12 September, 2014

One-Year Anniversary

Last Saturday, September 6th 2014, was my one-year anniversary of being in Germany. Time flies, doesn't it? Since I haven't posted many pictures of myself on this blog, here is a photo recap of some of the highlights of the past year.
(Location and date listed below each photo, photos either belong to me or are ones I was tagged in on Facebook and are used with permission.)

Strasbourg, France, September 2013
Freiburg, Germany, October 2013
Lindau, Germany, October 2013 (with Maxim's dad)
Lindau, Germany, October 2013
Stuttgart, Germany, October 2013 
Stuttgart, Germany, October 2013
Karlsruhe, Germany, Straba-Party (party on a train) November 2013
Bad Wurzach, Germany, Christmas 2013 (spent with Maxim and his family)
Schloss Neuschwanstein, Schwangau, Germany, December 2013
Berlin, Germany, March 2014
Berlin, Germany, March 2014
Venice, Italy, April 2014
Karlsruhe, World Cup final game, July 2014

When I first got here last year, I was taking a leap of faith. I had only ever spent two weeks in this strange new country before, I was moving across the ocean to be with someone who had been on the other end of a webcam for the majority of our relationship, and I didn't speak enough German to even have the most basic conversation with someone. Just like when I left to study abroad in Spain, people were telling me I was brave and adventurous, and this time I believed them. In the weeks leading up to the move, I was having periodic mini-panic attacks over the thought of having to learn a new language, one which I already knew was going to be challenging and frustrating based on the small amount I had attempted to teach myself. Now that my first year in Germany is over, I can look back on my time here and be proud of the progress I've made.

I have a very distinct memory from one of my first days here that illustrates this extremely well. It was my second or third week in Karlsruhe and I was hanging out with a few other English-speaking au pairs. After we had coffee, I decided to go shopping with Abby, one of the then-au pairs who has since returned to England. Before we went shopping, Abby called her host mom to tell her that she would be home later than expected, and she had the entire conversation in German. I remember listening enviously, not understanding a word, and thinking to myself, "That's my goal. I want to be able to do that." Fast forward 8 or 9 months and I found myself doing just that: not only talking to my host family on the phone in German but talking to them in German almost all the time. It took a lot of effort, a lot of frustration and many months to get there, but get there I did.

I've also discovered many things about my new home that I really like. I like the ease and availability of public transportation, I like using my bike for transportation and not just for recreation, I like Germany's strong social welfare programs and affordable higher education, I like the beer, I like the practical mentality and the straight-forward way of communicating... I could go on. Unlike in the US, where I was constantly seeing signs of economic struggle and government indifference, in Germany I see greater opportunity, wider-spread prosperity and a government that is committed to its people. Maybe I'm still seeing Germany through rose-colored glasses, but when a country mandates several months of paid maternity leave, 6 weeks of paid vacation per year and 6 weeks of paid sick leave per year for all full-time employees, what's not to like?

Now that my first year has come to a close, I'm sure you'll be wondering what I'm planning to do next. Well, for those of you Stateside, I have some good news: I booked a flight back to the United States for December 11th, in time to be home for Christmas. Maxim will be coming with me and we will be spending two weeks (including Christmas Day) in Florida with my mom and the next two weeks in Massachusetts with my dad. And now for the (perhaps) bad news: it's a round-trip flight. Maxim and I will be flying back to Germany on January 8th, and that is where my plans end. As things stand right now, I will be returning to Germany with no job, no visa and no apartment. Finding those things will be my task for the next few months. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, between now and my trip home I will continue to au pair for about another month, my sister Lindsay will come to visit me, and then we will travel around Europe together for a few weeks. I'm so excited! I haven't seen Lindsay in more than a year, the longest we've ever been apart, and I can't wait to see her again!

This year has been tough at times and is still providing its share of frustrations and pains, but all in all I'm happy about how this year has gone and I'm glad I made the crazy decision to come to Germany. Hopefully the next year and the ones after it will continue to be positive :)

1 comment :

  1. A great write up of your time in Germany so far, I've really enjoyed reading it :)