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Coming into college, I knew that I wanted to study abroad, but was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do so as an engineer. What I love about USC Viterbi is the wide variety of opportunities it offers its students to study abroad, whether that be for a short period of time to an entire semester! Last semester I had the amazing opportunity to take a Viterbi-specific version of a required writing course (WRIT340), with the last two weeks of the class being held in Berlin, Germany. My class from USC, including my professor, all traveled together. This was my first time traveling to Europe – it was soooo fun, academically enriching, and overall an extremely fulfilling experience. I can’t wait for my next abroad experience, but for now, here are some details about my time in Berlin!

  • Arriving

When we first arrived in Berlin, I was excited to see what our room accommodations looked like. We stayed at CIEE Global Institute, which was like a scaled-down version of a college campus. Rooms were dorm style, and we were located in Kreuzberg, one of the many districts in Berlin. Our campus was surrounded by restaurants and was located right next to the U-Bahn, which is the equivalent of the Metro in Los Angeles!


  • Class + Tours

During the span of the two weeks in Berlin, we had structured academic opportunities (given that this was for course credit!). We only had class two times a week, along with a podcast homework assignment and a final essay to write. The workload was not bad at all, and the program did a really good job of balancing in-class academics with outside learning. We visited a lot of engineering and architectural sites in Berlin, which was extremely amazing. I got to see how engineering in Berlin is very sustainability-focused. Outside of engineering sites, we also visited historically-significant places. Some tour sites that we went through included the Holocaust Memorial, Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, greenhouses, and the Deutsche Bahn manufacturing site.

  • Free Time!

While the educational portions of this trip were great, what was even better was getting to explore the city of Berlin with your friends in the free time we had throughout the day. We had several hours of free time every day, and this was the time we got to explore the city, do homework in coffee shops, and enjoy our 2 weeks in Berlin. My friends and I got to explore artsy areas of the city, go to shows, and enjoy being college students in Europe. One weekend the staff did not plan any academic activities or tours so that we could enjoy exploring – my friend and I took advantage of 3 full days off and flew to the Netherlands, where we got to enjoy Amsterdam and Haarlem. Other classmates either stayed in Berlin, traveled to Paris, or took a train to Prague. 

  • Food + Transportation

Needless to say, the food in Berlin was incredible and CHEAP. Meals were always under 10 euros, which is equivalent to about 10 US dollars. It was always easy to go around the entire city trying new spots to eat, especially because public transportation in Germany is SO. GOOD. It is super easy and cheap to use, and takes you literally anywhere you want to go.

Overall, my trip to Berlin and the Netherlands was a life-changing experience. I am so grateful to USC that I had the opportunity to travel for my studies, and I am excited to do a potentially longer study abroad program in the near future! If you are a current or prospective student thinking about study abroad… it! I could not recommend it more.

Celine Vazquez