Life Abroad: My Introduction to Germany!

Photo: Nico Trinkhaus –

My name is Alexys Braley, and I am currently a third-year student at Brown University. Hailing from a small-town in rural Washington State, I came to Brown seeking adventure and enlightenment. Initially introduced to the German language by chance, I fell in love with German the accompanying culture. Hence, I enrolled in Brown’s study abroad program and am living in Berlin, Germany for the 2014-15 academic year. From the ordinary to the austere, Einblick in Deutschland serves to chronicle my experience as a Berliner.

The first and most important lesson I’ve learned in Germany: “ok” is the equivalent of “OHMYGOSH that’s awesome!”. Prior to this discovery, I must admit that I was often disappointed and confused by the responses I would receive from Berliners. “Did you enjoy your night?” – it was ok. “How was that food?” – ok. This type of response was often seceded by “Can I have more?”, or “I should learn how to make that!”. Wait what? Once I accepted that Germans are in fact much different in demeanor and personal expression that Americans, things made a lot more sense here. I’ve also been lucky enough to have already humiliated myself in front of a large group of spectators [more after the break!]

Upon my arrival, I purchased a bike to ride through the city. Unfortunately, I am not accustomed to riding my bike through cities, especially on streets that have Tram lines running through them. This lack of experience was further demonstrated when I got my bike tire caught in one of these Tram lines and crashed. In the middle of the street. With cars behind me. You can imagine my embarrassment, which was exacerbated by the fact that two German men saw it and stood on the corner laughing at me. Although I would love to say that I simply nursed my wounds and moved on, that would be a lie. Without delving too far into the topic, I will admit that I still get a rush of anxiety whenever I approach tram lines. Boo.
Aside from exploring the city, I am enrolled in a daily German language course, during which I sit in a room for 4 hours reviewing grammar structure, reading assignments and German political and cultural history. This course serves as an orientation for my program “Brown in Berlin”. My official classes with Humboldt Universität begin on the 13th of October and end on the 28th of February. As of yet, I am unsure of what classes I will be taking, but I am interested in a meditation class that is taught in both German and English. I am a European History major at Brown, and I focus on the way that political shifts (i.e. Empire to Nation-State) influence the treatment of minorities, specifically with regard to genocide and crimes against humanity. The archives and documentation of the Holocaust available in Germany should aide me in this endeavor while further enhancing my German skills. However, this is a heavy topic better suited for another discussion. Onward to cultural experiences!

Last night I went to a theatre near the center of Berlin called the Berliner Ensemble. There I saw “Krapp’s Last Tape” by Samuel Beckett. Interesting at the least, this play was very abstract, and I was quite entertained watching the solo performer throw his banana peels at the audience as he contemplated whether or not he was in Purgatory. Overall, it was an enjoyable performance, despite the fact that we had standing seats! Tonight my friends and I will endeavor to get into one of Berlin’s strictest clubs, Berghain. I guess I should say tomorrow morning, because we are going at 6am. If I am successful, I promise that you will hear all about it in my next post! With that said, I bid you all farewell, or as the Germans would say, “Bis Später!”

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at!


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