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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Prost and cheers!