Erin McLauchlan, a senior pursuing a degree in English, studied abroad through the Global May Germany program during the summer of 2023.
My experience in Berlin was more than I had ever expected it to be when I first signed up. One of my favorite parts about the city is just how easy it is to get around. As opposed to Ohio where I drive nearly everywhere, Berlin was very walkable and had a great public transportation system. By the end of the first week, I got to know the city by using the U-Bahn (subway), S-Bahn (elevated train), tram and bus. Since the city was so well connected, I felt like I could go anywhere.
I found a new love of history by doing all of this exploring throughout the former East and West halves of the city. Until my month in Berlin, I was never much of a history buff, but there was something different when the history was practically written on the streets in front of me. On all of our tours throughout the city, we could see a row of cobblestones that marked where the Berlin Wall used to stand. It was so incredible to think that only a few decades ago, walking across this border would have been impossible.
We also visited a former Stasi prison. As we walked through, our tour guide told us that this building was not even depicted on maps when the prison was in use to keep their operations secret. People in both East and West Berlin were completely unaware of things that were happening in their own city. Not only did this give me a greater appreciation for world history, it also made me want to come back home to read up on the history of Columbus and to be more involved in its future. I even ended up taking a city planning class the fall semester after I got home to learn about how Columbus has been shaped by its laws and history.
Today, a long stretch of the Berlin Wall is now known as Mauerpark, or Wall Park. One Sunday in May, I visited Mauerpark’s weekly flea market. Instead of catching up on chores, Berliners spend their Sundays with loved ones and truly relax. Though lots of stalls were selling art and historic memorabilia, what was more exciting was the large open area next to all the vendors. It was packed with people simply enjoying their time together. People sat under trees with their dogs or waited for a turn on one of the giant swings. One group of friends danced to music they played from a laptop. I loved seeing the way that Berliners take the time to just enjoy life instead of rushing through it. Seeing the celebratory atmosphere every Sunday really made me realize just how important it is to make time for little joys.
For me, being a global citizen is a process of opening myself up to new ways to exist, whether that means picking up a new love of history or learning to take more time for myself. Being in Berlin showed me that there is still so much more for me to learn about the world.