As per usual, I’ve put off posting my first blog post until the last minute. Not my best decision, but it definitely gave me more time to reflect on my experience in Berlin. This was the first city on CR, and it definitely started with a bang. Within the first 24 hours I was challenged and pushed in ways I never had been before. Going off with Team Bravo forced us to actively explore and learn about the city, as well as learn about each other and how we work as a team. From biking through Tiergarten to taking on the Berlin Mall slide, we found a way to incorporate planning, discussion, and spontaneity into each adventure for the day. Gonna miss y’all Bravo, we really got it done.
One of the things that struck me the most in Berlin was how much my perspective on learning changed, all within the first few days of CR even starting. Through my time with this group of people, I’ve picked up three important aspects of my learning process: experiences, observation, and challenges.
First and foremost, in Berlin I learned through experiencing a foreign city in a way that I never had before. I’ve always known that I’m a visual learner, but I’ve never had an opportunity like this to be so hands-on and incorporated into a culture. The freedom of navigating yourself around a city and exploring museums and monuments at your own pace makes you understand it on a deeper level. It also gives me confidence that I can take on a new place and learn everything I can about it on my own, without a tour guide. Though our American identity was probably painfully obvious (especially with the German museum lockers), our willingness to be a part of the culture of Berlin made our adventures so much more fun and special.
The second thing I learned about was observation. Through experiencing Berlin with the rest of CR, I’ve been able to see so many fascinating differences in the way people view and absorb information. Everyone is so smart and excited to learn new things and discuss them. With each new museum and monument I gleaned new information that I had missed or had never really thought about before through talking with other people. With observation I also learned how to slow down and really take in everything a site has to offer. We spent hours in museums reading every plaque just because it was interesting, which is something I would never had done before. The biggest example of this to me is the Memorial for Soviet War Soldiers that we visited with Dr P. Had I been there by myself, I would have been impressed by the design and scale of it all, but my understanding would have been pretty surface level. However, from taking our time and delving deeper into each piece of the memorial, I learned so much more about the Battle of Berlin and the Soviets’ perspective on war and their military. When trying to see a whole city in a matter of days it can be easy to want to rush through everything, but it’s important from time to time to slow down remember why these places are so important.
The last thing I learned through was being challenged. Pushing myself farther than I thought I could go made me learn more about myself and my surroundings. There’s no better example of this for me than dinner in the dark. Going into it I was anxious, as complete darkness and mystery food sounds like my nightmare. However, I opened myself up to the experience and ended up having so much fun, both because of the excitement of it but also going through such a completely weird experience with the rest of CR. I jumped into something I never would have done before, and got an amazing story out of it. I also see this reflected in some of my deeper conversations with other people. It can be challenging to open up or be introspective, but through doing that I’ve learned a lot more about myself and about everyone else. It’s these kind of conversations that bring us together, and that I think will be the most memorable to me in the future.
Berlin was a complete whirlwind, and I can’t believe how much I saw and learned in the short time we were there. I can confidently say that I made the most out of my time in Berlin, and it’s a city that I will always see through the lens of Cultural Routes. Hopefully through my new experiences, observations, and challenges, I’ll be able to say the same thing about the next five cities. Next stop: Munich!
Until next time,