Two weeks before I started my internship, I was still frantically searching for a flat for the summer in Berlin in between spotty internet connections across Egypt and Jordan. Finally, I found a place in a trendy district of Berlin called Friedrichshain. The price was great, and it was only 20 minutes away from work – or so I thought.
Fast forward to my first day on the job. I showed up to Pariser Platz, where the (main) U.S. Embassy is located, for a security briefing. Afterwards, a fellow consular intern informed me I wouldn’t be working in this swankily-located building for the rest of the summer, but rather out in Dahlem, in the suburbs of Berlin. I quickly Google maps’d the location and how long my commute would be each morning and afternoon for the next eight weeks. The result? One hour. Each way. How early would I have to get up? 6 am. Every day.
I am not an early riser by nature, in any way, shape, or form. 6 am typically spells ‘death’ to me, filled with countless mornings of blindly searching for coffee, plodding like a zombie into work until I might finally wake up a few hours later. I’m not going to lie – this wasn’t easy to get used to. It still isn’t easy. It severely cuts into my sleep and free time, and most days I don’t have enough energy to do much more than to go to work, make dinner for myself, maybe hang out with a friend once in a while, go to sleep, and repeat. Because I have to start my study abroad semester in Copenhagen on the 19th of August and was traveling through Northern Africa and the Middle East before my internship (things I wouldn’t trade for the world – I’m beyond grateful), I got no cushion time in Berlin as a result, so my full two months here working will be only that – working. Weekends are largely just catching up on the sleep I lost during the week. Before I know it, the weekend is over, and I have to start the 6 am hell all over again for the next five days. I know that this is exactly what I don’t want in the future – living from weekend to weekend. That’s no way to live.
Long story short, coming to terms with this commute time, something incredibly foreign to me until now, has been difficult. But I’ve decided it’s much more worthwhile to accept what it is, and find productive ways to use the time instead. For example, I used to be addicted to some meaningless apps on my phone for the whole commute, which only ended up hurting my mental health and wasting this valuable time. After my second week in Berlin, I decided to delete these apps and focus on myself instead in the form of working on building and promoting my travel blog that I’ve been working on, on and off, for a little over a year now. I began to use the commute time to post to social media, come up with post ideas, and educate myself on new techniques to build the potential business I may want to have in the future with my travel writing. I listen to music and focus on revving up for work, or winding down afterwards. If I run into a colleague, I can have a good chat with them and learn something from them. And sometimes I’ll just people-watch, which can be incredibly, ahem, fascinating in a place like Berlin.
The commute has been a significant and surprising challenge for me to cope with. I’m certainly never going to live this far away from my workplace in the future, at least if I can avoid it. But a small part of me wonders if I might miss this routine just a little bit when I move to Copenhagen, and those moments when the U-Bahn will finally come out from above ground on the way to work, the rare summer sun of Berlin finally flooding through the grimy windows onto my face as a great song comes on over my headphones.