Stephen Queener (he/him) - Stanford in Berlin
Major: International Relations
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This is a photo of me in Heidelberg, taken during one of the many short trips I took throughout Germany during my time as a Krupp intern this Summer.
Questions and Answers with Stephen
Why did you choose to study abroad in Berlin?
Berlin is a city of history, contradiction, diversity, and of course adventure. Its extremely different architectural styles and subcultures, dotted in small unique pockets throughout the city, consistently clash with one another and yet at the same time yet come together in one beautiful mess that just, against all odds, works. Its impossible to not get this feeling of life wherever you go in Berlin, and also the history that binds it, and once even divided it. As an international relations major, and as someone who used the pandemic break on BOSP programming to study German ahead of time, coming to Berlin as a part of the first fall program in over a year was simply a must, and a decision that I will never regret.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Berlin?
One of my expectations and worries before I went to Berlin was that I’d feel pretty isolated, both due to language barriers, and the reality of living in a big city after nearly two years of stay-at-home pandemic life. Luckily, that expectation was quickly shattered, thanks in many parts to the support and structure of the Berlin program. Living with a host family immediately gives you a base of contact, and of city knowledge, that helps you navigate and feel comfortable in such a new place. Additionally, the warm and intimate atmosphere at Haus Cramer, and the many structured weekly activities, such as the ever-looming trips to the theater, give you the ability to have an eventful week, filled with socializing, without a lot of effort.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?
The academic faculty at the Berlin program are not only amazing, but they also fully take advantage of the city, often integrating their courses and subjects with field trips and other excursions. Dr. Kramer’s theater class is also, specifically, an amazing opportunity to really excel your German language skills as you're pressed weekly to analyze and critique the often highly nuanced theater performances you just saw, all in German.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
It's quite hard to balance everything when you're in a city like Berlin, with so many activities and places to explore, especially when you still have to fulfill your obligations as a student. The Berlin program taught me how to better balance my work and responsibilities, and to focus on what experiences meant the most to me.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
I would say the most challenging experience came near the end of my time in Berlin, when I organized a solo-trip to Nuremberg during Thanksgiving break, so that I could see the world famous Nuremberg Weihnachtsmarkt. I had a really fun itinerary planned with all sort of activities, but unfortunately all of Europe was suddenly hit with an outbreak of a new COVID-19 variant, and all of the events I wanted to attend, including the Weihnachtsmarkt were suddenly canceled, all while I was already on the train to Nuremberg! Without many things to do, and with a city suddenly much more empty than I had thought, that experience taught me to be more spontaneous, as I had to break away from my original schedule and explore the city on my own terms.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The biggest cultural adjustment I had to make was definitely rethinking all my routes and routines using public transport, which definitely isn't a bad thing!
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Berlin?
My host family was without a doubt the favorite part of my everyday life. Although it was not something they were required to do, my host family allowed me to join them for dinner nearly every night, and those late night dinners and conversations will always stick with me.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Berlin?
My most memorable experience in Berlin was the short trip I went on with my closest cohort friends (including one of my co-Berlin Ambassadors, Cat), to the Baltic sea town of Rostock. It was a really sweet time and a wonderful trip.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Adventurous, Jam-packed, and a little dark (Winter weather in Berlin can be more brutal than you expect!)
What was your favorite food you had in Berlin?
Ein Döner, natürlich!
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
A power adapter! (Though the Berlin center has a supply of them for those that forget).
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Berlin?
My favorite German musical artist that I discovered while in Berlin was Wolf Biermann, and his songs of political resistance as a dissident in the DDR. They were not only amazing songs, but also were the first time that I was able to fully understand a song in German.