02 September, 2013

Pre-Departure Details

September 5th is almost here, and that means my departure for Germany is fast approaching! For those of you know don't know the details, I will be spending a year in Karlsruhe, Germany, which is where my boyfriend Maxim lives. We met in March of 2012 when I was at Mount Holyoke and he was studying abroad at UMass Amherst, and we've been in a long-distance relationship since he went back to Germany in June 2012. Since he has a year left of school in Karlsruhe and I just finished my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, now is the perfect time for me to take the plunge and move to Germany.

I won't just be sitting around while Maxim studies, though; I have a job and a purpose. I will be working for the year as an au pair (a live-in nanny) for a German family. I found the job through a website that allows families and prospective au pairs from around the world to find each other. The process was fairly simple: I created a profile on the website with some information about myself and a picture, entered criteria about the type of family I was looking for (where they live, ages and number of children, etc), and the website automatically emailed me the profiles of families that matched my criteria. Once I found families I was interested in, I sent them messages through the website, and if there was mutual interest we exchanged more information and asked each other questions. I found the family I will be working for this way, and when we had sent some messages and emails and had established that there was compatibility, we spoke on Skype a couple of times. Through Skype I was able to "meet" the entire family: mother, father, and two daughters, ages 12 and 14. Our Skype conversations went really well, and shortly after that they offered me the job. I will be living with them, watching the girls in the afternoons when the parents are at work, and taking German classes, so I will have a lot to keep myself busy.

The question everyone asks, in one form or another, when I tell them I'm going to Germany is, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" ("Do you speak German?") Unfortunately my answer to that question is "Nein" ("No"), which is slightly terrifying. With the help of a book and a website, I've taught myself some basics, which I know will be helpful when I get there, but the fact of the matter is I'll just have to hit the ground running and learn as I go. Fortunately, most German people I've met, including my host family, speak very good English, so that will certainly help me not feel completely illiterate when I arrive.

Worrying about my lack of language ability has at times taken a lot of my mental energy, but rather than wasting time worrying about something that I can't change overnight, I'm focusing my energy now on things that I can have an immediate effect on. This includes such things as packing, deciding what to take with me and what to leave behind, and making sure I have my passport in the correct bag (VERY important!). I've already sold, donated, or stored most of my stuff (a process that began almost a year ago), and I have almost succeeded in fitting everything I want to bring into two suitcases and a backpack. When I do my final packing on Thursday we'll see how successful I've been at narrowing down what gets to come with me. Updates to follow shortly.

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