Get Lost

Posted on Thursday, Jun 28, 2018

Have you ever been to College Station, Texas? If you have then you know that it is a pretty easy place to get around. In terms of cities it’s not exactly a bustling metropolis. But that’s okay. In fact, it’s great. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most Aggies love College Station just as much as they love Texas A&M. We’re all comfortable there. All Aggies know how to get to HEB, Fuego, Torchy’s, Lane’s, North Gate, Kyle Field, and their classes. And that’s all we really need to know to be able to survive in College Station. We’re more than content in our perfect little bubble and sometimes we even venture over to Bryan or to the big city, Houston. Well this summer I don’t get to experience this perfect bubble full of taco restaurants, chicken fingers, and views of Kyle Field from every corner of town. Instead I was dropped into the middle of Berlin, Germany, a city of 3.5 million people and 12 districts, each with more people alone than the entire Bryan-College Station area. Instead of looking up at Kyle Field I am looking up at the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) in Alexanderplatz. Instead of stumbling upon my favorite taco spots, I am stumbling upon my favorite döner spots. And instead of driving to HEB, I am taking the U-bahn (subway) to Aldi.

Berlin is a truly multicultural, diverse, and vibrant city. Every district has its own culture, architecture, food, and vibe. Even as an outsider you can feel the differences between the districts as you travel between them. The issue is while I am trying to soak up all of these aspects of this amazing city I am also getting lost... like a lot. Part of the problem is that my cellphone data is really slow here, so Google Maps is out of the question, but also I am just helpless. So basically, I have spent the past month stumbling down cobblestone roads mostly walking in circles. And although this may not be the most efficient way to explore the city, I am learning to accept that it is my way of exploring the city. And I have to say it’s going pretty well... as well as it can go at least.

Throughout my summer of wandering around Europe (tough life I know) I have learned that it’s okay to not plan every minute of my day. It’s okay to take the U-bahn the wrong direction. It is okay to walk in a few circles to get to the place you just passed 3 times. It is okay to ask for directions in your very broken German. All of this is okay because at the end of the journey, and sometimes it is truly a journey, is an abundance of delicious food, beautiful buildings, and amazing people. I have also learned that although it is really great to finally get to my destination, it is also really great to find a gem along the way. I can’t tell you how many times I have decided to stop and get something to eat as I am getting lost, or how many times I have stumbled upon an awesome park or beautiful building in the process of getting lost. I am discovering new parts of this huge, beautiful city mostly by mistake (but if you look on my social media you will see me taking credit for being a great adventurer).  

I type all of this to simply say, it is okay to get lost. It is okay to be uncomfortable and to not feel in control (within reason of course). I am on the greatest journey of my life and that includes getting lost a lot. But the experiences that I am having along the way are 100% worth getting lost (basically) daily. You don’t even have to be in a huge city to get lost. You just have to be willing to leave your comfort zone, or in my case you have to be able to accept that you are now 5300 miles away from your comfort zone. The experiences that we have outside of the office can be just as beneficial to our internship experience as everything that we are learning during business hours. Don’t forget to take a breath, get out of bed on a Saturday and go explore your new city! Because no matter how many amazing connections you make and skills you learn in your internship, some of things you will remember most from this experience is that Saturday that you stumbled upon the (insert café, park, monument, etc.) So, to my fellow PPIP Aggies put your Google Maps and Yelp away, put your headphones in (so you look natural of course), and get out there and get lost this summer, whether you’re in D.C., Berlin, or Madrid.

Charlotte McDonald
Centre international de formation européenne (CIFE)
Berlin, Germany | summer 2018