One Year Later, A Reflection On My Time In Germany

A year ago today, I wrote my first blog post on my personal blogging site Einstoss Abroad, and began the experience of a lifetime.

I knew then that I wanted to write a post a year later, comparing the reality of what it was like versus what I thought it would be like. So now that I’ve almost completed my abroad experience in Germany, I came up with the idea of taking my first blog post, and dissecting the post — piece by piece — and offering new commentary.

So here we go!

 

 

 

“Today marks the first day of my last week in America, what a weird time it is for me! The reality of me moving out of the country did not hit me until a few days ago, which felt like a combination of excitement and extreme nervousness for the unknown.”

Reading this sentence alone brings back memories. I remember writing this blog post in my bed at my parents’ house. I was about to do something I’d dreamed about doing my whole life — moving to the other side of the world and beginning a new life. Man what a moment to be alive that was!

Pretty soon I will have a similar mindset when I get ready to return home after more than a year of living abroad. I am now more experienced in how to deal with these thoughts.

“I have a lot to look forward to and I know this is going to be the experience of a life time, but I still do have my worries and having not been to Germany before (well, at least outside of a layover at Frankfurt Airport) and not knowing what to expect is definitely a big deal to me.”

Before moving to Germany, I honestly knew so little about the country. I’d obviously heard about the things that were most stereotypical, such as Oktoberfest, bratwurst and Lederhosen. But when I got here I realized that these things only really represent Bavarian culture (which is great).

Germany has so much more to offer than I expected. Baden Würrtemberg, where I have been living, has so many awesome cultural traditions here that aren’t celebrated in other parts of the country. In every state you’ll find something culturally unique, as well.

“The little traveler in me is extremely excited to be living in an area with close proximity to so many countries and that means so much exploring to do (at least within my budget!). I am trying to figure out all the places I want to go and see while trying to stay within my budget, and I have at least found a few of those places that I can do for relatively cheap.”

Everywhere I traveled this year: Black = When I was living in Horb. Pink = When I was in Tübingen. Orange = When I was in Ulm.

A big reason why I wanted to live in Europe was because of the close proximity to so many world class cities. From London to Paris to Rome, all these amazing destinations are within about two hours of each other by flight. Many of these places are cities I’ve wanted to visit my entire life (Rome was the top city on my list).

This year, I got to visit so many more places than I expected. I found myself liking cities that I had not really expected to visit — for instance Tallinn, Estonia, and Chefchaoen, Morocco — compared to cities that I have dreamed about visiting (Rome, Italy, Prague, etc.). I also got to go to Africa, which is something I never expected to do while on a year abroad in Europe!

Overall I am so grateful for the plentiful opportunities to explore that I had in Europe.

“Another thing I am extremely excited for is that I will be learning another language, which has been a dream of mine since I was a child.”

I am so proud of myself for doing this, especially as I still push heavily toward fluency. I have always wanted to be fluent in at least two languages, and I knew the only way for me to make this possible was to move to a country where I could immerse myself in another language daily.

“As they say in German: ‘Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen’ (I can speak a little German), so I’m hoping that for the first few weeks I’m there, I will be able to get by alright.”

I mean, I did survive? Yes. But honestly, I had little to no German knowledge at that point.

“I know once I’m done with my 6-week course (basically a boot camp in German), I will be a lot more comfortable with the language, so that is exciting for me.”

One thing I did not realize at that point was that learning a language is very difficult. Having not much experience learning another language in the past, I figured that 6 weeks of the language boot camp would be sufficient to be able to get around in Germany. I was totally wrong; It really wasn’t until I reached the point I’m at now in language progression that I’ve felt more comfortable.

And even then I still get really nervous sometimes.

My recommendation is to put yourself in that uncomfortable position as much as possible. I’ve been forcing myself to try to speak as much German as possible with native-tongue German speakers — even if they know English as well. More likely than not, they’ll be willing to help you out with your German — and then you’ll start seeing the results come faster and faster.

“Now, this move is something that is way out of my comfort zone, moving 6,000 miles away for a year is a big deal. This move will be a growing experience for me, and I know it is very healthy to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while, so it is something I know that will work out perfectly.”

Getting away from home was exactly what I needed in this point in my life. I was very confused in many aspects and I needed to just get away and find myself.

I still remember being in Moscow my first night away from the U.S. and freaking out about how I thought I made the wrong decision. Now I can look back at that moment and remember it as an important step in my process of becoming more independent.

It also made me way more appreciative of the place I grew up. Southern California is one of the most amazing places in the world and I had little appreciation of it until I moved out. In a way, living abroad got me more excited to go back to San Diego.

But I am also nervous to go back for other reasons.

In general, though, this whole idea of me getting out of my comfort zone allowed me to blossom into a more mature person. I will most definitely remember the things I learned abroad.

“One thing I was also very nervous about was me losing my friends from San Diego. This year I have made so many new valuable friends and one my biggest fears about this whole trip was that my friends would forget about me and when I come back they won’t want to be friends again.”

Yes it’s true, you won’t stay friends with everyone forever. I had a few unhealthy friendships at that time and I was very concerned about losing contact with them since I would be gone. This almost held me back and led me to stay in San Diego. I am glad I did not let friends stop me from going.

To be completely honest, the people who I was most concerned about staying in contact with I don’t really talk to anymore — and I’m doing way better now than before. So maybe it’s a fact that having good friends makes you happier in general.

“I have to remember that I will be making new friends while I am in Germany and the friends in San Diego who I am close with will stay in contact with me while I’m in Germany, so overall I do not worry about this anymore.”

Oh I was definitely worried about losing friends, so I don’t know why I would say that. But in general this idea came true. The last couple months I have met so many new friends, real friends. I have been so grateful for the new people in my life that I met through my time abroad. To me, it seems like I met many friends who I will stay in contact with for years to come.

“With everything in consideration, all of the positives completely outweigh all of the things that make me nervous about the trip, so I am ready for this new chapter in my life. I am going all in — maybe I’ll end up liking Germany so much that I’ll want to move there! But for now, all I can do is be in awe of the experience that I am about to do, and be grateful that I have this opportunity in the first place.”

I literally had no idea what I was about to get myself into at this time last year — and little did I realize how much I would come to love Germany. I fell in love with so many things regarding the German culture, the German language and the German people . It is the best way to get into my family heritage (German, if you couldn’t tell by my last name) and I can’t express the gratitude I feel to be able to tap into it. Learning the language my family from way back then spoke is such a cool thing for me; To be honest, it’s a big factor in my push towards fluency.

Not only that but also I got to live my dream for a year. I got to travel all over Europe, I got to live in a foreign country and I have contacts now with people from all over the world!

If this blog teaches you one thing, it should teach you that going to live abroad is such a positive experience. It will change your life for the better.

Thanks for reading.


Brandon Einstoss is an applied mathematics and German junior. He is studying in Tubingen and Ulm, Germany, for a full academic year

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