I'll Wear Any Color As Long As It's Black

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Posted in / / / by Jeralyn on September 25, 2009


It’s been six years since I went to Berlin for the first time, but yet every coming of autumn continues to remind me of that time period in my life. It hardly seems like that long ago, but it really was — not only was the world a lot different then but so was I. I went to Berlin for a semester without ever having been there before. I stayed for four months and lived in what was formerly an East Berlin piano factory but had been somewhat recently converted to artist lofts. The girl I was supposed to live with didn’t like the seclusion and weirdness of this space so her parents rented her a suite in a hotel in Mitte for the duration of her stay. The place where I lived was about a fifteen minute walk from the Hermannplatz station and I would walk or ride my bike or take the bus there almost every single day around 8:30am because I had German class five days a week from 9-12. Getting up early like that is not something that I enjoy at all and I enjoyed it far less in a giant loft with no insulation and barely any heat or hot water. Although I made a lot of friends in Berlin, I was very secluded in many ways. The apartment I lived in didn’t have an internet connection and I didn’t have a cell phone. People could call the apartment but I could barely understand how to use the answering machine so I missed a lot of attempts at communication. This was pre-Myspace/Facebook (I remember joining Myspace right as I was leaving) so besides weekly lengthy emails to Amy and Massimo, I really had no idea what anyone was up to in New York. It was all kind of amazing in a way. I wasn’t there that long, but I really felt myself changing and I felt myself falling in love with the city. I’ve been back a handful of times (the above polaroids are from my last trip in October 2007) and am tentatively planning another trip for this spring. Going abroad is an incredible luxury and one I would recommend to anyone who has the chance. Sure, I had lived in New York for a year on my own before this but being thrown into such a chaotic situation with really no support system at all is just so strengthening to one’s character. There were other members of my study abroad group who did not enjoy Berlin, or all the traveling we did (another luxury . . . while I was there I also visited London, Prague, Dresden, Weimar, Krakow, Warsaw and Copenhagen); but not so for me. I threw myself into everything I encountered and despite the moments of overpowering loneliness there was so much growing of mind and soul and so much interesting interaction every single day — even if it was with strangers (how amazing the time someone asked me for directions in German and I was able to respond–coherently–I couldn’t believe myself) — it’s just not something that I can easily forget or push out of my mind. So, I always take some mornings this time of year to sip coffee (which I learned to enjoy in Berlin) and think abut it all again.

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  1. Marika said, on September 25, 2009 at 7:42 PM

    so happy i read this, and that you felt this way about berlin. i’ve always felt a strong connection with the city (and german culture itself) having never been there and am planning on studying there next year. throwing yourself fully into a foreign city is one of the most rewarding experiences i can possibly imagine (did it with buenos aires a few years ago and fell in love).

  2. Jeralyn said, on September 25, 2009 at 11:15 PM

    Ah Buenos Aires, that sounds awesome – I really need to expand my horizons and stop visiting so many Anglo-centric countries… but anyway – Berlin is the best… it’s just the kind of place that you can really feel history and life everywhere and I know you can feel that in some American cities but everything here just feels so new in comparison…

  3. amanda said, on September 27, 2009 at 3:08 AM

    REALLY well told and well said. i visited there only for 2 days last year and am dying to go back. love love love nyc but feel a strong connection to berlin and want to go for a longer stay. it’s so important to put yourself in foreign/unfamiliar/new situations to really grow as a person and get outside of your norm…thx for sharing!

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