O’Neill IUPUI’s downtown Indianapolis location provides students with ample opportunity to gain diverse views on their career paths as they pursue their degrees. But sometimes, shifting your educational environment can provide perspectives students may have never considered.
Ariel Mason is a student in O’Neill’s Accelerated Master’s Program, pursuing degrees in Sustainable Management and Public Management.
“I had never been out of the country,” Mason says. “Studying abroad was an easy way to make that first trip happen. You get to experience a more organized approach to being in a new country which was comforting to me.”
Mason applied to O’Neill International to travel to Berlin for Spring Break 2022—one of three courses offered around the world:
- Berlin: This course focuses on the policy approach of Berlin and Germany to generate economic resilience in a turbulent global economy.
- Poland: This course provides a broad overview of the problems facing urban areas today and identifies past, current, and possible future urban problems in the United States.
- Cayman Islands: This course allows students to conduct research in the distinct and diverse ecosystems found only in the Caribbean, including coral reefs and mangrove forests.
For Mason, the course topic and location’s history and culture all seemed exciting. She could also earn a scholarship to help cover some of the cost of the trip. To help others gain a better understanding of what it’s like to enroll in the Berlin study abroad program, Mason shared her perspectives of traveling overseas for the first time, her impressions of Germany and Berlin, and her most memorable takeaways from the experience.
Most memorable experiences
- Visible history: “My friend and I were walking around Berlin and stumbled upon Checkpoint Charlie, which was a major crossing point of the once divided Germany. It was just mind-blowing that we were able to exist between the once two sides with no issues, while thousands of people had died trying to cross. So much history had happened in those streets and so many horrors. Yet, with time it has evolved, but the past still exists and is present by the remains of the Berlin Wall and bombed ruins that still stand.”
- Art exhibits: “One day we visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a memorial that the artist did not explain, so it is up to the individual to interpret what it means and how they feel. Walking through the rows of cement columns, the ground is uneven and sinks down the deeper you walk into the exhibit. It made me feel like I was walking towards something bad and gut-wrenching but also unknown. That is an experience and feeling I will never forget.”
- The war in Ukraine: “Near the Brandenburg Gate and the Russian Embassy—which had rocks thrown through the windows—there were candlelit vigils all down the street. It was heartbreaking to see, but it felt like I was a part of something when I stopped to relight some of the candles and read the notes people had left. I feel like in America we are not aware of how small European countries are and how close they are to each other. With Ukraine being basically ‘one state over,’ it really was affecting the morale and lives of Germans, especially since it felt like it was repeating history.”
- New and old friends: “We visited the Berlin Cathedral on a beautiful day. There were vendors selling really cool art prints, and we ran into a German friend I made in high school when she was on a foreign exchange school program at my school. It was just so serendipitous because Berlin is a big city!”
- Academic: “It was just so cool to be in a group of different majors/backgrounds/experiences, because I never would have met them due to them either being at IU Bloomington, being undergraduates, or the fact that most of my classes were still virtual.”
- Personal: “Not to be the cliché girl who studied abroad once and now is obsessed with travel, but that is me. I want to go everywhere, and this trip confirmed that I can travel abroad and figure it out.”
- The future: “What surprised me was I began thinking more about a Ph.D., especially since it is so much cheaper abroad. This was an idea I had been thinking about—definitely not after I graduate but in a couple years—and speaking with a Ph.D. student in Germany made that seem more tangible.”
- Pack light: “I am a severe over-packer and I learned that for my next trip I will definitely just take a carry-on suitcase. Although I did buy a ton of souvenirs for my family so the big luggage was useful to bring items back.”
- Pack patience: “Traveling to Berlin was easy, but the way back was a nightmare due to flight issues. It took 26 hours of travel to get from Berlin to Kentucky.”
- Pack cash: “A lot of vendors in Berlin only accept cash. I suggest bringing a lot of Euros. I was able to exchange my cash for Euros in the Amsterdam airport.”
- Getting around: “Transportation in Berlin was really easy—and that is coming from a small-town girl who has never taken a train before nor used public transportation.”
- Berlin’s culture: “The culture of Berlin was not necessarily German-centric. My German friend described it as ‘the New York City of Germany.’ It is a mix of many cultures. You walk down one street, and you pass Turkish, Thai, Hungarian, and Italian restaurants.”
- The people: “People in Berlin definitely are much quieter and more reserved than I am used to. You go on the subway or train and it is silent. Being with a large group of Americans, we definitely stuck out and got stares.”
To learn more about O’Neill International’s Spring and Summer Break study abroad trips, visit O’Neill IUPUI’s Student Life Study Abroad website.