I'm not entirely sure what I should write about for this entry, but as I've been writing this "Culture Shock" series throughout the year, the one year marker sounded like a good place for me to continue the series. It's difficult for me to consider this to be "culture shock" any more, though, since I'm really not shocked anymore by what's going on around me.
As I look through the Wikipedia article that I referenced earlier in the year, I can definitely see my progress through the four stages, although I can't necessarily point to any specific point in the year and say, yup, that's when I switched to the next stage. I have definitely reached the Mastery Phase within the past month or two, and when I realized that, I felt such satisfaction that I hadn't felt the entire time here. It felt like, "I made it." It felt better than when I realized I had reached proficiency in German, or when I made it through my first semester with spectacular grades, or even when I was told by a German that I speak German well.
The difficult thing for me now is the realization that I have to fly back to California soon. I never intended to live in Germany forever, and I knew from the beginning that the time would eventually come. In fact, there were definitely times during the year that I definitely wanted to leave Germany and go back to California. Now it's a different story. I have my life here. I have done more than just survive here. I have THRIVED. I spent a year at the university (classes just finished yesterday), I have made friends, I started playing sports, I finally found a choir about a month ago that I would join if I were staying in Berlin. I have my favorite museums, my favorite cafes, my favorite study spots. I can give directions, negotiate with shop clerks, and even have my own dentist!
I love Berlin, I really do. I am going to find it really hard to leave in four weeks. With all that I have done here, there's still so much I have yet to do. There are museums I haven't seen, there are restaurants and bars I haven't gone to, there are entire city districts I haven't even stepped foot in! I'm not ready to leave, especially since I don't know when I'll be back. I hope it won't be too long.
Tonight, I went to a restaurant with two of my Canadian friends, and at the end we asked the host if he would take a picture of us. He asked us where we were from, we said our respective countries and added that we were exchange students. He said, "Oh, so you're Berliners." Yeah, we are. We are Berliners. And it feels so good to say that.