My decisions over the years to learn a foreign language, play a musical instrument, take up competitive athletics or nurture my interests in urban landscapes have come to define who I am today. But that is only part of the story. The common thread connecting these multiple facets of my life is rooted in a seemingly harmless decision I made sometime in the Fall of 1999 to spend my junior year abroad in Germany. What started as an adventure that would push my boundaries over the course of a year became an insatiable interest in a city that lingered long after I had returned to my country of origin. Berlin became for me a city full of opportunity and intrigue and I knew upon returning to California that it would not be long before I saw it again. After graduation and multiple attempts to find a way back to Berlin, I said goodbye to the university life and came home to Yolo County in July of 2003 to start a new chapter in my life. After about three months of living at home and working full-time, I finally decided to book a plane ticket to Berlin to spend a month reacquainting myself with my old friends and neighborhoods.
Although my return flight was scheduled to get me home by Thanksgiving, the much-anticipated “Turkey Day” came and went and I was still in Berlin. By Christmas of 2003, I found myself in love with a Berliner and determined to make something happen for myself. Needless to say, my life had been turned upside-down and I was loving every minute. Anja, the Berliner, and I married in June of 2004. After completing an internship in Berlin’s city planning office and faced with the somewhat anemic state of Berlin’s city planning market, I decided to start work as an English translator for a local Berlin-based software company. I began taking violin lessons again and joined a rowing club. Recently I started a Masters program called “Sound Studies” at Berlin’s University of the Arts. Put simply, this program puts both a practical and theoretical focus on the issues of sound in our societies and built environments with the goal of creating a new generation of sound designers suited to work in fields ranging from architecture to multimedia marketing. This program offers me an exciting synthesis of my interests in music and urban planning with a backdrop of a city on the cutting-edge of contemporary creativity.
The true legacy of the Chris Borton Memorial Scholarship Fund (CBMSF) is far more valuable than the monetary support it provides. Embodied in Chris’ living memory, the CBMSF’s spirit of generosity and emphasis on connections beyond our borders have planted seeds in each of its recipients to help us realize the value of studying abroad. This scholarship helped put me on the path to discover a place that has become much more than simply a city with a fascinating culture and history. For me, Berlin is now a place of family and formative personal experiences that will stay with me long after I leave, whenever that may be.