Kyle Feliciano - Stanford in Berlin
Major: Biomechanical Engineering
Minor: German Studies
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: I visited Rausch Schokoladenhaus quite a few times while exploring the city. I am standing in front of a chocolate replica of Brandenburg Gate (left) and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (right).
Questions and Answers with Kyle
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
I have wanted to go abroad since my freshman year. I took German in high school. I knew that I would be a bit anxious traveling to another country without family or close friends, so I chose to go abroad to a place where I was already comfortable with the language. I was also interested in World War II history, environmental issues, European-US politics, and healthcare, so Germany really spoke to me.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Berlin?
When I arrived in Berlin, I didn’t feel like I would be able to get to know the city and people very well. I thought that taking classes at a Stanford center would make it difficult to meet new people and see new places, but I was quickly proven wrong. I had a weekly seminar with a professor where we toured the city, learning about the history behind the statues and buildings that I walked by every day on my way to the center. I made friends with local shop owners. And I explored the Free University of Berlin with other Stanford students, finding a sitting area where all the University students like to gather between class periods. We talked about German politics, education systems, and world issues with students at the university, and when I went home to my homestay, I continued those conversations with my host mom and the two graduate students that lived next door. In 10 weeks, I got to know the city and people well.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
Germany is such a great place to learn about history and music. I walked down Pacelliallee (the street that Stanford’s center is on), taking in the houses that stood on either side of the street. My professor explained how many of the houses and churches we passed had hundreds of years of history behind them from World War II and before. At home in the U.S., it’s not often that you stumble upon a several-hundred-year-old church. And when I went to the city centers to attend operas like Die Zauberflöte or La traviata, I learned about the amazing arts scene in Berlin. The city takes a lot of pride in its arts and helps fund them, allowing people to get affordable tickets on any day of the week. The music I had learned about before was brought to life on stage.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
The biggest thing that I learned about myself was that traveling alone can have just as many benefits as traveling with others. While I was in Germany, I had the opportunity to visit other cities and countries. Sometimes I went alone and sometimes I went with others. Traveling alone gave me time to reflect on the memorials I would visit much more than I could with friends there with me.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
Packing up all of my stuff the same night I planned an emergency flight out of Germany after the U.S. announced it was closing its borders. This challenge was quite scary. I only had a few days left before my original flight was supposed to depart, but those few days were cut short when I heard news from the U.S. late one night. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to the friends I had made. I had to ask my homestay mom to help me return the books I had borrowed from the Stanford center. And I had to cancel the plans I had made in the following days to visit a few places I had yet to see in Berlin. I learned that some things get cut short, and you have to be willing to adapt and change plans. The staff at Stanford Center was amazing, and the director of the program, Dr. Karen Kramer, helped me sort out everything while I rearranged my travel plans. I found myself sitting next to my professor on my flight home, which was a welcome surprise.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Everyone’s willingness to talk about politics and world issues was jarring, but in the end, it was wonderful to discuss so many different topics.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
Passing by musicians every day on my way to school. Whenever I changed trains on my way to the center, there was a musician performing. Whether they were singing, playing the violin, or playing another instrument, it was nice to listen to them while waiting for my train to arrive.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?
Going to the Berlinale. It’s a film festival that shows hundreds of films and brings hundreds of producers, directors, and actors to Berlin. All the films were amazing, and they each had their own message. After each film, I was able to attend Q&A sessions with the actors and directors to ask questions about the film they had made.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Transformative, rewarding, informative, exciting, inspiring
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
Chocolate. I found several different German chocolate shops. Rausch Schokoladenhaus is a three-story chocolate house, and each floor has a different theme of chocolate. They even had chocolate art exhibits where you could see famous Berlin landmarks made out of chocolate.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
Multiple types of power-plug adapters. I always had to keep my computer and phone charged up, regardless of which country I was visiting, so that I could take pictures to send home to family members.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?
Opera. I took a class on German opera, which gave us the chance to attend eight opera performances. I became quite familiar with Die Zauberflöte after watching two versions, each in a different opera house. I watched one version of Die Zauberflöte twice.