23 February, 2017

An Update: Moving, Writing and Job Hunting

Hello, dear readers! Today I'm bringing you an update about what's been going on in my life. The last time I wrote an update I had just started my fourth semester of grad school, and since my fourth semester is now swiftly coming to a close I figured it's time for another one. Things are moving forward in my life in an exciting way, so here's a look at what's happened recently and what is coming up in the near future.

The move

The most exciting news is that Maxim and I finally, FINALLY, after almost five years of being together and six months of marriage, live together! On February 4th, 2017, Maxim and I loaded the last of my stuff into his car, left my apartment in Hildesheim for the last time, and made the drive to my new home in Hamburg. I'm a Hamburger now! (I'm not just being silly, that's actually what people from Hamburg are called in German.) Words cannot express how happy this move has made me. Even though the process of packing, cleaning the apartment and moving out was incredibly stressful (and I don't want to move again for at least the next few years), the results have been amazing. Ever since I moved to Germany in 2013 my entire focus has been on moving in with Maxim and getting a good job, and to finally have half of that become a reality is such a good feeling. Although the gloomy Hamburg weather has done it's best to get me down, the improvement in my general level of happiness and satisfaction with my life has been immediate and remarkable.

I can't get too excited about being a Hamburger yet, though, since technically I'm still not an official resident. Because the Einwohnermeldeamt (resident registration office) in this part of Hamburg is chronically overcrowded and understaffed, I wasn't able to register as a resident within the normal time frame. (Registration with the city is required in Germany every time you move.) Instead I was given an appointment to come back an absurd number of weeks later, which baffles me because scheduling the appointment took about the same amount of time as it would have taken to register me in the first place. *sigh*

The final paper

As I mentioned in my previous update, I only took two classes this semester and audited a third, so my workload the past few months has not been very heavy. The final hurdle before all my classwork is done is a final paper. I've known about this paper the entire semester and could have easily had it finished months ago, but up until the last two weeks I just couldn't get myself to seriously start working on it. I've realized in the last few years that I am much more externally motivated and much less self-motivated than I used to think, and knowing that the deadline for turning in this paper isn't until April 1st has done nothing to encourage me to start. Once I moved in with Maxim, though, I realized I needed to start thinking of writing this paper as my job and actually treat it like one. Since then I've made a ton of progress and at this point my paper is really close to being finished.

Despite the progress I've made in the past two or three weeks, this paper has still taken me what I would consider an unreasonable amount of time to write. I'm writing it in German, and writing in German is still incredibly demanding, time-consuming, and tiring for me. A 20-page paper in English would not have taken me two weeks of almost full-time work to finish, but the reality is that I'm just not as skilled at writing in German as in English. The academic writing that this type of paper requires is especially difficult, since the majority of my exposure to and use of German is fairly informal. Even when making an effort to write in a more formal, academic style my writing is just not as professional or polished as I would like it to be. I know this is just me being too hard on myself as always, but knowing that doesn't change the fact that I don't like it when my skills don't match my expectations.

The thesis

Once I finish my final paper I will jump pretty much directly into writing my thesis. After a complicated and stressful series of events, my thesis registration is finally on its way, and I plan to start on March 1st. I've been dreading writing a thesis basically since I started my master's program, because I've never written anything remotely like it, even for my bachelor's degree. (At Mount Holyoke, my alma mater, a thesis is not required for a bachelor's degree, the only restriction being that you can't graduate summa cum laude [with highest honors] without writing one.) As it has gotten closer, though, I've realized that if I'm going to make it through the thesis-writing process without being completely miserable I have to change the way I approach it. I can't think about it as this horrible ordeal that I have to get through, I have to view it as an opportunity to explore a topic that I got to pick out myself and will make an academic contribution to my field of study (which, after all, is the whole point of writing a thesis). Since I had that epiphany I've felt much less dread about the whole thing.

The dread up until now has had a rather unfortunate side effect, though: Dread led to inactivity and that inactivity has dragged out the amount of time it will take me to finish my degree. When it comes down to it, I could have written my thesis this semester and had it done already. I would have been able to write my thesis in Hildesheim and had my advisors right next door in case of need. Instead, I will be writing my thesis in Hamburg. That means I will have to either communicate with my advisors via email and phone or take the four and a half hour train ride (one way) to Hildesheim any time I want to meet with one of them in person. I already had to make the long journey back to campus to discuss my topic and get a signature from one of my advisors, and it made for an exhausting day. I would like to keep those trips to a minimum, but I also realize that my decision to move away from the city where the university is has consequences that I have to accept.

The job search

Amidst all of this activity I've also started shopping around for possible jobs and internships. I need to do an internship before I graduate as a requirement for my degree, but I've also gone directly to looking for full-time jobs as well. In the field of translation full-time jobs for actual translation are hard to come by, since most translation is done freelance. But I don't want to be a freelancer, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled for full-time translation jobs in Hamburg. Starting now and as I write my thesis I plan to apply for some jobs and internships and see what opportunities come my way. As a native English speaker I have a huge advantage, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

So that's what my life looks like at the moment. After a period of stress around the move and getting my thesis sorted out, my daily routine has mellowed out and I'm settling into cohabitation quite nicely. Now it's time for me to finally finish that paper!

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