30 September, 2017

A Four-Part Update: Thesis, Internship, Future, Blog

Since this post doesn't have a theme, enjoy some nice German architecture with a side of geese :)

Hi everyone! I've finally written a new post! I've been trying to write this post for months, and I always seem to start with the best of intentions, become unsatisfied with what I've written and lose interest. I mentioned in my last update post in February that I was going to be writing my thesis, which partially explains my absence (although I did manage to get one post out during my thesis period, which I consider a success). But my thesis has been finished for almost two months and I still haven't managed to get any content out in that time.

There are multiple reasons for that, which also correspond with what has been going on in my life, so I'm going to break this post up into several sections to take you through some updates.

1. My thesis

I turned in my thesis on August 4th, 2017, and by that point I was so glad to be rid of it that I could barely register what a massive relief it was. My first attempt to write a blog post several months ago was a fairly positive write-up about my thesis and the benefits it brought me, but I didn't get very far with that. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote back then (for context, my thesis was a comparison of English and German phraseology in books about wind energy, so naturally I read a lot of books on the subject):

Reading about wind power, unlike almost any other topic that I've read about recently, made me feel hopeful. The progress that's been made in this area worldwide, and particularly in Europe, surprised me in a positive way, something that doesn't happen often. I tend to have a very negative view of the world and the direction that it is going in, but reading about the rapid and sustained expansion of wind power made me feel hope for the world. It's easy to get stuck in all the negatives, like how the earth is warming and we aren't doing enough to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions or consumption of energy and materials in general. There is still a long way to go to get humankind switched entirely to renewable energy, but as I've learned in the last several months, we are farther along than I thought and are constantly making progress.

While that was and still is true, it wasn't the whole story. That abandoned post was really just a vain attempt to put a positive spin on something I wasn't enjoying. My next attempt was the other half of the story and the half which dominated the vast majority of the project. It was what the first attempt was trying not to be: a scathingly negative rant about the experience of writing my thesis. Here is an edited excerpt of that post:

When I wrote my last update post, I was about to start my thesis, something I had been dreading for a long time. I was dreading having such a large project that would take so much time and energy, I was dreading having to work on it alone all day, and I saw it as a hindrance keeping me from gainful employment for several more months.
What's supposed to come now is a sunny, rainbows-and-unicorns description of how I was wrong, how my dread was unfounded and what a wonderful experience it was that taught me so much and made me feel awesome about myself because I achieved something great. But I can't write that because it's not what happened. 
Writing my thesis was hands down one of the most stressful times of my life, plagued with worry, stress, and feelings of extreme inadequacy and self-doubt. Instead of my naive expectations of being done even before my deadline and being the one model student who turned in her thesis early, I had to apply for the only extension of my entire academic career in order to even finish.

Granted, I wrote that when I was feeling very low, and my mental state and confidence have improved since then, but the gist is still true. It also at least partially explains my lack of blogging activity (and activity in several other areas of my life) over the past few months. On that subject I'll simply leave you with this: my thesis is over, my life has improved as a result, and I'm moving on.

2. My internship

As the last part of my master's program before I get my degree, I am required to do an internship for at least six weeks. I decided to extend my internship to a total of three months, and I was lucky enough to be accepted fairly quickly and easily to one of the two translation agencies that I applied to. I started in mid-August, about two weeks after finishing my thesis, so I had some time to recover before jumping into the next thing.

I was a bit nervous about starting the internship, as I always am before I start something new, but there was really no need to be nervous (as is usually the case with these things). So far, I love the work! It's exactly what I wanted from my internship: I get to translate and proofread for money (although not much, since it's an internship) and I have somewhere to go every day with coworkers to socialize with. My office mate is a fellow English speaker from England, and my other coworkers are a mix of young Germans and internationals, most of whom also studied something to do with translation.

The only drawback is the commute: since I live outside the city and the translation agency's offices are in the center, it takes me almost an hour each way to get to and from work. The train connection is good, which means I don't have a lot of waiting time, but it still involves two trains and either a bus or a 15 minute walk/10 minute bike ride. The walk/bike ride is a good excuse for me to get at least a little bit of exercise each day, but sacrificing two hours of every weekday commuting is already starting to take its toll. This week has been particularly hard because of construction: the track for the train I take most of the way to work is closed in one spot, so I have to change trains earlier. And since every single other person on the train also has to change at the same station, it's ridiculously crowded, uncomfortable, and adds time to my already-lengthy commute. I'm already starting to think longingly of my thesis-writing days when I didn't have to leave the house, which is just cruel because I know that I wasn't completely satisfied with that either. Nostalgia works in strange ways.

3. My future

As my master's program draws to a close, I've been thinking a lot about my future and what I want my professional life to look like. I've known for quite a while that the vast majority of translation work is done freelance, but despite that I've been hoping against hope that I would find a full-time job as a translator for a single company. Those jobs exist but they are rare, so I know that I should realistically remain open to working as a freelancer.

The problem with freelancing is, though, that along with the actual translation, which is what I want to do, freelance translators also have to handle all the other stuff that goes along with it: registering as a freelancer; finding clients; writing bills; recording and paying income and sales taxes every three months; preparing documents for translation; buying computers, translation software and billing software; potentially renting a workspace; paying the full price for public health insurance instead of the 50% that normal workers pay (this is specific to Germany, where normally the worker pays 50% and the employer pays the other 50%); and the list goes on. However, I have to wonder if all that is really that much worse than spending two hours a day commuting. Both options have serious benefits and serious disadvantages, and it's hard for me to decide which of those factors are most important.

4. My blog

Even after my thesis was finished and I technically had the time, you may have noticed that I didn't spring back into action here on the blog. Being away from it for so long while I was working on my thesis definitely made it harder to come back to, but the lack of activity is attributable to more than just that. Even before I started my thesis I hadn't been as motivated to blog as in previous years, and this was due to more than just a lack of time or energy.

The longer I live in Germany, the more normal everything about day-to-day life here becomes. The differences between my old life in the US and my new life here that used to immediately catch my attention no longer do. So as time goes on I'm finding myself less and less motivated to write the same type of cultural comparisons I've written in the past. I still have a giant list of blog topic ideas, any one of which I know I could turn into a full-length blog post, but the novelty of many of those topics has worn off as the way things are done here in Germany becomes more and more my default. I still love writing and I would like to continue blogging in the future, but I'm considering branching out in the types of posts I write. I've felt more motivated lately to write about topics that don't fit at all with my blog's established theme, which is perfectly demonstrated by my previous post explaining why I'm vegan.

I don't have a very clear idea yet of what that might look like, though. I don't know if I want to focus on writing more about veganism and lifestyle, writing more diary-like entries about any random topic that I happen to be thinking about, or simply reworking my approach to German-American comparisons and posts about German culture. Something that I feel strongly about is that travel posts will be much less frequent than previously. That had already started to happen naturally; in the past year or so I have visited many places, including India, without writing a single word or posting a single picture about them (for example, the picture at the top of this post is from when we visited the town of Celle after I had turned in my thesis, a trip which did not appear on the blog until now). This is a trend that I'm not going to fight. If I find that a particular place inspires me to write about it, then I will, but I no longer intend to approach traveling as an opportunity to blog about it. Travel will just be for me.

If there are any topics in particular that you would like me to write about, whether it's regarding German or American culture, veganism, or something else entirely, please let me know, because that will give me some external motivation to write. Thanks as always for checking out this update and for sticking with me through my dry spell. Hopefully it will be less than four months until my next post!

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