Another week filled with great times and delicious food has flown by in Berlin. More new activities were experienced and places were explored. My favorite food of all time is pizza, but surprisingly my new favorite Berlin food has become doner. Doner has been around since the Ottoman Empire days, but I had not heard of it before coming here. It’s like a gyro or shawarma, and it is absolutely phenomenal. It’s super versatile and can be eaten as a nice lunch, dinner, or my personal favorite, as an energizing late-night snack. Many doner places stay open late into the early morning, and nothing is more reviving during a night out. Whenever I pass a place, early or late, and I see the spinning vertical meat and then the smell hits me, I must force myself to keep walking and not buy something every time. That brings me to the greatest challenge I’ve had since being here.
There’s so much happening at all times in Berlin. Irresistible food at every corner, enticing shops with items I’ve always wanted, tempting new cultural institutions with €15 cover charges. I want to do and buy everything. It’s hard to find the balance between going all out and being responsible with my spending. On one hand I’m on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be back. My roommate and I have adapted the oftentimes dangerous saying “when in Germany.” Usually, it’s followed by a reach into my fanny pack and the satisfying but ever so painful beep from the tapping of a credit card. On the other hand, I’ve grown up with financial responsibility lessons drilled into my head, and I’ve always been careful with my spending. This is a problem I never knew I’d face because I’ve never been this tempted to spend money in my life. I’m still working on finding the balance, but to help overcome this challenge, I’ve been taking advantage of every small way to save money, especially during the week. For example, finding free bathrooms. This is something small, but paying a euro per public bathroom can start to add up. Another way I’ve been saving is by eating more grocery store meals. During my lunch break at work, I started going to the grocery store rather than eating out all the time. My go-to is a nice ham sandwich on a croissant which only sets me back a few euros. A lot of food in Berlin grocery stores is sold in single servings, which is super convenient for lunch. For dinner during the week, I started making food at home most days. These small changes have made me feel less anxious about splurging a bit on the weekends.
I expect many others also encounter the same challenge during study abroad programs. The trick is to go into it fully expecting to spend more than usual so you aren’t shocked when your monthly statements start coming in. I knew I would spend more than usual but I wasn’t expecting to want to do and buy literally everything. At the end of the day, these programs are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for a lot of people including myself. Money can be made back, but the experiences you miss out on can’t be made up.