As I’m writing this post I’m sitting on my friend’s couch in Wrocław, Poland, trying to process everything that has occurred in the last week. Exactly a week ago I was 1365 km southwest, in Lyon, France, packing up my belongings, and getting yelled at by a French landlord ( my apartment wasn’t clean enough). I then had a little wine and pizza dinner in the courtyard of my apartment with some of the amazing friends I had the chance to make during my program and said my bittersweet farewells.

 

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My flight out of France 

The next morning, I woke up at 7 am to finish packing and head for the airport, to catch my flight to Berlin, via Brussels. One of my friends, Brenna, was also on my flight to Brussels with her Boyfriend Nico (they were going to Munich), so we decided to go to the airport together. After meeting them in the lobby of our residence we took a train to the airport. We waited for our flight at the airport for under an hour and soon boarded our flight.  I then found myself leaving Lyon and France, the place that had hosted me for the last month. So much had happened in the last month, and I had made so many memories, leaving Lyon was hard, but my time there was over with. After a very short flight, we landed in Brussels, where I waited for my flight with

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Brenna and Nico

Brenna and Nico, while they were waiting for theirs. I had about 4 hours to kill and they about 3, so we took a walk around the airport, and ate lunch (they bought food and I had some pizza and tomatoes left over from the previous night, I ate it out of a garbage bag as I ran out of zip lock bags). Soon, Brenna and Nico boarded their flight and I found myself a solo traveler once more. After about an hour, I got on my flight to Berlin and landed in about an hour and a half.

 

I was initially nervous about staying at a Hostel.  I had never been to one and didn’t know what to expect. Also, considering I have social anxiety, the idea of sharing a room with complete strangers terrified me. Finding my Hostel (the Circus Hostel) in Berlin

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My Dorm room

wasn’t too hard. After I landed I simply followed the directions from the airport that my hostel provided on its website. The hostel was a cool and contemporary place, very hipstery, filled with different kinds of people, mostly my age, and while the place was super cool, I don’t always feel like I fit in in places like that, so understandably I was anxious. When I got into my dorm I was greeted by a few of my dorm mates, who were British. I said hi, but I was hungry, tired, and very shy, so after greeting them I decided to unpack. I then met some of my other dorms mates, two girls from Australia, and a girl from Vancouver B.C, (this excited me since geographically we were from basically the same place). I Then set out on a quest for food, or more specifically currywurst, German sausage with curry powder on it. My quest did not last long as a

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Currywurst

currywurst place was across the street, I ordered some with fries, and ketchup on the side, they guy offered mayo with my fries, it sounded weird to me but I decided to try it anyway! Altogether, the price for my meal came out to be 4€, which was perfect since after paying for the hostel I only had about 20€ left for my 2 nights in Berlin. After my meal, (which was delicious by the way!), I headed back to my dorm room.

 

In my dorm, not much happened, I shuffled around my bags again looking for my charger and talked to my dorm mates. I was still understandably anxious, but I was feeling much better than earlier. Some of the girls in my dorm wanted to go down to the terrace of the hostel to drink beer, I was a bit hesitant at first, but I joined them anyway, and ended up having a chill night. We got some beer for 1.5€ (yes beer in Germany is cheaper than water) and sat at a table on the terrace of the hostel. We talked for a bit, others joined us. We got to meet people from Northern Ireland, India, and LA, which was cool. I didn’t click well with the people I met, or with the girls I was with, but I tried to be open and kind, and I made the effort to not focus on not clicking with them and I ended up enjoying myself. At around 11 pm the terrace was closed and we went into the basement of the hostel where the bar was located, I got another beer from the convenience store (.80€!!!) and sat, sipped, and talked to some of the people I met. Things started to get a little rowdy, the Killers came on the radio (Mr. Brightside), we all sang loudly, I wasn’t drunk but it was fun to join along anyway. Soon things started slowing down, and I decided to head to bed.

The next morning, I was planning to explore Berlin sadly the free walking tour my hostel

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Brandenburg Gates 

offered was canceled. Thankfully the front desk worker at the hostel informed me of another free tour starting from the Brandenburg gates in Central Berlin. I took the tram and found the gates and tour. The tour was offered by a company called Sandeman Tours, which offers free walking tours, with people paying the tour guide however much they felt the tour was worth at the end. My tour guide was a young Canadian guy, who had fallen in love with Germany, and Berlin. He was super nice and knew a lot about the city of Berlin. The tour was about 3 hours long and took us to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (literally that is what it’s called), The spot over Hitler’s bunker (now an apartment complex), the Berlin Wall, Check Point Charlie (which isn’t the real Check Point Charlie,

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Berlin Wall

but rather just a random part of Berlin turned tourist trap), a few churches, and numerous other interesting parts of Berlin. I also got to socialize with some American students from Arizona State University who were on the tour.  All in all the tour was very interesting, and I learned a lot about Berlin. I would also say that my tour guide’s enthusiasm for the city rubbed off on me. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay him anything as I was dead broke, but I would have had I the euros.

 

After the tour I went back to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, to really take in the area. The memorial consisted of gray rectangular blocks, of

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Memorial for the Murdered Jews 

numerous sizes. What it represents is supposed to be left to interpretation. It is also in the middle of Berlin, and considering the Holocaust is a very dark part of German history, it’s cool that it is in such a central location of the capital. After walking around the memorial, I went down to the free museum underneath it. The museum was filled with pictures, journal entries of Holocaust victims, and of course facts, stats, and information on the Holocaust. I think I spent three hours in there. It was a rather small space, with just a few rooms, but it was filled with so much information, all of which was extremely important, and it was so much to take in. It put me in a rather somber mood, but I’m so glad I went there and learned about that dark part of human history. I would have probably spent another

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Holocaust Musem

hour in there, but they were closing and so I had to leave.

 

Afterward, I hopped on the tram heading back toward my hostel. Halfway through my tram trip though, I got off, because I thought I was on the wrong line. I was terrified because I realized I was lost in a foreign district in Berlin. But after asking around, I learned that I was on the right line all along, and hopped back on. I felt a bit stupid, but I now find some humor in the whole situation, and I can’t help but think of a phrase my friend from my French program said while we were in Paris, “I’m here to make mistakes and learn”, and that’s exactly what happened. After getting back I got currywurst once again, and I had a beer to go with it. I then got back to my room and got to meet some of my new dorm mates. Two Irish girls, and a guy from Halifax, Canada (I think he was surprised I knew of Halifax). After settling back in from my adventure, I went over to them and started talking to them, and ended up getting along with them pretty well, ( I remember one of the girls was named Yaz, but the name of the Canadian guy and other girl escaped me)  Later that evening, Julia ( the girl from Vancouver), and Jemima and Jess (the Australians) came in speaking a bit of Polish “dzenki” and “tak” is what they said. (thanks and yes). Turns out they were all going to Poland to Krakow as tourists and were learning some Polish to get by. This brought joy to my Polish heart, and I gave them a bit of a pronunciation lesson and taught them some basic Polish phrases. The Irish girls also joined in as they were going to Poland too. Later my mom called me and they listened as I spoke in Polish with her over the phone.

No one wanted to go out that night, and we all ended up staying in, just talking, which ended up being a lot of fun. Eventually when It got late, and we all decided to go to bed, a huge storm hit Berlin, and Julia and I opened the window and watched the lightning while sitting by the window. The others watched too, but from their beds. We watched the storm for about an hour, observing the lightning hit different points all over Berlin, we even saw a lightning bolt strike the square right in front of the Hostel, which was especially exciting as the bolt was huge, thick, and created a bang that made me jump back two feet. I also enjoyed bonding with Julia over watching the storm together. Eventually, the storm died down and we went to sleep. The next morning, I said goodbye to my new friends, got breakfast, and checked out. I got directions from the hostel to the bus station and set off for my bus to Poland. On my way there I lost the slip of paper with the directions printed on it, and ended up lost, again, this time at a metro station somewhere in Berlin. I wandered around it for a while, asking random people if they knew how to get to the bus station, and just when I started freaking out, someone helped me find the right metro line to get to the bus station. I then made it to my bus just in time to start boarding, and was off to my next and final country, my ancestral home of Poland!

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My bus to Poland

 

As anxious as I was at the beginning of my solo trip to Berlin. I can now say that it ended up being a wonderful experience. I was initially not planning on going to Berlin, but I’m so glad I took the detour. Berlin ended up becoming one of my favorite cities that I had ever visited, and I cannot wait to return, and experience more that Berlin has to offer. My time in Berlin has also inspired me to take some time while I’m in Poland to go to Auschwitz and learn more about the atrocities of World War II (already have my tickets for the tour). In terms of my time at the Circus Hostel, I can honestly say that I had a good time.  I was especially anxious about my stay there, and I believe my anxiety was rooted in the fear of not feeling like I would belong in that atmosphere. As I have already mentioned I have always struggled with making friends, whether it was because I didn’t feel welcome with a given group of people, or I simply didn’t have anything to click with people over, and that can be hard.  Even though my time at the hostel was going to be short, I wanted to feel welcome, and like I would belong, so the idea of that not being the case scared me a bit. But I made the effort to be open and kind, and of course, I didn’t click with everyone, and there may be times in the future when I don’t get along with anyone. But through being open I met people, and because I met people I was able to get along with some of those people. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy, and not receiving the needed feedback can discourage someone from putting themselves out there, but in not doing so you get nowhere, so it’s important to make that jump, or at least make the effort to. This experience has created personal growth in me and has changed the way I feel about hostels. I cannot wait to experience another one!

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