Sorry this is late. But here is part 2 to the part 1 of our trip in Krakow.
My semester in Berlin has been the best I could have imagined. I was able to experience an internship where I could be challenged to think outside of the box, and also show my boss what I could do creatively in a working environment. Of course, working with a company had its ups and downs, and it was—at times—super stressful. That’s a given. But my boss, at the end of my internship said that she hoped that she could teach us more about marketing and the business world. That is why it felt so stressful. Everything that she did had a reason. And I really did learn so much from her. I met so many different, amazing people not only in the co-working space, but also my program and other programs as well. Since a lot of people were in college already, talking with them made me more excited to go off to college and experience new things. They had so many stories to tell and a lot of advice. Last year, when I was deciding what to do with my next four years, I realized that I wasn’t ready to go off to college yet. I wanted to experience something other than school. But now that I’ve had my break, I’m more than ready to go back to school and start learning even more.
*My roommate had to take everything down because I had left already
"And they were ROOMMATES!"
Hi and Welcome! My name is Sarah and I am a gap student with CIEE. After my year in Toulouse I will be going to the University of Colorado at Boulder to study elementary education.
I have been living in Toulouse, France for the past three months. When I was asked to write a guest blog post it took me a while to discover how I wanted to start and what I wanted to focus on. I could write about my host family, my work at Secours Populaire (a local nonprofit), our excursions with CIEE, what I’ve learned about my culture and French culture- the list goes on! Instead I thought maybe the best way to accurately portray my experience was to give some insight on my daily life here in Toulouse. One thing I love about my gap year is that each day is different! I do have a general routine, but there is much more variety day-to-day than my time in high school. I included two days, because, as I said every day is different and one day just didn’t seem enough! I hope you enjoy reading and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an email and ask.
7:30 Early start for the beginning of the week! I have about 45 minutes to an hour in the morning to get dressed, ready, and eat breakfast before heading out to work
8:30 Walk down the street to the metro to head to Secours Populaire. (Another awesome thing about Toulouse is the public transportation system! It is super easy and extremely accessible.) Secours Populaire is a nonprofit in France helping low to no income residents of Toulouse with food security, shelter, job support, mental health aid, and more. Every Monday mornings from 9-12 the doors are opened for the homeless in the community to come have breakfast and get new clothes, shoes, and anything else needed such as tents, hygiene products, and sleeping bags.
9:00 Arrive at Secours Populaire to start helping the homeless find the clothes and supplies they are looking for, and serving breakfast. I’ve learned a lot about migration and the politics behind immigration by doing this. Many of the homeless in Toulouse are not actually French but rather have come here from different countries.
12:00 Clean up and head home for a quick lunch!
2:00 Back at work, except the afternoons are completely different. In the afternoon, I work at Secours Populaire’s food shop. All the food here is given by the aid of the European Union and donated by grocery stores in the area. Low to no income families can come here once a month and depending on their situation and the number of family members pay a small fee or none at all to use the shop. They have a meeting with a social worker when they first begin and then are given a colored card corresponding to the amount of people in their family. The color of the card is important because some of the food in the shop is rationed. Meaning you take a certain amount depending on how many members of your family, and that is where the volunteers come in! We are there to assist one family at a time through the shop and help explain to them the system. I also love playing and watching the little kids who come in with their moms or dads! This is usually my favorite part of the day. I have met people from all around the world and heard some unbelievable stories of migration, hardship and hope. There are refugees and immigrants from Iran, Albania, Iraq, Pakistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan and more.
5:00 Hop on the metro and head over to my friend’s house to catch up and chill for a little.
7:00 Back to my house. Usually at this time my host family is home and I hang out with my host dad in the kitchen while he cooks dinner.
8:00 Dinner time (yum!) The whole family sits down for dinner at around 8 or 8:30 almost every night depending on everyone’s schedule. In my home stay I live with my mom and dad who are both teachers, and two brothers ages 15 and 19. I also have two sisters (19 and 23) but they are both studying in Lyon. Also at our house is an Iranian refugee who is 20. There are a lot of kids so we are always having fun and our house is really lively with friends coming in and out!
9:00 Catch up with my host mom and whoever else is in the living room.
10:30 Head to my room to relax before bed and then lights out for tomorrow.
9:30 Wake up and if I’m feeling motivated I try to go for a run in my neighborhood. I take the metro a lot so I find that running is really cool way to explore more of the city and the suburbs.
11:00 After I’ve showered and changed its time to get some work done!! Wednesday I teach two different English lessons and Tuesday mornings are usually the best time for me to get my lesson plans done. One lesson is for four kids and the other is for a group of adults at a community center. These are things CIEE helped me find but they aren’t mandatory. I want to be a teacher so CIEE helped me find some unique teaching opportunities in the community. I also am a teacher’s aide at a local middle school for three hours Wednesday morning which has allowed me to see the difference in the French school system and culture vs American.
12:30 Time to make myself lunch and then head out again for Secours Populaire. Sometimes my host brother is home from classes and we can eat together.
2:00 Shift Starts at Secours Populaire. I’m no longer taking French classes in Toulouse but I get plenty of practice at my work. I speak only in French because all the other volunteers and employees are French. However, there are times when there is a refugee or immigrant who can speak better English than French so sometimes I get to practice my translating skills.
5:00 Meet some friends downtown to grab a snack and walk around. There are always different markets and things happening at Place du Capitole, the main square in Toulouse.
7:30 Head home and the rest of my night is usually the same as Monday nights.
This was just two days out of my week so I hope you can catch a glimpse but truly every day is different! Some days I have activities with CIEE in the afternoon which can be anything from cooking classes to museum visits. Sometimes I stop by one of the many farmers’ markets here in Toulouse or go to check out something happening in the city center. Or some days I get to see my friends more than other. Safe to say I am never bored!
Thank you so much for reading and any questions do not hesitate to ask!
These past two weeks have been insanity. When I first arrived, the thought of spending three months abroad seemed so daunting. What was I going to do with all that time? Then suddenly it felt like no time. Not enough time with my host family, with my new friends, or with this city.
While there are a few things I won’t miss very much (getting about 6 hours of sleep a night because of the schedule here, being sick on and off for three months straight, having to hear Despacito at least 3x a day) those are greatly outweighed by the things I will miss.
My host mom and I have grown really close and I’m going to miss her a lot. I’m going to miss sitting with her in the living room, each doing our work, while drinking tea and eating tortas de aceite. I’m going to miss watching La Voz Kids with my host family* after dinner, my host brother making funny side comments.
When I first arrived I was worried I wouldn’t make any friends but now I have a whole network of friends across the US, Spain and the rest of Europe. After the program I’m visiting a friend who lives in Berlin, Germany that I met at the language school in Sevilla. It’s crazy to think a month after meeting my friend Molly we decided to go on a week-long trip together. We’ve grown so close that after the program ends, and I travel around Eastern Europe for a few weeks with my grandmother, I’m flying to Los Angeles to hang out with her for a week before going back home to the Bay Area. Funny enough she will be the first person I see back in the US, not my parents. I’m going to miss sitting at the same table at the same bar with all my friends, eating free potato chips because the bartender knows us all by now. I’m going to miss sitting by the Guadalquivir river with Molly, drinking hot chocolate and watching the rowers go by, gossiping about whatever went down at the club last night.
I’ll even miss going to Spanish class every day. I had a really amazing teacher who made class really fun. Everything she taught us seemed incredibly useful and valuable. I’ve never before felt that I was in class because I wanted to learn not because of a responsibility to be there.
I’m really glad that I came to Sevilla and it has been an experience that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
*During my time in Sevilla I switched host families because my first host family and I were incompatible. I liked them I just couldn’t live with them. I say this not to scare not to scare people, quite the opposite: it took about 5 minutes of paperwork to switch host families. CIEE dealt with it really well and the whole process was very easy. I love my new host family and all of my friends absolutely love their host families as well!
This year, but this semester in particular, has taught me so much. In our Global Competence Course last week our program director asked us to describe our experience in Spain in just six words. I think mine was very accurate in encapsulating my experience: “Crash course in adulting, in Spanish.” I’ve learned so many things that are necessary for adulthood but I’ve learned them in a language that is not my own. Before this trip I hadn’t been to the doctor by myself very many times and I certainly had never had blood drawn (something that I hate). I’ve been to the doctor five times abroad. I’ve gotten shots and blood drawn, all in Spanish, all on my own. I’ve dealt with airline companies and convinced Spanish passport control to let me back through security. I’ve been homesick and had to struggle through explaining to my host family my feelings. So many things that are already difficult for any young adult in English, I have done in another language, in another country, without much or any help from others. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also thrived here and will be very sad to leave. Any difficulties here have just over prepared me for difficulties as an adult in the U.S. Before my gap year I was a bit worried for the transition between high school and college. Now, that seems like a piece of cake!
Last week was Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter. All of Sevilla practically shuts down for processions with huge, elaborate floats. CIEE gave us the week off from class so my friend Molly and I planned a trip. Molly really wanted to see Amsterdam and I really wanted to see Dublin, so we found some cheap flights on Kayak and set off!
An underground Chinese supermarket we found in Dublin.
The Long Room at Trinity.
When you think of Berlin, you might think sausages and horseradish.
8 Februar 2018, Mauerpark (Flea Market)
A nutella crepe. I was only able to get a couple of bites before—while spinning around looking for more food—the poor thing slipped off the end of my plate and landed in a heap on the ground.
18 Februar 2018, Mauerpark (Flea Market) same day...
As I picked up the crepe and made my way towards the garbage can in a kind of walk of shame (there were a lot of people around who saw the whole thing, including my friend who was laughing hysterically), I spotted the kimchi pajeon and decided it was a good replacement.
22 Februar 2018, Easy Like Monday Morning (Space Shack)
So at the coworking space I work at, there is a super delicious place called, “Easy Like Monday Morning,” and they sell these bowl things we call Boxes. I think they call them Lunch Boxes. I took my friends there and they said to take a picture everytime I eat there. Because I’m so hungry by the time I get my lunch, I usually forget to take a picture. But just imagine almost every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I eat a box for lunch. The other intern who works at my place usually gets one for lunch and then one to go for dinner. And then another one for her roommate who also loves them. And the guys who work there are awesome. They’re always so jolly (if that’s the right word). My first time there, I just stood there with my boss, and he took one look at my confused face and said in his german-accented English, “You know what? I make you a mix. You want a mix? I give you a mix with a special sauce mix. Just wait. You like chicken? I give you chicken. How about sweet potato. I give you sweet potato. Give me ten minutes.” Then bam. Best lunch.
24 Februar 2018, Bologna, Italy
La Dotta: For the oldest university in Europe
La Grassa: For its cuisine, esp. the famous Bolognese meat based pasta sauce w/ tomatoes and a bit of cream
La Rossa: For the red rooftops found throughout the city. Even the building facades are red.
27 Februar 2018, Beets & Roots
Bowls are a popular trend currently, and this place is no difference. I was really craving salmon so I got a salmon bowl and it was amazing.
28 Februar 2018, CIEE 2nd Floor Kitchen
When we are sick: Avocado toast w/ an egg, Emergen-C, clementine, and hand sanitizer (not to eat).
*My roommate and I cook almost every dinner in the kitchen. We split the groceries because it’s just easier that way.
1 March 2018 Box
1 March 2018, some Italian restaurant down the street and a couple of blocks over from CIEE
3 March 2018, Breakfast in Prague
R.C.C.C.P (Rooibos and Chocolate Croissant in Cafe in Prague)
3 March 2018, Chimney
A chimney pastry in Prague. They usually fill these with ice cream, but the one we went to didn’t have ice cream.
5 March 2018, Lunch Box
There it is
9 March, 2018, Box
10 March 2018, CIEE 2nd Floor Kitchen
If you ever want your tastebuds to feel like they’re burning off, or want to see what your mouth feels like on fire, try the Spicy Noodle Challenge. It’s a Korean thing that one of our friends found at an Asian market. A couple weeks later we tried the 2x Spicy Noodle Challenge. I could finish the regular one. The 2x, I could only take a bite. That one bite was worse than the whole bowl of the regular one. I was crying and hot and had a lot of yogurt drinks (Yakult) and mini Magnum ice cream bars.
10 March, 2018, Cocolo Ramen
13 March 2018, 1990 Vegan Living
Super good vegan Thai/Vietnamese/Asian place that we went to with our vegan friend and his vegan family. It was really good.
14 March 2018, Room 215 (Literally my dorm room)
My roommate and I were too lazy to go to the kitchen a few doors down to cook anything. This was my masterpiece. The recipe: microwave leftover rice. Cook an egg in a cup, wash a green onion with the sink in your room, cut the green onion with clean scissors, dump the egg on top of the rice, sprinkle the green onions on top, add soy sauce and pepper to taste. I sent a snap to my friend and his response: “That’s gross.” Eh.
15 March, 2018 CIEE 2nd Floor Kitchen
We actually cooked this dinner before, and it was surprisingly really good. Zucchini on stove top sprinkled w/ salt and pepper. Mushrooms w/ salt and pepper. Chicken breast, onion, garlic, soy sauce, sugar. Fluffy rice.
16 March 2018, Angry Chicken
At this point I was really craving Korean food. I had a pajeon earlier, but that wasn’t enough for me. And it was super salty. I had a bibimbap, and my friend had some chicken and sweet potato chips with some special sauce.
16 March, 2018 Time for Brot
My roomie brought back amazing cinnamon rolls a couple days before this day, and we heated them up in the microwave. The one in front is a chocolate one, and the one in the back is a classic cinnamon roll.
17 March, 2018 Mustafa’s
The first time I had Doner. It’s actually very popular in Berlin (especially Kreuzberg, the neighborhood in which we live). I also had falafel a few times, which is also really popular. This same day we had a currywurst, but it was gone before I could get my phone out. Mustafa’s always has a super long line. We were lucky enough to wait in a shorter line. The popular currywurst place is right next door, so people get a currywurst at Curry 36, and the wait in line for a Doner. Ingenious.
18 March, 2018 Room 215
A leftover crepe w/ nutella. My roomie is part French, so she made us crepes the day before. The leftover one was supposed to be for our other friend, but she never came to pick it up, so I just ate it for breakfast.
20 March, 2018 Some falafel place
A falafel in a burrito, and a hot chocolate from a cafe. A super good falafel. A little strange that it came in a burrito, but no complaining because it was so much easier to eat, and it was amazing. And the hot chocolate was the best one I had in Berlin. Other than the Swiss Miss I brought from the states.
22 March 2018, some Vietnamese place next to Space Shack
A super good Vietnamese place. There are a lot of Vietnamese places around Berlin. Pho is pretty popular too.
22 March 2018 Ice Cream Place on Gneisenaustrasse
I guess my roommate thought she’d be artsy with an ice cream picture. I’d say mini ice cream cones are also a trend, but what really happened was I finished ¾ of it before we got to our room. A lot of ice cream places don't open until the first day of Spring. So...21 March.
24 March, 2018 Good Lood
A more wholesome ice cream cone. This was really good creamy caramel ice cream in Krakow. We even had to wait for 10 minutes in a line that went out the door. *How do you say caramel?*
24 March 2018, Pierogi place
A vegetarian/vegan pierogi for our vegan friend. It was really good too. It’s like a dumpling with veggies inside.
24 March 2018, A falafel at the same place we got the pierogi
A lot of yogurt sauce.
25 March 2018, Veganic
So even though it may not look too appetizing, it was really good. I say that a lot about a lot of foods. But this was really good. It was an egg and mushroom scrambled egg dish. Because it was Palm Sunday, a lot of people must have been at church because the whole restaurant/cafe was empty.
27 March 2018, Benedict Berlin
A 24/7 breakfast/brunch place with really good pancakes…
27 March 2018, Benedict Berlin
...and avocado toast. It’s like they used two avocados for a half of a slice of bagel and 3 eggs for the other half. It was a mountain of food, but it was so good. My roomie and I split. We tend to split a lot of foods so that we can try more foods. A little taste of everything.
Also, we saw Lakeith Stanfield! He played Andre in Get Out, and he’s also in Atlanta, but I don’t know what character he is...but he was sitting about two table away. If you want to see some famous people in Berlin, I would try your luck at Benedict.
28 March 2018, Of course
So this was a long post, sorry..., but it also had a lot of pictures. Of food. Also I realize that I said "in Berlin" earlier, but I included some foods from different countries. Oh well. You get my point, right?
I'm doing a semester abroad in Berlin. During the semester (3 months) I'm interning w/ an international company (I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention the name, so I will leave it to your imagination which one).
My reason for coming to Berlin: I wanted more experience/internships before going to college, and for the gap year abroad internship programs that were available during my gap year application process, there was one in Toronto, Shanghai, and Berlin. My thought process: I’ve been to Shanghai, I can literally drive to Toronto (not super far from MN), so Berlin it is. I’ve also never been to Europe before, so I was excited at the thought of traveling to a new country every weekend. Not a realistic goal to have FYI. It will drain your energy just to go to one new country every couple of weekends.
How has my program abroad affected my plans for next year?
I thought that after my internship, I would get a better idea for what major I wanted to pursue in college (I'm undecided), but in reality, I’m still unsure of what I want to do. Aside from majors/minors, I’ve decided that traveling truly is something that I like to do, and I’ve been deciding for the past couple of months whether I want to go to school in the states, or if I want to go abroad for college (I applied to international schools back in the fall). While at home, I wasn’t sure if traveling abroad was something that I really wanted to do, or if it was just the fact that I liked to travel for vacation and take a break from MN (who doesn’t?). I like being abroad, and thanks to technology, I can FaceTime/video chat my family, friends, and dog if I miss them, or if they miss me. It’s not like I’m waiting for snail mail to talk to everyone (although it’s always nice to get a postcard from someone abroad, so if you get the chance always send at least one). Even though I’m not sure about my major, if anything being abroad has increased my interest in studying/staying abroad (although my grandma might worry about me being in a foreign country for four years). I really want to keep my options open and have different opportunities abroad rather than stay in the states, so being abroad has helped me to be more comfortable with being 4,000 miles away from home. It might be more next year, so it’s been a good transition semester.
Who should study abroad?
Everyone who has the chance to study abroad should definitely take it. It is so easy to meet a variety of people, contribute to innovative (and not so innovative) ideas/projects, encounter many opportunities, and see a different community halfway around the world. Just keep in mind: Anyone thinking of studying abroad, be aware that you will be a guest in that country, and many things that are in America won’t be in whichever country you are in. Such a simple idea that many people brush off, but it’s always something that comes up in a conversation with many Americans living abroad. Also, many people experience culture shock, but that’s not something that should scare you away from studying abroad. If anything, studying abroad is the perfect opportunity for people to mature and learn more about themselves.
When is the best time to come to Berlin?
My boss told me that the best time to come is in May, and during the summer because 1) in May the weather gets a lot nicer, and 2) in the summer, there are so many things to do like visit parks where people sell street food—there’s this one park that is only open in the summer but they sell Thai food; it’s like a open field Thai marketplace, and it’s apparently amazing. I wish I could go, but I’ll be gone before then. When the weather’s nicer, you can do a lot more things outside, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do things when the weather is cold or rainy or snowy. I personally wouldn’t go to Templehof when it’s below freezing (since Templehof is an abandoned airport and a huge open airfield), but if you go there on a nicer/warmer day, and there’s a nice breeze, a lot of people bring their kites, bikes, rollerblades, parachutes/paraglides (I don’t know what they are actually, but people bring them), a picnic, their dogs, or nothing then it’s a really nice place just to hangout for the weekend.
What are some things to know about Berlin?
They have an honor system here for public transportation. They don’t have a “swipe your ticket” thing like most public transportation contraptions. For me, because I buy a monthly ticket every month (it’s 80 euros for a monthly pass) I just have to make sure I have it with me at all times just in case the ticket checkers (I don’t know their official name) come by because if you are caught without a valid ticket the fine is 60 euros. For the U-Bahn (mostly underground subway), you just have to walk down the stairs and get on. If you buy a one way ticket or a day ticket, you have to make sure you validate it. Buses: Bus drivers don’t usually care. You are supposed to show them your ticket when you get on the bus, but they never look when I show them mine. So I just get on. I think you can buy a ticket on the bus? But I’ve never had to do that so I’m not sure. Then there’s the S-Bahn (train). I haven’t seen any ticket checkers on the S-Bahn, but you never know. The ticket checkers look like regular people (all black, serious faces, go around in groups usually) with credit card scanners and a name tag.
DON’T WALK IN THE BIKE LANE. If you want to see what happens, you should try it.
Black is in. All the time. Everyone wears black. Or dark colors. But mostly black.
People stare at you in the subway. It's not rude. Or not meant to be. I guess it's a good excuse to stare back at people.
Be careful what ATM you take out money from. Some people have gotten credit charges from some obscure country, so I'd say just go to a bank ATM.
"Berlin Loves You
Don't Trust Art"
~Berlin Street Art, 2018