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Killian Sullivan

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Killian Sullivan (he/him) - Stanford in Berlin

Major: Management Science and Engineering

College year while abroad: Sophomore

About the photo: We were in Munich and touring the old Bavarian palace, and we found this room full of busts of famous Romans. While we were wandering around we found one that looked like a friend, and we thought it was so funny that we wandered around trying to find the roman who we each looked most like.


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Why did you choose to study in Berlin?

Berlin is locationally perfect for exploring central Europe, and I planned to make use of my time with an EU rail pass. Then in itself the city is full of interesting history, has many diverse and lively districts, and fascinating architecture from a variety of styles. It makes everyday fun to explore, and on weekends Berlin is the perfect launch pad to nearby countries and German speaking regions.

What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Berlin?

I did not really have expectations before going and tried to stay open to new things and go with the flow. I think that attitude really helped me in exploring a lot of the city. People are people wherever you go, and I think the best attitude is to expect nothing but be prepared for anything.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Berlin?

I was able to explore an interesting language and culture more fully through immersion, and thanks to the courses offered I was able to maintain progress in my engineering degree. I also was able to meet a great group of professors and alumni while abroad and have maintained the connections after the program.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

I learned that I have the most fun in a city by wandering on foot and just discovering what’s going on with few plans for what to do there. I also learned that when I am adventuring, like sailing or backpacking I can keep going for weeks, but I really like to have a home base to launch from.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?

One weekend I took a journey to the east and got into an area where I couldn’t communicate well. On the way back, the train got stuck in customs and was delayed by 4 hours, so we missed a connection. After some difficulty in trying to figure out what was going on, I met a woman who spoke some German and through our combined limited vocabulary, and some hand gestures, she explained to me what was going on. I was so grateful for her help, and we became good friends over the course of the train ride to Vienna.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

In Palo Alto, and most other places I have lived, things wind down early at night and there is not much going on, so people go to their homes and watch television. However, in Berlin and most other parts of Europe, people spend time out together instead.

What was your favorite part of everyday life?

The public transportation system in Berlin is amazing! People rave about Swiss trains, but having now visited Zürich and Geneve I will say that Berlin beats them hands down. I had a few times where I just rode the public transit to see where it would take me, confident I could always get back.

What was the most memorable experience you had while in Berlin?

One of my friend’s homestay hosts had a party one evening where he invited a lot of musicians for a jam session. We helped by making the food for the event, and then were treated to a great evening of music and entertainment with some fascinating people. It helped of course that the food went over really well.

What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?

Döner, Theatre, Trains, Walking, Adventure.

What was your favorite food?

I really liked döner and tried to sample it from many different sellers around Berlin. But the best food I had was at a Kolsch bar, near the Freidrichstraße bahn station. We went for a friends birthday party, and we saw a table nearby getting served schweinshaxe or pork knuckle. It was this massive hunk of roasted pork on the bone. Absolutely delicious, and exactly what I wanted at that moment.

What was the most valuable item you took on the program?

I think the most valuable item I had in Berlin was a paper map of the transportation network. I carried it with me everywhere I went, and it came in most handy at night when my phone battery was dead. With that map I once navigated all the way home on an e-scooter, across half the city, after the U-Bahn was closed.

What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Berlin?

I had never properly experienced techno music before going to Berlin, and I found it to be the best for dancing all night long. It’s like a hit of adrenaline right in your ears, and I found myself loving it. I recommend earplugs though, as it can get ear damagingly loud.