Demetri Maxim- Stanford in Berlin
Major: Computational Biology
Minor: German Studies
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Group picture with Stanford Berlin students taken at the Berlin wall near the famous: Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kiss, taken March 2019.
Questions and Answers with Demetri
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
I am a competitive alpine ski racer for my National team and all of our major international competitions and off-season training is based in Austria and Switzerland, so I always wanted to learn German while at Stanford. When I found out that Stanford had a study abroad program in Berlin that was homestay-based, I immediately applied since it seemed like the perfect way to learn German through full immersion and also get to experience a quarter abroad.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Berlin?
To be honest, I did not have many expectations before arriving. Most of my classmates had at least done some basic research of places they wanted to visit or neighborhoods to check out, but I had a busy winter quarter and did not have time to do any of that so I arrived with a mostly clean slate. I really liked this approach since I couldn't bring any false conceptions into the program beforehand.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
Studying with the Stanford Berlin program was highly beneficial because it allowed me to apply credits directly to Stanford courses whereas if I did a non-Stanford program, I would have basically had to take a leave of absence for the quarter and then try to worry later about possibly applying credits for certain requirements (which may or may not end up working out). The Stanford in Berlin program allowed me to complete a huge portion of my WAYS requirements, which helped me have a much more open schedule during senior year. I also did not feel like I missed out on a true abroad experience because we were still allowed to take classes at the local German University, Freie Universität (FU), which I took advantage of and also regularly ate in the FU cafeteria to meet other German students.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
My biggest personal lesson from Berlin is that I actually really enjoy and need alone time. During the program it felt like there was always something to do, a city at your fingertips, other Stanford students planning get togethers and events, and my German friends often going out late at night. During the first few weeks, I hardly said no to anything, but I realized after I while that even though I generally considered myself a super extroverted person, it became exhausting after a while and having alone time became really important to me. This has remained true post-Berlin, where I consistently fit time into my schedule to do things by myself as a break from social gatherings and other interpersonal interactions.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
My most challenging experience was definitely my relationship with my host family. I moved in during a very difficult time for them– the husband and wife had just separated when I arrived and were trying to figure out how to care for their small children while also managing their marriage and me staying there. This was definitely different than what I expected when I elected to live with a family, but I think it was a valuable lesson that your hosts have their own lives too and they elect to host students well in advance, so sometimes things can change drastically even over the course of a single quarter.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
Definitely the U-Bahn (the Berlin subway). We were given free monthly passes that were valid for traveling anywhere in the city and the fact that I could jump on a train and go anywhere within 45 minutes without ever getting into a car was really awesome. I also loved how much later restaurants stayed open as compared to the US, I never had issues eating later dinners, which was often helpful if I was studying late and did not want to disturb my host family with my cooking late at night.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Eye-opening, Cultural, Transformative, Demanding, and Essential.
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
Good walking shoes (you will walk a TON!) and a puffy jacket (Berlin is quite cold in April and even into May)
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?