Germany - Introduction
I will admit that some days – especially near the beginning - it felt as if I was barely surviving in this city. Since arriving, I have been horribly sick and had to go to the doctor not once – but twice; I have had to move to a new apartment in a different section of the city; I have cooked all my own meals; I have missed the bus what seems like hundreds of times and been late to classes and appointments; and I fell more often than I would like to admit on the ice/snow which remained on the ground until April.
But now, as I enter my final weeks here, I am amazed by all of the unique experiences I have gained: I was a model for a fashion show during Berlin’s fashion week; I have been interning at an international arts management firm; I have been an invited guest to the U.S. Embassy on Pariser Platz and was treated to coffee in the embassy café; I assisted with CNN’s “Marketplace Europe” Debate at the European School of Management and Technology and worked with television personality Richard Quest; I have started singing in a Protestant church choir on a weekly basis; I joined an English language book club; I took group salsa dancing lessons; I attended a kabbalat Shabbat service at the famous Oranienburger Strasse synagogue; I was invited to a Passover Seder meal by a group of Israeli soldiers and spent the rest of night singing in Hebrew in their hotel; I have attended countless operas, classical music concerts, museums, and art galleries; I have spent many lunches, coffees, dinners, and hikes with new friends, who come from all over the world; and my German language skills have improved immensely through a full academic course load.
Berlin has not only been a place of deep personal growth and introspection, but has provided a great environment to foster my intellectual growth, as well. Living in Berlin, one can almost feel the deep “seismic” activity within the German populace. I am not saying that it seems like something is getting ready to explode, but rather that there are deep changes taking place in society – hidden deep below surface. The Germans are trying to come to terms with “being German.” In other words, what does it mean to be “German” – especially following the events of the 20th century – the two World Wars and the division of Germany between east and west? In order to gain a better understanding, over the past few months, I have read a great deal about the German identity and exactly what makes the Germans different, including the below books: