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Writing Course at Humboldt University, Berlin

Sean, a Visual Cultures student, attended a four-week writing course at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. He was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of his placement.

I became aware of the Go Abroad programme when a peer on my course notified me that funding for placements abroad over the summer were available. Upon hearing this information, I immediately searched through the Go Abroad website for opportunities. I was delighted to find that placements in Berlin were available on writing so I applied for a course at Humboldt University.

I loved everything about my experience abroad, but I especially enjoyed the privilege of getting to live in such a busy city in the centre of Europe in the middle of a hot summer! Berlin itself is amazingly vibrant, as it is a leading figure of many trends in contemporary culture and immersed in history. The character of Berlin itself was a major influence on my experience abroad and taught me so much about the history of Europe and obviously the history of Berlin as a bordered city.

Each week I was in Humboldt University for 3 days and had the rest of the week to catch up on readings or contribute to the portfolio I was building for my course entitled ‘Writing the City’! I would begin my morning routine by locking up my things in my locker in the hostel I was staying in, before heading to campus in the historic Mitte, across from Bebelplatz by tram. The tram lines ended just before Museum Island, so I developed an incredibly surreal routine that was very different from studying at Goldsmiths.

I struggled with finding accommodation and flights before I arrived in Berlin because of an administration lag on the part of the Go Abroad office; since my grant did not arrive on time, I stayed in a hostel for the 4-week duration of my studies which became quite tedious and annoying as I had to share my space and bedroom with strangers.

I was revolutionised as a person by this experience. For one, it was amazing to continue my studies throughout the summer; the experience also provided me with an insight into the amount of information I had gained from my first year at Goldsmiths. The strict routine encouraged by Humboldt University and its prestige was incredibly motivating and made me realize that I needed to study harder and more often when I returned to London! It also massively improved my social skills, as because I was meeting someone new, from a new country and a new discipline every day, I was forced to learn how to be a more talkative, friendly person.

I would advise students who are going to apply for the Go Abroad funding to apply early and have all of their administration done as soon as they have been accepted by their international organisation. I would also advise students doing Go Abroad placements to abandon any fear they have about loneliness or the huge sense of independence that is required for spending a summer in a foreign country as it is an incredibly formative experience that can prove transformative to a person.