Vale, Outbound to Germany

Vier Monaten in Berlin! Every month just gets better and better and I say that honestly. December was quite an experience, nothing like back at home. To start off, the weather got a bit colder and I experienced two beautiful days of snow. According to people, it was so early for the snow to start falling in Berlin. Normally, it starts in January - February. Unfortunately, because of the amount of people walking, riding bikes, and driving on the streets, the snow only lasted the night and then morning it disappeared... Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a real Christmas, sort of like the ones you see in a Hallmark Christmas movie. At big shopping centers and touristic areas, there were big and small Christmas markets where you could enjoy a famous glühwein is a Scandinavian mulled wine from red wine and grain or vodka and spices, such as. As cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves and is now one of the most famous drinks in Scandinavia. They also give kinderpunsch, which is like glühwein except no alcohol. It's really nice to drink this because the drink is so warm and when you're holding the cup, it warms your hands as well as your body. Aromas of flame-kissed sausage, roasting nuts and gingerbread fill the air as well as festive music that fills the ambience. During this time of year, a lot of tourists come, so naturally, almost all Christmas markets are quite full. My favorite Christmas market was the Christmas Market at Gedächtniskirche. This market is very known because of where it is situated and sadly because of the terror attack that occurred in 2016. When you walk through it, you can see lit candles and beautiful written signs that serve as a reminder of those who died that day. The reason it was my favorite is because it's smack in the middle of one of the chicest shopping centers in Berlin, so all the trees and light poles are decorated with bright colorful lights and the stores are also elegantly decorated. Even though it was cold outside, I enjoyed the real Christmas atmosphere. I am quite proud to say that I got through the month of December without feeling homesick... I was quite worried how I would feel around this time being away from friends, family, and of course home traditions, but experiencing such a different tradition was so pleasing that I didn't have time to think about Christmas back home. Which leads me to the best tip I have learned... The more occupied you are in your day to day life, the less time you'll be homesick. Of course you won't be out everyday because you go to school and you have other responsibilities but meeting friends, going to the gym, or simply walking outside and spending time with your host family will be of great help emotionally.

My Christmas day was quite calm but so beautiful. My family and I woke up and had a big brunch at home where they bought exotic meats that were only sold on Christmas, delicious baked bread, and expensive cheese and toppings. From there, we slowly started to get ready for the night celebrations. My host mom planned to stay home and that night, we would only be close relatives... So as I got ready, I also helped cook which I had never done in previous years. Around 7pm, we all went to a catholic church where the service laste 1 1/2 hours. The interesting thing is that my host mom doesn't have a car and the train would take even longer so we walked 15minutes which is also very different from back at home. As of right now, I am getting used to it. From church, we went back home and ate a traditional German meal. Goose, Sourcrout, and Potatoes. I felt quite full after just one serving. Underneath the Christmas tree were all the gifts. Also a new and exciting fact is that in Germany, everyone buys real authentic Christmas trees and then they decorate it with beautiful ornaments and real candles. The next three days after Christmas are called Feiertags which means holiday. Every morning we had huge breakfasts and every evening we had traditional meals, like the one at Christmas. Just a few days after Christmas, I was able to go up the fernsehturm which is a well known monument in the East of Berlin that is 368 meters and is the tallest building in Germany and also the fourth tallest freestanding structure in Europe. Up there, you can see all of Berlin. Luckily, I chose a day where the sun was shining and the clouds were no where to be seen.

The last, most exciting thing I experience in 2017 was New Years! That was absolutely crazy. On the 31st, I had dinner at home with the whole family where we ate Raclette, a very traditional meal enjoyed during Christmas and New Years. At around 9:30, I met up with some exchange students and we went to a home party and at exactly 12;00, we were outside and everyone in the streets started lighting up fireworks, they call it war, because it can be beautiful but dangerous at the same time. Some people have told me that sometimes, fireworks are thrown at people but thank God I was safe and sound. At around 1;00am, I left to Hauptbanhof which is the main station in Berlin and from there you can see the big and colorful fireworks that are ignited from Brandenburg Gate. This Gate is like being in NYC when the ball drops, it's so packed that at around 7/8, the gate is closed and no one can come in. The night last quite long for me but it was so different from celebrations back home. I simply enjoyed myself at every moment.

These past 4 months have been incredible and I earnestly say, I can't wait for what 2018 will bring!

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