Germany Thus Far: One Year

One year is a long time to be abroad; however, it does not feel like it has been so long. Thinking back over this past year, I’ve done a lot. I’ve climbed mountains, literally and figuratively, since I first arrived.

First Alps

Let’s break down some of this year’s events:

  • I navigated German bureaucracy (eek!) and received my residence permit.
  • I traveled to Ulm, Kempten, and around other parts of southern Germany.
  • I explored Prague, Czech Republic and southern France.
  • I saw the Alps for the first time. Then I climbed them. Oh, how I loved that.
  • I continually got to know my new home city of Konstanz. I have to admit it’s pretty cute for a German college town.
  • I celebrated holidays with traditions that baffled me. (See Christmas…).
  • I went sledding “for real.” Yes, there is a proper way to do it.
  • I attended the international wedding of two amazing friends I met in Belfast. *Insert warm fuzzies here.*
  • I started learning German and have made some considerable progress for someone who did not speak it upon arrival. Although, I have to say that my Denglish is much better.
  • I have become fairly used to life in Germany. That is, I’m not as awkward about Bretzeln, the Autobahn, interacting with Germans, or any of that other typical German stuff. Note that I said “not as awkward.”
  • Last but not least, I survived my first year of graduate school in Germany. Hurrah!

First Hike View

Somewhere in between residence permit paperwork and looking at the Alps across the Bodensee, I finally started to integrate. Going to the grocery store isn’t scary now. I watch some shows on ZDF alongside Netflix. I even got used addicted to the sparkling water that the Germans love so much. Seriously you guys, I cannot get enough of it.

I realize that as time goes on, most people I interact with are German, as opposed to my previous study abroad experiences where I mostly interacted with other international students. At the same time, I talk less and less to most friends in the States. To be honest, I’m okay with that.

P1640777

You see, moving to Germany and making it so far was not just a transition from the States to Germany. It was a transition in lifestyles and goals. Therefore, it is natural that some friendships fade and others blossom. I never felt that American, and I especially felt increasingly disconnected after my two previous experiences abroad. I feel really disconnected from most American now, geographically and ideologically.

Don’t understand? I am from Missouri, a red state, yet I am extremely far-left. I’d say I’m further left than most Americans on most, but not all, issues. So not only am I half-way around the world, but I also find it hard to agree with my fellow citizens on policy. Most of these ideas have been shaped by what I have experienced during my travels to several countries, in addition to my studies. I think I speak for many millennial expats when I say that we simply don’t know why the US doesn’t learn from other countries. Still, I digress…

As time goes on, I wonder how I got certain ideas into my head. For instance, my career goals are entirely different now. I thought that I wanted to work for an organization like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. I still support a lot of their development initiatives, but I know that working in that type of environment would leave me incredibly unhappy. The sticky bit is that I am still trying to figure out what exactly I will do after I get my degree, but that’s okay. One step at a time.

Finally at the Astronomical Clock!

The funny thing is that since I have been here, my time horizon has shortened dramatically. I focus on one semester at a time, or the duration of one residence permit at most. There is no way to tell how long I will be here, although I hope it will be for much longer than my current residence permit.

Since I am not worrying about time so much, it has been easier to relax. I think a lot of stress in my undergrad career came from thinking about “life after college.” That is such a stressful way to think about a college career. Now my stress comes from “life through these end-of-semester exams.”

Cows in the Mountains

As I’ve stated several times before, this is my third study abroad experience. It’s also the longest time I have ever been away from Missouri and my family. Going home eventually will be nice, but it will only be for a visit. (Sorry, guys!)

I was hooked on travel before I came, and now one might say that I am hooked on living abroad. Here’s to my first year in Germany and many more years of living abroad.

Kosntanz Seenachsfest 2016

Prost and cheers!

No, I’m Not Getting a Job

It seems like once you hit that senior year mark in college, the only thing people want to ask you is, “What are you going to do after college?” When I tell them what I studied (double-major in mathematics and economics with a minor in Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution), they immediately assume I’m going to be a math teacher (because all they hear is math?).

Well, I graduated, it’s August, and it’s time to get a few things straight:

  1. I am not going to be a math teacher. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of large groups of children.
  2. I’m not ready to get a job, because I want to go into policy and do work beyond a Bachelor’s degree. (Though, if you want to be technical, I am working three jobs at this moment to try to save up some money.)
  3. At this point in time, I don’t want to return to Virginia. I also definitely don’t want to stay in small town Missouri. I don’t even want to stay in this country.

Now that we’ve got that straightened out, you’re probably wondering, “Okay, so what is she doing?” I’ve told some friends, as well as many of my wonderful professors and the lovely ladies from my internship. I finally received my official letter and…

Acceptance Letter

This fall I will begin the Master’s Programme in Political Economy at Konstanz University in Konstanz, Germany!

My flight leaves St. Louis on September 26 (only fifty days from today!) and arrives in Munich on September 27. I’ll be hanging around for a few days before I head to Konstanz on October 1. I’m looking forward to seeing all of my friends I met in Northern Ireland and getting lost in new countries. Here’s to a great next two years!

Cheers!

Introducing Oaxaca

This summer I will backtrack a bit and write about my memories of studying in Oaxaca, México.

My story on the way to Oaxaca is an interesting one. In the spring of 2013 I decided that going abroad for May Term (an intensive short term that comes after the spring semester at Mary Baldwin College) would be my only chance to ever go abroad. It’s quite ironic considering my upcoming plans.

Anyway, I thought that this was my one and only chance, so I applied for scholarships in the fall of 2013 and crossed my fingers. In October, I received an tantilizing email that I was a finalist for the Melissa Mitchell Award. A few more days, and I found out that I had won the scholarship! Shortly after, I paid my deposit for the trip. That, my friends, is the moment that set me on my path to being a world traveller.

Over the spring semester I continued my Spanish courses with Dra. Patiño, who would later lead my trip. We had several sessions before leaving in which we talked about the places we would visit, the school we would attend, and the things we should pack.

I have to say, if there is anything I really learned with these predeparture sessions, it is that I need to pack carefully. In several ways, I should have packed better. Let me break it down for you into a few lists:

Top 3 Things I Packed Right:

  1. Spanish dictionary. This was incredibly useful for doing my homework in the evenings. While it never actually left the home of my host family, I used it a lot. I would recommend that anyone studying a language intensively take a language dictionary at least for homework purposes.
  2. Kindle Fire. I didn’t take my bulky laptop. Instead, I opted to just take my Kindle along for internet purposes, mostly to let people at home know I was still alive via Facebook. If you’re only traveling for a short period of time, don’t worry about a laptop. You won’t want to spend time in your room anyway!
  3. Side Bag. Bringing a small side bag to hold all of my important things as I walked across the city and went on day excursions was incredibly useful!

Top 3 Things I Failed to Pack:

  1. Motion sickness medicine. I hadn’t been motion sick for quite a while, and from what I could remember about flying, I thought I could handle it. Wrong. Flying for multiple hours at a time is much different from flying for just an hour. Not only that, but the turbulence going into Oaxaca was insane. If this isn’t enough to convince you, just think about the mountain roads you might drive for sight-seeing. Bring medication.
  2. A Towel. This seems like a weird one, but our host mom did not supply towels. Thankfully, my roommate had brought two and allowed me to borrow one until I purchased my own. When I went to Northern Ireland, I brought two and was quite glad that I did.
  3. A notebook. I did bring my journal to write down what I was doing each day, but I really needed a proper notebook for notes and homework during the day at the school. The first class I didn’t have anything and luckily the German next to me gave me a few sheets from his notebook. If you’re going to be taking classes, be prepared for the possibility that you may not have time to get a notebook before your first class, especially if said class is the day after you arrive.

Finally, with suitcases in hand, I waited at my dorm doors for the ride that would take the lot of us (six students and our professor) to Dulles International Airport. From there, we flew to La Ciudad de México (Mexico City), where we had our short layover (seems to me that airport delays are not as common in Mexico; we even had an early flight on the way home). In the next post I will pick up on our flight into Oaxaca.

Mountains in Mexico. taken from the plane.
Mountains in Mexico, taken from the plane.

Cheers!