It occurred to me the other day, as I was sitting on the porch of P24 during a class break, that I had less than three months of this left. This. School. College. Berlin. I’ve known about the graduation date since the start of last semester, but it really only hit me last week and, boy, did it hit me hard.
It feels like just yesterday that we were running up and down the hallway of dorm W16, which always smelled like an odd combination of excitement and feet; only yesterday that we were camped out in the library during completion week, noses buried deep in Aristophanes’ Clouds; only yesterday we were hauling 6 packs of iced tea from Rewe in the middle of the night; only yesterday we were goofing around in November snow, which was especially magical to those of us experiencing it for the first time.
Going to school these last few months has been like watching the last grains of sand in an hourglass slowly trickle into the bottom bulb, and I’ve been racing against time, trying to make the most of even the most mundane parts of campus and campus life: that one room in the library that has housed many late night scrambles to finish a paper, the vines that grow on the buildings around P98, the new Rewe. Even soup day at the cafeteria has started to look enticing!
It’s difficult to imagine a Tuesday where I’m not walking to SPOK (albeit very reluctantly), or a Sunday night at our apartment’s large dining table, papers scattered everywhere as we scramble to finish the weekend’s homework that we have obviously left to the last minute. I can’t imagine not carrying readings with me on public transport, or riding the train without the security of my semester ticket at 4 am in the morning.
BCB did for me what I suspect few other schools would have done. It forced me out of my comfort zone, into situations where asserting individuality was the only way forward, where unabashedly expressing your opinion in class was perfectly alright, and where no one cared if you wore a fedora and dyed your hair a wild shade of tangerine. And all of this was encouraged in an environment of support and respect.
While I might have had the chance to read wonderful texts at another school, I got to discuss them one on one with my professors at BCB; instead of sitting in a huge lecture room, I got to participate in small seminars with incredibly intelligent students. In my first semester of freshman year, I took a course with a sum total of five people! It made absences from class quite obvious, but the conversations were great. We sat around seminar room tables and it really felt like we were in this together. Berlin has offered up a variety of experiences and BCB encouraged us to make the most out of the city — to have a life outside of the Pankow bubble.
Perhaps the most important thing that BCB did for me was that it introduced me to people who very quickly became family. If you asked me to define friendship four years ago, I might’ve fumbled a little as I was still developing an idea of what it meant to have friends that were family, but things change when you share the same dorm with the same ten, fifteen, twenty people. I found my closest friends simply because we spent every minute together; that tends to happen in a school of two hundred and seventy — though there were even less of us in my first year. You laugh together and worry together and eat together and have movie marathons together, and, most important of all, you grow up together.
Coming to BCB as a relatively sheltered kid and having to handle a whole new life here was the game changer. Nothing was as I knew it: from the way classes were conducted, to calling professors by their first names (a very Western concept I am still getting used to!), to having public transport at my beck and call, to Berlin’s peculiar charm. It took a lot of falling down, and a lot of embarrassment (and I mean a lot) to develop even the most basic skills needed to navigate “adult” life.
Adulthood has given me a few slaps in the face every now and then, and I’ve had to do a whole lot of growing up since I’ve been here, along with all the others in the boat. My catchphrase has officially become “Sprechen Sie English?” simply to avoid the unnecessary embarrassment of stumbling over Deutsch grammar. Still, there are times I’ve received a curt “nein” as a response to that question and have proceeded to stumble through the rest of the awkward interaction. From paying bills, to registering our apartment, to hosting dinner parties, to (god forbid) making doctor’s appointments, we have done the dreaded and we’ve made it to shore.
But I’m not the only one who’s grown in my time here. When I first came to BCB, the cafeteria used to serve only one type of dessert (you know which one I’m talking about, seniors), and the classrooms in the dorms used to be common rooms. We used to have a much smaller administration body, student workers got paid in cash instead of via bank transfer as we do now (the adult way), and the Middle East department was a distant dream that we have slowly found ourselves at. In a way, BCB grew up with us.
And now we’re leaving. We’re graduating and we’re going to be done with the four crucial years that every coming-of-age movie extols. Was it as good as it looked on the silver screen?
It was better.
BCB lived before us and it will continue to live on after us, growing up some more, taking in more students, expanding more departments, building new dorms, and hopefully offering more types of dessert. But, until then, I’m going to enjoy these last two and a half months, with people I love, in a place that has done more for me than I could have ever imagined.