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Graysen Braun

SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology
Study Abroad › Field School

Berlin offered an enriching experience that helped me develop personally and artistically. This experience has inspired me to travel and study abroad more in the future.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

As this was my first international travel, knowing how to prepare was important. To start, I read and watched the recommended resource guides and courses provided by SFU to help me. 

Prior to the in-field study, my class had a brief crash course on German history, art, and culture. This helped me generate an expectation of what Berlin may be like, thus I knew better how I should prepare. 

Previous Experience

In the past, I've done some travelling, but only within America. Germany was my first international travel experience. I know friends and family in Germany, so what I knew personally about the country was through them. 

I had always been curious about studying in other countries, and I had always wanted to travel to Germany in particular. There are some opportunities in life that seem to appear at just the right time, and this particular study abroad program was that, so I took the initiative and applied. 

Preparation Tips for Future Students

Preparing for a study abroad trip can be daunting. It can seem like there's so much to do in such little time. This is normal, especially if it's your first time. Thankfully, with study trips, your educational institution may have plenty of resources to help guide you on your way. Be sure to attend pre-trip sessions and meetings, they can help guide you to  prepare for your trip. If you ever have any questions about the trip, don't hesitate, especially if it's your first time it's great to communicate if something wasn't understood.  

Most importantly, start early and let your curiosity lead you. Research the country you'll be going to and what daily life may look like there. Research what everything will cost, what necessary documents you need to travel, and anything else. Working in a priority system with essential to least essential tasks really helped me organize my preparations. 

Exterior of The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin
Exterior of The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin
Interior of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Interior of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Exterior of Haus Der Kulteren Der Welt in Berlin
Exterior of Haus Der Kulteren Der Welt in Berlin
World Clock at Alexanderplatz in Berlin
World Clock at Alexanderplatz in Berlin
Berlin Victory Column
Berlin Victory Column
During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Getting settled into Germany was fairly breezy, besides the culture shocks I'd face while exploring. Thankfully, accommodations had been covered by our program, as well as our cellular data, which made settling into Berlin an easeful endeavour. It was so exciting getting to meet the rest of my cohort and discover Berlin.

The first week gave me a positive impression of the weeks ahead. A highlight was the opening ceremony for the Haus Der Kulteren Der Welt. 

The first week had scheduled a blend of regular and irregular meetings. This allowed for predictability and comfort but also pushed us to have new experiences. 

Day to Day

Studying day-to-day in Berlin was exhilarating! On school days, we would explore the city from student collaborations, to artist talks, and to historic landmarks too. There was actually a project that focused on researching these historic landmarks, such as the prominent Brandenberg Tor. 

A portion of the program was an individually based project, so there were many opportunities to attend recommended events. These were events found by the program that could help with developing and researching the individual project. These would mostly take place after classes or on weekends. 

One weekend I travelled out to Cologne with a friend, where we explored the massive Kölner Cathedral and the Museum Ludwig. 

Learning and Adaptation

What I really admired about my study abroad program was the variety of artistic practices that we learned from. Although my program of study typically focuses more on music and sound, this study abroad program encourages an interdisciplinary model of education. The program in its entirety also encouraged more conversational engagement, where our personal thoughts and background meaningfully impacted what we had learned. As a result, learning while in this program felt very intuitive and curious. 

Accomplishments and Challenges

What was challenging for me was getting used to travelling alone. Friends can be fun but travelling alone can help in developing your own individualism and becoming more self-confident. I can say with confidence that this trip has allowed me to travel alone more and has been beneficial.

Another challenge was grappling with the culture shock that came with adjusting to Berlin. Although it was still challenging, I was quite curious and had individually studied some German culture prior to departure, which made it an easier triumph.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

What I was really delighted to see during my stay in Berlin was how the infrastructure considered its environment.

Biking instead of driving is a great example. In Berlin, designated bike lanes are built to allow for ease of travel to work or school and seem to be used more. With more people biking, fewer cars are used, so the environment becomes less polluted by noise and car exhaust.

Speaking of transportation, the subway systems ("U-Bahn"), buses, and trains are thorough, as stops are located densely throughout the city, allowing for convenience; thus, they have more use. Public transportation can be an efficient and convenient way of travel.

The hours between 10 PM-7 AM are commonly considered "quiet hours", as to be considerate to people sleeping. Sundays for the entire day are also agreed "quiet hours". These agreements reduce noise pollution at these times and can help encourage a regularly scheduled "bedtime".

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Berlin is the perfect spot for social and extracurricular activities. You may be surprised by what you can find within walking distance, otherwise by bus or train. 

Berlin has an exceptional and vibrant nightlife. You can find many clubs and bars that will offer you a great time! Of course, always make sure to drink responsibly.  

What's really neat about Berlin is the places you stumble upon. I ended up finding a quaint bookshop hidden by a (metaphorical) labyrinth of buildings. There's so much to explore especially when you crave adventure. 

Wrap Up

This was a 7-week study abroad that I will never forget! There was so much that I had learned and so much that I will continue to learn because of the inspiration of this trip. Without a doubt, this trip has also encouraged me to travel more and I am now more curious to learn about other cultures. I think I'd definitely visit Germany again sometime, especially Berlin, and I'd be just as curious as before. 

Reflection & Tips

In retrospect, my study abroad semester in Berlin has provided me with significant development both personally and artistically. By engaging with a new enriching culture, my trip to Germany has made me into a more well-rounded person who is able to adapt to change. I've learned more German through conversing with locals in Germany and I've made new friends. 

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

There has certainly been a plethora of valuable experiences from this venture, but these few experiences have been particularly mentionable. 

I had the privilege of collaborating with art students from Germany on projects and studying architecture within the city. This experience wasn't just an opportunity to expand my musical practice to other avenues such as visual art and movement, but it also provided valuable insight into other artists' perspectives. Studying this architecture, such as the 

Another valuable mention was the many artist talks that I attended, where I discovered helpful morals about creative practice and learned about new topics of artistic exploration. 

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

This experience has overall provided me with valuable growth and breadth in my studies. In my studies as a music and sound student, having an interdisciplinary experience not only provides me with a new invigorating perspective on my own practice but also connects me with other artists, perhaps around the globe, who can inspire and influence me based on their own artistic practice and discipline.

I have explored artistic sites around Germany such as the Haus der Kulteren der Welt in Berlin, which has given me insight into other artists internationally.

Another sight would be the Bauhaus in Dessau, a few buildings that used to be an art school during the early 20th century, known for its well-rounded faculty and students, who practised multiple disciplines of art.   

Advice for Future Students
  • If you have no internet connection and you need to google maps home, have no fear! Many Berlin U-bahn (subway) stations actually offer public WI-FI.
  • Make sure to have euros on you. Most establishments in Germany prefer cash transactions over card. 
  • If you have no access to physical currency, no worries! Some establishments can still accept card transactions.
  • Watch out for bike lanes! Sometimes they can look similar to sidewalks, so be aware of cyclists or signs that indicate a bike lane. 
  • German restaurants will typically charge for water, so it might be a good idea to keep a water bottle handy.
  • An open mind is the way to go. This is all a new experience, so things won't always go according to plan. Forgive yourself and others, we're only human, and have a good time!