STANFORD, Calif. – Junior Erin Antono traveled to Berlin, Germany for the fall quarter as part of the Bing Overseas Studies Program.
Antono chose Berlin for two reasons. The first is that it is a program that is popular among engineering majors at Stanford and she is on a path to earning a degree in material science and engineering. The second is that there wasn’t a language pre-requisite. In fact, heading into the quarter Antono only knew two German words.
“Ja and Nein,” said Antono about the two words she knew going into the studies abroad program. “I took German while I was there and another class on the German economy. I felt myself starting to pick it up and after the beginning all the words you see everywhere get added to your vocabulary.”
The language barrier can always be challenging when going abroad. For Antono one of the biggest obstacles while in Germany came when she tried to do some rowing.
“It was pretty early in the quarter before I got my handle on German,” said Antono. “It was a really nice day so I tried to find a place where I could row on the interent.”
Antono located a rowing club in Gerlin so she took the U-Bahn, the German metrosystem, and then walked for 10 minutes before finding the place. When she got there she found just one lady, who unfortunately did not speak any English.
“We were trying to communicate without speaking each other’s language,” said Antono. “I was trying to see if could find an erg or take a boat out. It took about 10 minutes to establish that it was a boathouse only for men. So I didn’t end up rowing while I was over there.”
It wasn’t until the end of the quarter when Antono discovered that one of her German instructors was actually a rower. Even though she didn’t get a chance to get out on the water she did work out at the gym on Stanford’s property in Berlin before finding another local gym which had a rowing machine for her to use. It wasn’t until she returned to the team for Winter Training in Long Beach, Calif. that she realized how much she had missed rowing.
“One of the first days we were out on the water it was dark out and the water was flat,” said Antono. “It was perfect conditions and that is when I realized it missed it.”
While in Europe, Antono had a chance to travel a little bit. She went to Munich for Oktoberfest and the class took a trip to Turkey for a week. Prior to this program, she had only been outside the United States to go to Indonesia when she was young to visit family members and also to Canada.
“We had a really cool class trip to Turkey,” said Antono. “It focused on the European integration and there was lots of interesting stuff going on with regards to Turkey getting let in to the European Union. It was a cool experience to see something completely different.”
As part of the trip to Turkey, Stanford set up speakers and activities for the class to help enrich the academic experience to go along with just seeing the sights.
“One of the awesome things about the Turkey trip was we took a cruise on the Bosphorus,” said Antono. “It started in Europe and by the end we were in Asia where he had dinner.”
Antono also enjoyed the historical aspect and local culture of Berlin. She learned about all the different memorials Berlin has to recognize the past and all about the history of the Berlin Wall.
“Germany is a very interesting place,” said Antono. “It has been touched so much by history but it still so alive as a cultural hot spot in Europe today. In some of the streets, they have cobblestone paths that trace where the Berlin Wall used to be. It is such a historical place.”
One aspect that Antono enjoyed about Berlin was that there were a lot of flea markets. She enjoyed going with friends and browsing the items for sale. Towards the end of the trip Christmas markets started to pop up as well which she also enjoyed.
“There are at least five or six big flea markets and many more little ones every weekend,” said Antono. “It was fun to go with friends and then the Christmas markets were really cool to see.”
There were 36 Stanford students in the Berlin program. Antono knew five others from her freshmen dorm and two others . She also had a chance to travel to Munich with her lightweight rowing teammate Kate Kidd, who was studying abroad in Florence, Italy.
“I was with a really great group of people who I got along with really well,” said Antono. “I think everybody should go abroad.”
Antono’s recap of her study abroad experience is the first of six gostanford.com features that will chronicle the experiences of the six juniors on the lightweight rowing team who spent the fall quarter in the Bing Overseas Studies Program. Stay tuned to gostanford.com over the next three weeks for the remaining five stories.