Hey guys, Daniel here. I’m working as a summer student at HZB in Adlershof, creating a new material for solar cell absorbers. However, that is not all my life consists of: I also have much free time to roam around the city and do some “adulting” as well. During these pandemic times, there are few group activities to be done. Clubs are closed, group tours are scarce and, as if the existentialist separateness were not enough for us humans, now it has become a reality in a physical sense. But don’t worry, because I have just the thing for you. This is a summer-abroad-guide I wished I had when I first arrived, and it is full of things one only learns from experience, so take it with a pinch of salt. May it help you in your first weeks here, fellow student.
Berlin the city of museums
There are many activities that, although they can be enjoyed in a group, take a different perspective when done on your own. Museums, for example, are a great activity when travelling alone. My favourites are art museums. You can stare at a painting for ages without having to worry if you are separated from the group. This makes the aesthetic experience much more enjoyable. But of course, places such as the Museum Island (right in the heart of Berlin) have much more to offer on other topics such as Ancient or Modern History.
My personal favourite is the Neues Museum
Walking trips to explore Berlin
Walking on a park or visiting natural landscapes is also a pretty great activity!
Also, in some parks, such as Mauerpark, one can find flea markets on weekends (vintage clothes and souvenirs of all types!). Also, if you like graffiti and urban art, Berlin is just perfect for you: the scene is immense here! Check out the East Side Gallery, or free tours around Kreuzberg.
Food made in Germany
Of course, I cannot leave out gastronomy! Trying Currywurst (a spicy/sweet sausage), Berliners (typical pastries) or potato stew (better for winter) are a must for all visitors. I highly recommend that you stay away from touristic areas for this one, though. The best restaurants are always well hidden, and there are also wonderful places to eat for 5€
I can’t help but to realize that most of these “lonely experiences” are somehow related to art. I believe art is best enjoyed individually, for we all have different takes on what de definition of beauty is. Therefore, I have tried to make a general overview of different, affordable, artsy activities. Feel free to do other stuff too! This is by no means a perfect guide.
Aside from the touristic part of visiting a new city, there are other challenging obstacles related to more mundane aspects of everyday life. For those of you who have never lived abroad on your own, allow me to give you some tips and tricks to make your first days so much easier.
Transport in Berlin
If you live in Adlershof, I do not recommend getting a monthly pass. First off, you might not get the student discount if you come from abroad. Secondly, even if you do, the price is around 65€/month. I have only used public transport on weekends and I live close to where I work, so it’s not worth it for me. If you live in the city centre, you may have to reconsider the assumptions I just made.
German supermarkets and cooking
I usually always buy rice, pasta, eggs and other essentials. Lliving on your own also means managing your finances, but don’t be afraid to spend extra on things you really want. Bear in mind that German supermarkets might be different to the ones in your country, so that will also help you get to know their layout. I personally don’t like how labyrinthic they are. It took me ages to figure out where the olive oil was!
About cooking, perhaps the best would be to learn beforehand. However if you don’t have the time, there are millions of recipes online that don’t take a lot to master. You won’t be able to cook delicious dishes, but you’ll survive. And don’t forget to eat healthy!
Good to know for rainy days
Sometimes the day is rainy, and you don’t want to go out. I highly advise to make a trip to a library and look for a German-English bilingual book. That way, you might improve your German if you have some knowledge already. If you don’t, I advise you to learn a bit. People in Belin won’t always speak English, so be ready for that. Apart from reading, watching films/series, playing videogames or exercise are also good pastimes when you are alone.
This is the end of my little guide. I have, still, one final but very important tip for you. Try to socialize as much as possible! We might have Corona around, but that does not mean our thirst for human interaction is going to be quenched. Try to get to know your roommates, meet them for dinner, explore the city together (with all the recommended safety measures of course)!
That way, little by little, you will find out that you are, after all, not so lonely.
The next piece written by our Summer Students to read next week!
You may like to read about our Summer Students 2019.