekeeper, Dominga. Then I would walk the two blocks to school and start my day.
In El Sol, we reviewed grammar in the morning, then had an hour of conversation class, then an hour of culture class. I loved my teachers there and learned more Spanish than I ever have.
After El Sol, our dialogue group always had another school to go to. For one week we went to a middle/high school and hung out with the students and got to know them a little better. It was also a great way for us to practice our Spanish and for them to practice their English.
Then for two weeks, our group went to a local university and took Peruvian culture classes and also talked to and spent time with the students there.
After our long day of school was done, we would usually get back around 6 or 7, and I would usually go with a group to get some food. Often I ended up back at La Lucha, a Peruvian sandwich shop with some of the best sandwiches I have ever had.
Then it would be home to my host family, catch up on a little homework, then get ready to do it all over again the next day.
I attend my Politcal Science classes for my study abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science Campus. The campus is only about 3 blocks away from my student residence, so I often walk to my classes. As for transportation in the City of London, I sometimes use the public subway system, known as the Tube, and the public city buses, famously described as the big red double-decker London buses. I personally prefer the tube over the buses as the railways here are very fast and the buses seem to always get caught in the city’s street traffic. There are also the infamous London black taxicabs; however they are fairly expensive so I try to steerclear of using them as much as possible. Some pros of the city’s public transport is that the locomotives and buses are relatively new and environmentally friendly (as London introduced “greener” buses to reduce air pollution). Also, the public transportion, in terms of London trains, are very fast in comparison to American trains. A significant con for the city’s public transport is that rush hour in the mornings and evenings are severely worse on the trains and buses compared to the US. Everytime I get out my internship at 5 p.m. and catch the Tube, the train is extremely packed and the stations are very busy. Overall, I rather like the transportation in London and will continue to rely on it for the remainder of my study abroad experience.
Thankfully our program includes many opportunities to meet and talk to the people who live here in Peru. We went to a high school every day for a week and I learned all about being a teenager here in Lima. Most of them do the same activities as American teenagers, like going to the mall and dance parties, but they are much better dancers than we are. Our dialogue group has also been going to a local university, UNIFE, for the past week and a half so we get to learn about life here from people our age. Their university program is also 5 years, and all of the students we are spending time with are studying translation to become interpreters. So they are always excited to practice their English with us. And they give us good recommendations for salsa clubs, which also important to experience the local culture.
I have purchased various souvenirs and gifts for friends and family, and I am spending a little bit more than I had thought I would, but hey, I’m on vacation. The currency here is Soles, and the ratio is 3:1 soles to US dollars, which is good for me. My favorite purchase is an awesome pair of shoes with the typical vibrant colors here in Peru, and they are very comfortable and only cost 15 US dollars! I’m excited to debut them in Boston. I’m waiting to buy my alpaca gear until I get to Cusco, because I heard they make the best stuff, so we’ll see what I end up getting there!
The focus of this dialogue is Spanish language, so using and understanding the language is a big part of this trip.
My Spanish had improved exponentially since I’ve been here because we have 4 hours of Spanish class a day, and then we usually practice almost all day long. Also my host mother does not speak any English, so it’s good to help me practice.
There are some cultural differences I have noticed with the Spanish here and the Spanish that I was taught in high school. First of all “adios” means goodbye forever, so people here never say it because it seems dismal. Instead everyone says “ciao”. I was also taught that the word for “boyfriend” is “novio”, but it turns out that that actually means fiance here, so that for some very awkward conversations between some of my friends and their host families.
With that said, I have gotten around pretty well and I have been able to communicate with almost everyone I meet. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to improve my Spanish this quickly, and in a fun way.
My favorite landmark in Lima is El Malecon, which is the beachfront walking path dotted with parks filled with various statues and art installations. I run along this path three or four times a week before school, so part of the reason I like it so much is because I am around it so often. But it offers gorgeous sweeping views of the ocean below the cliffs and the colorful art gives it a distinct Latin America feel. It is also buzzing with activity every morning with runners, bikers, or people just going to work. I feel like the general feeling of Miraflores is encapsulated in this beach front park.
Our group has been to almost every museum in the country by now, but my favorite is a toss up between the Gold Museum and the Museum of Anthropology. The Gold museum has Francisco Pizarro’s actual sword as well as 4 mummies from the Mochica civilization and countless gold artifacts. The Museum of Anthropology has a more well-rounded collection of Indian artifacts, as well as an impressive collection of Mochica skulls that had undergone some sort of change. As a biology major, I was fascinated by skulls with holes tapped into them then covered with gold or silver plating, or skulls that had been shaped since birth to be conical or flat to fit the latest fashion trends of the day. Each of these museums has so many artifacts to offer.
My favorite excursion, though, was dune buggying in the desert in Ica. We rode in buggies that flew up and down the dunes at insane speeds, then we got to sandboard down a few of the dunes. It was a gorgeous desert, and we enjoyed it in the best way possible.