Ain’t no sunshine [Emma Kennedy, Freie Universität Berlin]

DID YOU KNOW that in January of this year Berlin was without sunlight for 14 days, the longest the city skies have been without a glimpse of blue since 1964? A fact which, upon hearing on the news, may cause you to remark, “Oh, sounds bleak, I’m glad I’m not there!” and then think nothing more of it. Or, if you happen to be an Erasmus student on your exchange year in the German capital, it will have you rolling your eyes towards the (sunless) heavens, reaching for yet another jumper (two really are not sufficient in these conditions) and wondering how many times in one day it’s appropriate to stop for a coffee on the grounds that you can no longer feel your fingers. There was hope in sight as we finally got some light (a whole 30 minutes, I believe) last week and I’d heard that it was going to be a good few degrees warmer. Perhaps one of the seventeen layers of clothing could finally be removed? Lo and behold, though, it’s a vicious cycle. Temperature rises. Snow starts again. Begin to forget what grass looks like. Hopefully the weather will sort itself out before we all run away on the next cheap Ryanair flights to somewhere southern, but I’m told January and February are the coldest months of the year in Berlin so perhaps I’d better brace myself for the next 4 wintery weeks.

Then again, maybe the weather is trying to tell me something – it has removed all temptation in the form of a pleasant climate because I should really, probably, definitely be inside revising for the exams, which begin frighteningly soon. When not concentrating on studying, my mind frequently wanders to the fast-approaching 2-month holiday between the two semesters. Although not unwelcome, the break seems somewhat random – all of my friends in the UK will still be at uni and my family will be working, so it seems a little pointless to head home. A couple of options are to try find a job here (admittedly difficult in a city with a 13% unemployment rate but worth a shot…), go travelling with friends or, if all else fails, I’m flying out to Spain to visit my grandma, not least to prove that the sun really exists. During this time I must also turn my attention to my 4th Year dissertation, which we’ve started to receive scary e-mails about, as it’s going to be a lot easier and cheaper to begin my research here, where most of the required books are widely available. Admittedly ‘planning in advance’ is not my strong point but I’ll be pleased if I manage to get some ideas down this early in the game.

Weather woes aside, I have managed to notch up several culture points in the last couple of weeks as, thanks to visitors and university trips, I have visited 2 museums (the Altes Museum – lots of interesting ancient Greek and Roman artefacts inside, but perhaps better enjoyed by somebody not as tired as I was this particular day, and the Bode-Museum – art and sculptures all housed in a beautiful building, definitely worth a visit) and twice to the theatre. I also went to an exhibition tennis match in Seeburg (just outside of Berlin). I’d noticed a poster advertising the match and it happened to be the same weekend that my tennis-mad boyfriend was visiting so I thought it would be nice for us to go. The players were fairly well-known (Davenport vs. Hingis), we were sat only a few metres away and the whole thing was free – that’s what I love about this city: whatever you want, it’s there. Apart from sunlight in January.

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