Feeling at home with strangers: polyglot gathering Berlin.

In January, I came across an interesting event going down in Berlin in June and I thought I’d register: a Polyglot Gathering in Berlin. For people who have a passion for and speak many different languages, that sounded like a fun way to nerd out on some grammar talks.

chris irina

Matching glasses with Chris Huff (LanguageFan) my FB turned real-time friend.

Well the event is over, and I can tell you I got a lot more than I bargained for. I’m struggling to find the words to explain it all but if you’ve been on exchange, you might recognize this as a mini-exchange:

you meet a ton of people; you connect quickly; you don’t run out of things to talk about; the days turn into nights and you wonder where the time went; each day you eat breakfast/lunch/dinner with new people (and familiar faces); you don’t get much alone time because there are endless opportunities for interesting discussion (even when your body is begging for sleep); sleep is for the weak (just kidding – sort of); you wonder where these people are hiding out in your city; you practice switching between 6 languages (polyglots have trouble switching too); you feel more at home, like you can be yourself entirely; you even have an animated conversation with 5 people in the hostel lobby with a roll of toilet paper in each hand… at 3am… in your pjs; by the end of the night you search hard for your words in any language; you lose your voice; you can’t remember ever having laughed so much; you put off the thought of having to go home; you run around the city in a big group of people that can’t seem to organize itself because they’re too busy enjoying each other’s company (apparently languages are the only thing we’re good at haha); you learn a lot about yourself and complete strangers; you hug everyone (30 secs.) and say you’ll keep in touch; you fly back home, feel sad & tired and can’t understand: how could that have only been 6 days? What’s 6 days in a lifetime?

These 6 days were like a very positive shock to the system (at least my system). You can’t live life like this always (I was so sleep deprived when I came back and needing some quiet time) but for someone as fascinated with people as I am, this time was an amazing learning experience.

Some of the 230 participants!

For a brief moment, I felt I’d found a very elusive experience (that of feeling at home) which is beautifully described here:

You will search everywhere for her,

you will ask the waves of the sea about her, the

turquoise of

the shore…

Your heart’s love has no land, no homeland, no


– Keija Parssinen (The Ruins of Us)

The beauty of it is that by definition, these types experiences evade us; if they didn’t, we wouldn’t enjoy them anymore. They must be fleeting, they must be spontaneous and they must leave you a little empty after.

The best part is, it was real. The people were real, the discussions were real, the connections, interests, laughter, openness & acceptance; it was all real. This is why many people claimed to feel more at home with a group of strangers than they do in their daily lives. Sure we flowed in and out of conversation, and there are psychological reasons for why we felt the way we felt but all that really matters is how we felt: at home.

So thank you to everyone for being there and for being you. I had a wonderful time 🙂


irina signature



P.S. Stay tuned for more insights; I’m still trying to make sense of them. In the meantime, let me know if you’ve had an experience like this in the comments. I could talk about them to no end… Have you been on exchange?

  • I confirm…it was special in a way that I am still trying to capture…

    • Irina

      Luckily we also have videos to help!

  • Lauren

    Growing up, I used to go on retreats with my family or school…and it is amazing what kind of intense growth and connection can happen in 6 or 7 days! When everyone is being real and letting the boundaries go, amazing things happen in the shortest amount of time. It’s a beautiful thing and yes, very real.

    • Irina

      So awesome to hear you’ve had similar experiences! Wasn’t sure if the post would feel exclusive to those who weren’t there but hey – seems these kinds of things tend to stand out 😉

    • Irina


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