Andrew Sleugh (he/him) - Stanford in Berlin
Major: Materials Science and Engineering
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: The aforementioned sunset descent! [See most memorable experience, below]. A truly magical day, complete with the Disney castle in the background.
Questions and Answers with Andrew
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
Berlin stood out to me because of its reputation as a very international-feeling metropolis. I didn't know the language going in, but heard that this was much more acceptable than in places like Paris, where the locals may be a little less kind about it. I also love learning about history and philosophy, and was enticed by the course offerings covering Germany's complex past and present.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Berlin?
I had heard various stereotypes about the German people being rude or short-tempered and was pleasantly surprised to find that, like most stereotypes, this was greatly exaggerated. Many of the people I interacted with, my host father in particular, were some of the warmest, kindest, most welcoming people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
The learning in the classroom was complemented perfectly by the cultural events and landmarks around Berlin. For example, the Berlin Film Festival took place while we were there, an assignment for the film class I took was to watch 10 different films and write reflections on them which were collected in a student journal. Similarly, a class on German remembrance of World War 2 took us on field trips to memorials and museums all around the city. My German language class was focused on the vocabulary we heard people using in the city around us. The program, aided by the wonderful professors and staff, emphasized learning by doing and seeing!
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that I love hiking! I don't think I had ever properly hiked before going to Germany, but some of my favorite memories from the trip are from excursions to various mountains and national parks around the country.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
At first, I wasn't sure I had made the right choice going abroad; I missed my friends and the easy comfort of campus. Luckily, it didn't take me long to realize that my time in Berlin was a unique opportunity to grow as an individual and experience things that I couldn't have dreamed of in my dorm room back at Stanford.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
I was definitely used to more elaborate breakfasts, but my host father usually just had some bread and butter and I eventually learned to love the simplicity of it as well (the butter also just tasted so much better for some reason, which made things easier).
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
The U-Bahn! Hands down! The public transportation in Berlin (and also the other major cities + the trains that connected them) made life so easy, and I loved people-watching on the trains. There were so many little details that brightened my days: the tiny school kids holding hands as their teachers shepherded them onto cars (as well as the solitary kids who seemed way too young to be going about on their own), the advertisements that had no right being that funny, and the snippets of German that slowly made more sense as my language skills grew.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?
Finally reaching a restaurant at the top of a trail in the Alps! We were dead tired and had been hiking for hours, somehow hot and cold at the same time. When we finally turned a corner and saw our destination, I could have cried. We had a refreshing meal at the little hut, basking in the satisfaction of completing the arduous climb and enjoying the beautiful view. Our descent afterwards was timed perfectly with the sunset, so we were treated to stunning views as we slipped and slid our way down the mountain. That was easily one of the best days of my life.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Museums, trains, memorials, cold, and bread.
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
My host and I hosted a dinner party towards the end of the quarter and cooked königsberger klopse together, a hearty meal of meatballs and potatoes in a creamy sauce. The dish was a hit, and I had a great time with my host father in the kitchen.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My fuzzy socks. I spent a lot of time walking around outside, and would not have survived without them.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?
Stella Snacks, a DJ who I saw at a club one night. This was my first time seeing a literal disc jockey at work up close; she played funky house vinyls well past 3 in the morning and I loved every second of it.