The semester at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin has offered one of the best times of my life. I was never as curious, never as sociable, never as outgoing as I was this semester.
I came to the Hertie School with the expectation of studying policy issues from a European and, more specifically, from a German perspective. The Hertie School, however, provided many more opportunities to discover new interests than I had expected. As an exchange student, I enjoyed a great degree of flexibility in choosing classes from the Master of International Affairs as well as the Master of Public Policy. As I deepened my interests in migration studies through the course “European Migration and Refugee Policies,” I participated in the Youth Forum in Marrakech, a side event of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) as a Japanese delegate. The forum was organized by the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, in the lead up to the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration. I have learned what countries do, to enhance the outcomes of migration for both host countries and countries of origin, from both the conference and the in-class discussions at the Hertie School.
Studying at the Hertie School also means engaging directly with international young leaders. Students enjoy the opportunity of closely interacting with leading professors and prominent speakers through classes and symposiums. Additionally, Hertie students themselves are future leaders. Hertians, who speak three or more languages, are always opinionated and raise their hands to proactively participate in discussions. Surrounded by excellent classmates, I was motivated to improve myself and catch up with them. I highly recommend studying at the Hertie School for anyone who wishes to gain new insights and study with excellent classmates in a close-knit community.
Berlin is a city of incredible diversity. The German capital accepts all kind of people as it has been a place of struggle for freedom, tolerance, and internationalism. With the diversity, I realized that my ‘normal’ is actually just what I got used to. Over time in Berlin, I found myself replacing words such as normal, strange, right or wrong with just one word, ‘different’. As I became confident in my color of skin and identity, I tried to reveal myself, and my friends in Berlin kindly accepted me for who I am. Berlin’s liberal atmosphere and people are the integral parts of my life in Hertie for sure. I have done a lot of things in Berlin with my friends – discovering local cafes, biking around the city, and enjoying the legendary German beer/ Currywurst/ döner kebab after drinking. Every moment I shared with my friends is unforgettable.
Now, I realize what moving to Berlin actually meant to me – it reinvented me. If you live in a place for a long period of time, as I had in Japan, you are constantly surrounded by people that speak the same language and share the same culture, so that it is easy to forget each other’s differences. Meanwhile, I was the only Japanese most of the time during my life in Berlin. Looking back on the days surrounded by open-minded friends where my ‘normal’ became not normal, I am sure that it made me stronger in terms of being tolerant to other views.
Has my exchange semester made me a better person? Jein – it made me a different person from whom I used to be. I am now proud of myself for being different from others. I could not have asked for more at the end of my semester-long study abroad journey. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who made it happen.