Berlin: Chapter One (Part One) – the Student Life

We landed in Berlin about three years ago. We first came here to spend time with my husband’s family whilst working on our Master’s thesis. Meanwhile, we were intensively searching for jobs in France – preferably in the South. After the summer and after we submitted our thesis, we went back to France for our Engagement. While there, we had a couple of job interviews and none of them worked out. I started pushing my husband to the Berlin-option. A couple of weeks later we were back here. 

German school and Philosophy classesBerlin Chapter One

I started to take intensive German classes in Fall, at Hartnackschule Berlin, on Nollendorfplatz. This language was totally new to me and everyone thought I would learn pretty quickly, as it was my sixth language. On the first day of January 2011, Frank started his job; and on my side, I started to prepare our wedding. About five months later, the pastor said “You are now husband and wife.” A week later, we moved together and started the married-life.

In the meantime, Frank was working and I was learning German and started a Bachelor in Philosophy with a French University. I had my classes online and my exams at the Lycée Français de Berlin (French High School). I loved it! I passed all my exams – except the logic class…- and I discovered amazing libraries in Berlin.

Study places: libraries and cafés

In the beginning, I spent my days working at the Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum, which is part of the Humboldt’s University library in Friedrichstrasse. The outside as well as the inside are grandiose and they contrast with each other. From the outside, you see a beautiful crème building, that you can also see through the S-Bahn windows. There are plenty of nice cafés and right at the entrance, you can notice a computer keyboard engraved in the floor – this is amusing. It is an open library, which means that everyone can access it, and the yearly card is free. When you come in, you need to put your belongings in the cases that you lock with your own locker. You only take what you need to study in Humboldt plastic bags. The first floor is available for everyone. You need to come early in the morning to have a chair – 9pm may be too late during exam period. The other floors are reserved for students. The inside architecture is incredible: a gigantic tool-box made of wood with a roof made of glass. You are so inspired to work. No noise is tolerated – even sneezing is borderline. You have a large space for yourself, a nice lamp and a hook to fasten your computer if you need to. When you take a break, you have to set a return hour on these blue cards – the same you use on the dashboard of a car. Then you can enjoy a nice coffee break and the small Menza (cafeteria) downstairs.

A year later, a friend of mine who is a student in Berlin, made me discover the fantastic Philological Library – designed by Norman Foster – at the U-Bahn station Dahlem Dorf (U3). It has another flair but it is absolutely fabulous. When you come into the library, you have the logo of the Freie Universität Berlin on the carpet: “Truth, Justice, Liberty” with the Berliner Bär at the center. Here as well, you need to put your belongings in cases and only then are you allowed to go inside. The place is spacious and has an incredible collection of books in all languages. This was perfect for me as I was studying Philosophy in French and could have access to a lot of great resources in French. For lunch, you need a prepaid card in order to access the large choice. Students pay a small fee but visitors pay a little bit more. This is where I discovered the Griessbrei, which is made of semolia.

Sometimes when I had to work on personal writing projects or when I had to read, I went for the world-famous Caffee-Latte at Starbucks. For your information, there are already two at Potsdamer Platz right now, and they plan to open one soon in the Sony Center.

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… and now discovering the student life in Paris! The SciencesPo library is paaacked! :)) And Starbucks is too far away. But I enjoy it nonethless :))

Hope all is well with you, miss you!


On Mon, May 6, 2013 at 2:48 AM, Nathalie Nikel


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