Where should I begin? Well, when I first started to write this journal, I had a lot of thoughts running through my mind about how and where to begin to tell about my experience so far in Berlin. Perhaps, I should start by saying that I am in love with this historically rich city. My first day in Berlin was June 16. To be honest, my first day brought some memories back from six years ago when I first arrived in the United States from a refugee camp in North Sudan. After I unpacked my luggage, a group of four to five students from the same program and I decided to walk around to familiarize ourselves with the environment. For me, it is still confusing to read and pronounce the long street names. I remember after our one-hour walk, I later returned to my apartment feeling lost, overwhelmed, and lonely.
That night, I thought a lot about whether I would be able to understand and find my way around this city, because of the language barriers; however, the difference between when I first arrived in the United States and here in Berlin is that now I can speak and understand English, and luckily most people here speak English. Six years ago, my English was very limited, and it was hard to communicate with people easily, which put me through a constant feeling of depression for a while. The next day, through the AIFS program, we had a bus tour around Berlin. Listening to the tour guide talking about the historical sights that we drove by and sometimes stopped to visit eased my worries and brought my excitement about this city alive again.
My first day of class was on June 18. There are 20 students in my class. For both of my courses, we will be doing many field trips to museums, monuments, and other historical places. My first-class field trip was on June 20. In the morning, I visited the Deutsche Historical Museum for my class on the rise and fall of Nazism, and then in the afternoon, I visited the Jewish Museum Berlin for my Jewish narrative class.
Furthermore, when I was exploring the city with students from the program, I noticed that I was mostly depending on the group to lead the way instead of paying attention to the public transportation, in order to familiarize myself with the area. I promised myself to break this habit and to try taking the subway and buses on my own to explore the city. Then, after the field trips, I decided to explore the city on my own, which felt great to walk around the city with full attention and find out about new places.
Now, I could say with confidence that I can get around public transportation on my own. This step of walking around and taking the subway on my own in a foreign country enabled me to pay attention and focus more on what is around me whenever I am in an unfamiliar environment. It also forced me to step away from my comfort zone by exploring new places with the understanding that getting lost in a new place is normal and it needs my patience to find my way back.