How the pre-MBA program helped me adjust to life in Berlin

Berliner U-Bahn with famous Oberbaum Bridge in the background in beautiful golden evening light at sunset, Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Germany
Berliner U-Bahn with famous Oberbaum Bridge in the background in beautiful golden evening light at sunset, Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Germany

The pre-MBA program worked out far better than I had expected. By attending the program, I have benefited across the following parameters:  

1. Language  

2. Getting to know the city  

3. Familiarizing myself with the German bureaucracy  

4. Adjusting to the weather  

5. Ability to travel  

6. Using the ESMT facilities and opportunities provided by ESMT  

Language  

I came to Germany with an A2 level of German. I knew just enough to get through border control and take a taxi to my apartment. However, spending six months learning the language here was an immersive experience. 

I was able to reach a B2 level comfortably because I had the opportunity to speak/listen to and read in German. While the same options are available in other countries, living in Berlin gave me a plethora of opportunities to pick up the language. It helped me find a tandem partner to improve my German, gave me the opportunity to visit bookstores to pick up graphic novels in German and supplement what I study in class. Furthermore, living here and learning from a native helps one understand and even pick up the accent more than studying elsewhere in the world.  

Getting to know the city  

With six months in hand and little to no stress, I had the time to explore the best watering holes and restaurants and understand how the city functions. I learned how to understand the healthcare system and I learned how the public transport works. In all, when the program started, I felt that coming here six months ahead helped me feel at home in the city. On a side note, if you would like to blend in and dress like the locals, it takes time to train your eye on the streets to spot what is “in”.  

Familiarizing myself with the German bureaucracy  

With the reputation of German bureaucracy, I was happy that I had ample time to settle down here and understand how the system works. From opening a blocked bank account, to the Anmeldung, to getting the Residence Permit – a six-month buffer helped me go through the system, make my mistakes, and learn from it.  

Adjusting to the weather  

When I arrived from Mumbai in July, I was surprised at how hot the nights were. But as the winter set in, the visible difference was that my counterparts from India found Berlin to be extremely cold, while I had all of the fall and early winter to get my body accustomed to it. It is evident when I see how many layers I need to keep myself warm versus the number of layers used by my friends.  

Ability to travel  

I was a student at ESMT after the second week of my arrival, and my student status helped me get good discounts across the EU when I travelled. I was also able to make use of a lot of great offers on the Deutsche Bahn because I had gotten the knowledge from interacting with the locals.  

Using the ESMT facilities and opportunities provided by ESMT  

Arriving six months in advance, I had the wonderful experience of getting to know the building and nurturing friendships with ESMT students and staff without having to try to “network”. I made good friends with three staff members and even invited one of them to visit Gurudwara to celebrate an Indian festival.  

Coming earlier to ESMT helped me understand how the building is laid out and who is responsible for what. It helped me network with the current batch of MBA students and get priceless perspectives on a wide range of topics. Karen, the wonderful person heading the Information Center told me about the free Bloomberg Certification which I could pursue. I was able to schedule meetings with the head of the career services team and get a head start on my career planning.  

I was also able to attend a lot of MasterClasses and events with speakers from outside the campus. Meeting with 10 different people from ESMT across the board meant that I had 10 new things to learn and think about.  

While the Pre-MBA program might add to your costs, I would without a doubt say that it was worth every Euro that I paid. It was six months of self-improvement, introspection, and a long well-deserved holiday before the rigor of the MBA program kicked off. 

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