This year I lived in Berlin for the whole of July whilst partaking in a writing work experience course. I lived in an apartment with people I had never met before and we worked together to produce a travel guide of the city, exploring everything that it had to offer. It was an amazing, life-changing experience and these are a few of the things I learned while I was there.
This was the first time I had ever flown by myself (and considering I am terrified of flying even whilst surrounded by a group of my friends, this was a big deal for me!) and was the first time I had ever been in a different country without anybody I knew. In order to write reviews about places for the travel guide I was writing for, I had to explore Berlin by myself, which meant figuring out (and frequently getting lost on) the public transport system.
Even if it is just basic skills to get you by, such as saying ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ and knowing how to order in a restaurant, language skills are an extremely useful skill. It is easier to pick up phrases while in a setting that forces you to use them every day.
Berlin was a whole new world I had never before experienced. The city was a constant hustle and bustle, with techno clubs raving until 6am, blasting their beats and smoke into the air. An array of multicultural foods awaits you, as well as original Berliner Pilsners and a variety of original craft beer. Berlin is the place for original venues, like the bar that rents wine glasses for 2 euros each, so you can and drink as much wine as you want and ultimately decide on what to pay. Also, one of the best burgers I have ever eaten was served out of a food stall that used to be a public toilet. These are the kinds of things you never imagine you’ll experience, but are so glad that you have.
No matter where you go on your travels, you are bound to make new friends and meet people you will never forget. You meet a group of likeminded individuals who, even if they are not there for the same reasons as you, will understand your need in wanting to be there. Everyone will have individual experiences yet share the same common goal and you will be tied together by that, meeting people you never would have had the chance to otherwise.
The Little Things
While visiting a place, you tend to frequent all the tourist spots and see the most popular sights, but if you live there you get to know all the secret local treasures that not everybody knows about. For me this included the Italian place on my road that did pizza for 3 euros, and the Chinese restaurant around the corner that did 20 dumplings for 8 euros. You will become familiar with the stops on the U-bahn, the best places to get free Wifi and which bars and clubs are the best to go to on certain nights.
Being abroad helped me learn so much about myself that other experiences could not have taught me. I have discovered that I am more adventurous than I ever imagined, that being abroad and travelling makes me much happier and much more carefree than I am at home, and that I am amazing at adjusting to new people and new places. This trip has opened my eyes to life’s possibilities, and I truly believe that I can do anything that I want to do.
So if you are planning to travel somewhere, just do it. Even if at first you are unsure, there will be no doubts once you get there and are thrown headfirst into the atmosphere. Even if, like me, you are scared of flying, it will all be worth it in the end. It truly is a life changing experience unlike anything else.
All you have to do is take the first step, because the world is there waiting for you and it can be all yours.
Words by Ally Mclaren