Hanging Out in Transformation

Where to start? There’s so much to say, but no words that are right to say it. Everything is shifting, yet everything is standing still. I’m in such a strange place. I can’t tell you where the beginning is, nor do I know where the end will be. But I guess I can pretend that January is the starting point for the purposes of this post.

January it is. I had several posts lined up – posts that I guess I’ll still publish, but first I need to get this out. My relationship ended. I’m not going to go into details here about why, or tell you all about my private life. I don’t want to put myself out there in that way, nor would I do that to my ex. But it’s an important piece of the story, of my story, so I need to state it.

Leaves with cobwebs covered in dew

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that my life has and still is undergoing a massive transformation. I learned a lot in a very short space of time, and it wasn’t a pleasant learning experience. I’m doing a lot of self-reflection, trying to understand my shortcomings and the things I need to heal in myself. I have a lot of rough days, still.

Funny thing is, after over five years with a person, I now feel like I lost myself a bit. This person helped me adjust to living abroad and discover new hobbies, places, and even parts of myself that I didn’t know were there. I’m trying to disentangle what is me and what are parts of me that aren’t me anymore.

Apart from all of the inner work I’m doing, there were a lot of other changes that came up along with the end of the relationship. The biggest one: I moved to a new apartment in another part of town. It’s quiet here, not much traffic at all, and you can even hear the birds singing – just what I need at this moment.

Living alone has been its own challenge in this pandemic time. I don’t have face-to-face conversations all that often. I don’t know how the people who were living alone before the pandemic managed for so long. Sometimes I feel a bit mad here talking to my plants.

So this is my new reality. Sometimes I wake up, and I’m not sure where I am. Six months on, I’m still directionless. My anchor is gone. I am untethered from all plans I had, all hopes I had, all that made sense.

Daisy close-up with cobwebs in the dew

I’m not sure what’s next. All I know is that I’m undergoing deep transformation. I don’t really know how to end this post, but the good thing is that this post doesn’t need an end. My story is still being written.

Cheers.

Germany Thus Far: 3 Years, Can It Be True?

It was shortly before my three-year anniversary of living in Germany when I realized it was coming up. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long, but the calendar says that it is true!

So in the past year, what are the most significant things I’ve done?

1. Got a Job in Munich

Since I handed in my Master’s thesis in early September last year, I also had to get a job. I started applying in July of last year and was very lucky with timing, as I then started working in October.

The challenges of transitioning from academic life to work life are enough to begin with. Add in that I somehow did it in another country, succeeded in changing over my residence permit, and moved to the city (I’m not a city gal), well… That’s pretty impressive for me personally.

Do I love working more than I loved studying and doing research? Nope. But hey, I guess that’s part of your first few years working; you learn what you like and what you don’t.

2.Visited the Family

It was September 2015 when I moved to Germany, and throughout my entire Master’s program I could not afford to make the trip back home. Therefore, going home last December was the first time in over two years that I saw my family in person. It was also the first time in two years that I used US dollars, that everyone I spoke with had a Midwestern accent, and that I was surrounded by American flags everywhere I went. Yes, I suffered from reverse-culture shock.

LOZ

It was a nice little adventure to go back home, although it was the dead of winter. At least my Grandma can’t be upset that I always miss the holidays since I finally made it for Christmas!

3. Distortion in Copenhagen

After several years of A telling me about Copenhagen and how great it is, I finally went. The first few days were filled with bike rides around the city to do all the touristy things. The second half of the week was all about the electronic music festival.

While it’s true that Copenhagen is quite expensive, the city has a great vibe, amazing architecture, and delicious food. I even had my first bagel in several years (my life without bagels is very sad, indeed). Copenhagen is pretty spectacular, one of the few cities in which I can see myself living happily, albeit probably broke.

4. Another Trip to the US

So the trip that I was not planning to make was to head back home in the middle of summer. Living away from home when someone in your family is in poor health is pretty tough. I eventually got to the point where it didn’t make sense to keep stressing in Germany when I have a regular paycheck that can get me over the ocean to check in with my family in person.

Although it’s not what I planned, I now remember how flaming hot and humid Missouri gets in the summer, and why Missourians actually need air conditioning. A more pleasant part of the weather was walking barefoot through a summer storm to pick up my aunt’s car.

Family’s all okay now, too, in case you’re wondering.

5. Isle of Skye

The first trips I made to Scotland were back in 2014, and I documented them on the blog. (Read about them here and here.) Those two trips led me to falling as much in love with Scotland as I already was in with Ireland. One thing that A and I have wanted to do for several years now is to make it to the Isle of Skye. This year was the year to do it.

We rented a car and attempted Ben Nevis before going on to the Isle of Skye. That trip was an absolute dream, and the cool weather was dearly cherished after a brutally hot summer in Munich. I’ll eventually write about it here, but for now, I’ll just say that I can’t wait to go back to Scotland again.

Learnings

So those are the big things, but my international adventures are not the entire takeaway. Here’s a short list of some things I learned this year.

  1. Skiing is not for me. Tried that in Austria on a company ski trip, and the conclusion is that I will just skip straight to sledding and hot cocoa.
  2. I need to put the plant down, and walk away. I now have… seven plants? I think it’s seven, maybe there are more… Having a green thumb doesn’t go away just because one moves abroad!
  3. My German has gotten better. In fact, a few weeks ago I made a trip to the foreigners’ office and spoke in German during the entire appointment with the Munich bureaucrats.
  4. I need to plan a lot of hiking trips. Since I didn’t painstakingly plan out any options, I didn’t end up going on any. I tried to be a bit more relaxed, but it seems that being a planning freak does lead to more adventures into nature.
  5. Legal residence doesn’t get easier with time. In fact, the bureaucracy is so large that it even lost my file, resulting in multiple temporary permits and a long wait until they find my file before they’ll process the application that I already submitted. Never-ending story, this residency thing.
  6. December is too short, and there are too many Christmas markets to visit. Last year, I tried very hard to experience some new markets because I have had a love affair with them since my personal discovery of Christmas markets back in 2014. This year I will have to map out every one that I want to visit and be a bit more calculated in my excursions (and my Glühwein fund).
  7. Forcing myself to live in a city does not mean that I will learn to like it. Nine months into living here, and 12 months into working here, Munich still isn’t my favorite place. If anything, it’s more of a headache. If only I could find Munich-style jobs in the mountains….

Seven seems like a perfectly arbitrary number at which to pause here. So I guess that’s a wrap on year number three in Germany. I don’t really have a lot of plans for the next year yet (apart from Christmas markets), so let’s see where life takes me!

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: 2 Years

Can you believe that I have been in Germany for two years now? Seems like just yesterday I was breaking the news to my Grandma that I was going to be going far from home yet again. She wasn’t particularly pleased, but I think my family has all finally come around to the fact that I wasn’t meant to live the Missouri life.

Let’s review a bit what I’ve been up to. I stepped off the plane in Germany back in September 2015, and started my Master’s degree about this time two years ago. On top of my four semesters of study, I managed to visit Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, and Switzerland – plus a lot of southern Germany. I also met some wonderful people in Konstanz from all over, and three of my closest friends are now pursuing PhDs because they’re super nerdy. Just kidding guys! Well, partially at least….

Theses

Thesis Freiheit
My final Master’s thesis!

Studies themselves were quite a challenge for me here in Germany. The German language was obviously another source of frustration these past two years, although significantly less so now. Finances were also a struggle for me (I would strongly caution anyone considering graduate studies abroad if they have significant debt to be careful). Despite all of the difficulties, I was never deported and think that moving to Germany is the best choice I could have made!

I felt quite vindicated by my decision to move to Germany when I handed in my thesis last month. That same week I did a job interview in Munich at a start-up that I really wanted to work for. After nervously meeting the CEO and Head of Business Development there, I went back to Konstanz to do some exploring and discover the things I had not had the time to see in the past two years.

Konstanz Muenster and Me

While rendezvousing around Konstanz, I got a job offer from the very same company. A few days later I signed the contract and was working on moving out of my student flat.

A little less than a month ago I started working there and things have been going great so far. I’ve been working on some challenging tasks and am really excited about where the company is heading.

Student life is officially over and “adulting” (AKA paying off my student loans) has begun. Meanwhile, the leaves have pretty much all changed colors despite the Indian Summer that we had here in Munich.

So what’s next? Adjust to my new work like, find an apartment, and a trip back to Missouri for Christmas!

I’ll keep this update short since my last post was already very reflective. I’m also planning to reduce the frequency of these Germany Thus Far posts to once every three months. My monthly life isn’t changing as quickly and there are not so many new things during my day to day which would warrant monthly updates.

With that, I leave you lovely readers to enjoy autumn (or spring for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere).

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: Eight Months

May marks my eighth month here in Germany. In Virginia, I would be enjoying lovely weather and good times in downtown Staunton. Back in Missouri, I would be enjoying the relaxing roll of thunder every few days. Alas, Germany doesn’t seem to have many thunderstorms, or maybe they just come later. Aside from wishing for storms, it turned out to be a pretty good month.

Studies

Lectures in May were interrupted by a plethora of public holidays. In fact, there have been four holidays this past month! Since I know little about Catholicism, I cannot tell you the meanings of all these days. Still, I was happy to enjoy some longer weekends.

Bodensee May Sailboats
The lake, as enjoyed on one of several May holidays.

This month I also only had one presentation for my block seminar. I’ve decided that block seminars are not so useful. I don’t feel like I learn very much compared to a good lecture. On the other hand, a block seminar is still better than a lecture with a professor who doesn’t really teach you anything. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

To top the month at the uni off, I had an Econometrics midterm. In the interest of not jinxing the results, I have decided to refrain from speculating on how it went. I will have to wait for the results to really know I guess. I just don’t understand how these professors make decisions about how to grade your answers…

German

I feel like my German class this semester is not moving at the same pace as last semester. I think I’m getting better, but speaking fluidly is still really difficult. Vocabulary is my biggest challenge right now. If I hear a word I’ve learned, I am much more likely to know it than if I have to think of it myself to use in a sentence.

Travel

It was a YUUUGE month in travel for me. Sorry, I couldn’t resist using a Bernie “YUUUGE.” Anyway, it was huge because I finally got to go to Prague, Czech Republic. This city was actually the first city in Europe that I ever developed an interest in. When I was younger, I shared an opinion common with some of the locals in Missouri. I thought travel was just something you did for vacation, international travel was only for the rich people, and these faraway places were too different for me to be able to get along.

To make it even worse, I just did not want to go abroad, especially after hearing about how Europe is full of snooty French people, Nazis, and Brits that sit around drinking tea all day and plotting colonialism. That being said, Europe was the place I had the best perception of… You don’t want to know what ideas I was taught in school about Asia, Africa, or Latin America. Sorry Australia, but everyone seems to forget you. Thankfully, the European stereotypes have been (mostly) false.

Anyway, I became interested in Prague when I was 16. Now, at the age of 23, I finally made it there. Before you say, “That’s not such a long time to wait,” consider that 7 years is 30% of my life. Posts (because a single post is not enough space to talk about this amazing city) to follow.

Prague Clocktower

Also while in Prague, I got to meet up with some MBC students who were there for May Term. Then, the following weekend I watched them graduate via live stream, as the final graduating class of Mary Baldwin College. Next year, it will be Mary Baldwin University. It’s weird to think about the name change, but I guess it will be quite a while before I make it back to Staunton and have to confront the new name firsthand.

Cheers!

Where in the World Am I?

Since some of my friends and family seem to be confused about where I’m living now (no, it’s not anywhere near Berlin), I thought that I’d provide a little context for you with the help of Google maps.

I am living in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, which is in the southwest part of the country. Notice that Berlin in way up in the north.

As I’ve mentioned, I live on Bodensee, the lake in this region. Looking at the map above, it’s the lake at the very southern part of the state where Austria and Switzerland come together. Looking at the map below here, you can get a closer look at the lake. The See, or lake, borders Germany to the north, Austria to the southeast, and Switzerland to the southwest.

Now, on the west side of the lake where the Rhein flows into the Bodensee is Konstanz. Konstanz is the town where I am now living and studying for the next two years.

If you look closely, you can see that Konstanz is on the border with Switzerland. The town right across the border is called Kreuzlingen. So, yes, I could technically walk to Switzerland!

I hope that you find these maps helpful in visualizing where in the world I’m now located. I hope that you also now refrain from asking me how “close” I am to Berlin.

Cheers!