Alright, so I decided to write as I sit in the airplane. It’ll take me a bit of time to get back into the swing of things for writing blog posts, especially because WordPress seems to have some trouble with media uploads/photos. But hopefully it’ll work, because I brought 3 cameras this time – my Olympus OM-20/OM-G and my Nikon F3, two 35mm SLR film cameras, and a Canon 5D MkII (thanks Mom!). Anyways.
Well, today (as of writing this, 20/21 Sept.) is the day! I’m moving to Germany to do my Master’s! I’ll be studying at the Universität Heidelberg, in Heidelberg, Germany, doing a Master’s in American Studies. I’ve wanted to study in Heidelberg for a long time, because it’s such a beautiful city and the program seems really good – one of my UP professors lectured there for a little while. I’m hoping to do my research on Hawaiian-German (that is, Hawaiian Kingdom-German Kingdoms) diplomacy – it’s completely novel research as far as I know, and it combines a bunch of my interests. Otherwise, I’m thinking of just doing research on US-German diplomacy and how various parties in power (in both countries) influence the diplomatic relations. I guess we’ll see, though!
It’s been a really couple hectic weeks – visa applications, finding a WG (Wohngemeinschaft, aka apartment), figuring out finances, insurance, bank account stuff, and enrollment and quarantine restrictions and everything that comes with moving to a new country during the worst pandemic in modern history.
I lucked out though, I think! I got my visa, have a really cool WG with roommates & a landlord that I’m very excited to meet, and was able to get all of my COVID stuff out of the way – as far as I know (again, as of being in the plane), no quarantine either! Woo!
Anyways, to the sequence of events for today: we left at about 9 to get to the airport, only to get part of the way and realize I forgot to grab the housewarming gifts for my flat mates & landlord – some Sacramento coasters for the WG and a California landmarks calendar, California handtowel and some sweets for my landlord. He’s picking me up from the airport once I land, which is in ~5hrs from now.
So how do I feel about all of this? I’m not really sure, to be honest.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m excited; I’ve wanted this literally for years and my dream is coming true (finally!). Plus I get to meet new people, can’t rely on the crutch of other American students during my Salzburg year, and I’ll definitely be improving my German.
But I’ve also had this weird dissociation for the past couple weeks and it’s hitting particularly hard as I’m on the plane. Maybe it’s because I know I’ll (hopefully) be back in February for my two-month winter break, or maybe it’s because traveling internationally has never been so easy, so I don’t feel as “distant” from home? Like it’s quicker to fly to Germany than it is to drive up to Seattle to pick my brother up from college. That’s pretty crazy. It just doesn’t feel like much is changing, if that makes sense, despite this being by far the biggest change I’ve ever experienced. Maybe it’ll be “real” after the first week or two. (I just hope I can come home at some point.)
Anyways, this dissociative feeling has been probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever felt – I never quite understood when people talked about dissociating, but now I do. It just feels… unreal? Like I get these occasional little shocks of like “Wait, I’m not going to be home for 5 months at least, and I’m moving to a new country with a new language and totally new people.” Kinda those “Oh shit, what am I in for?” moments.
Not to mention, purely the fact that this is in the middle of a pandemic puts a weird aura around it all. Like what if the borders close because of a new variant? When will I be able to get home anyways, or when will my family be able to visit? What if something happens to my family while I’m gone? How can I avoid getting my family sick/quarantining when I come home? I’ve been wrestling with those questions literally for months, and now it’s almost sealed in fate that I cannot turn back, at least for a few months. Unless I get deported upon arrival. (lol hopefully not)
That being said, it is different from Salzburg. I’ll be gone for a longer time total (2 years), but less at once; 5 months, then 2 months at home; 3 months, then 2 months at home. And so on. It’s almost like as if I was in Portland, which is a relief. Just further away, right?
Not knowing anyone in Heidelberg is definitely gonna be weird though; that’s probably one of the biggest worries for me. Plus with COVID restrictions, it’s hard to meet people because so many of the “old ways” of meeting people (local spots, sight-seeing locations, bars, hostels, etc.) are limited. I’m pretty much going to be meeting people in my program, my WG, and maybe some other locals or international students. At least, I really hope.
Plus I’ve been using this app, HelloTalk, to practice my German while German-speakers practice their English, so I’ve been able to “meet” (aka text & call) some people who I’ll likely be meeting up with once I arrive. Not a sponsor, but HelloTalk, if some representative is by chance reading this off of some Google result when you search the app, please sponsor me lol. Anyways, I’ve learned SO much German from it, plus I’ve gotten to “meet” cool people! One of them lives pretty close to Heidelberg, right between Mannheim & Heidelberg, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing her in probably the next blog post. And one lives in Frankfurt, one lives in Karlsruhe, and one even lives in Salzburg! So I’ve got some connections, even if I haven’t officially met them in-person yet. So hopefully, even if not as much traveling as I did while in Salzburg, I’ll at least be able to travel around somewhat. And who knows how my schedule will be? – maybe I WILL be able to travel regularly!
Plus, just the fact that I’ve improved my German from Salzburg to now is really helpful. Though it’s one of my biggest worries – I’ve still got a TON to learn. Like, it occurred to me that I barely know ANY vocabulary when it comes to the household – I know how to say dishwasher, showering, cleaning up, vacuuming, laundry, etc.; but HOW THE HELL do I say “countertop?” How do I say “scrub?” How do I differentiate the gazillion (no joke) different types of flour that exist in Germany? How do I say “dish soap?” It’s so bizarre – like I can hold intense conversations with Germans about politics, the Umweltbewegung, nuclear energy, the history of colonialism in Europe, or the history of divided Germany, but I can’t say “I’m going to clean the countertop?” “I’m going to mop?” “We need more dish soap?” What about “There’s rotting food in the fridge?” Hell, how do I say “soap” anyways? Like I can manage workarounds – “I’m going to clean ‘this’” as I point to the countertop, or “I’m going to clean the floor” instead of “I’m going to mop,” or “I can’t clean the dishes because we’re lacking the materials to clean them,” but I can’t just say… “We need more dish soap?” It’s like a story one of my friends told me about not knowing the word for fireman so saying “men who spray water on fires” or something like that. It’s hilarious when I think about it, but also really worrying, and it really hit me when I was watching a kid play with her dad in the airport – like I can’t understand a thing this baby said, yet I can talk about the Bundestagswahl? I mean, it totally makes sense though, and I’m actually really grateful that UP prioritized this way of conversational German; my German classes were all about conversation and intellectual topics/themes, and to be fair, we may have went over the vocabulary for “countertop” and “dish soap” a few years ago and I just don’t remember it – I’m not really sure, because I remember the other household vocabulary but not that, if we talked about it. Like, now I’m freaking out because one of my flatmates is cooking me dinner when I arrive and I don’t know how to ask her if we have a sponge to wash the dishes lmao. “Hey, I’m washing dishes, do we have the little thing to wash the dishes?” That could mean so many things. Or I could ask for a brush? I’m sure everyone speaks English, so if it comes to that, it won’t be a problem, but I don’t wanna make them have to speak English if they don’t have to. And of course, this kind of vocabulary doesn’t really come up in conversation when we’re talking about the Stasi and the Fall of the Wall, or German Romanticism and the relationship between mankind and nature. So no blaming UP, it’s just a matter of circumstances. It’s just weird that I can discuss really deep topics and not something as simple as household vocabulary. It’s funny, but I’m fully prepared to be laughed at/otherwise make a fool of myself while I’m out there lol. Just gotta use really long, convoluted workarounds until I can figure out the vocabulary. Or just have my LEO/DWDS/Duden dictionaries ready on my phone for every occasion. Maybe I’m overthinking this and everyone will just want to speak English with me and German with each other? I’m probably overthinking lol.
Anyways, the next few days are gonna be pretty busy, so there probably won’t be an update, at least for a little bit. Gotta set up a bank account, register my address, extend my D-Visa, etc.. I guess we’ll see though!!
Mit Liebe aus einem Flugzeug irgendwo über dem Atlantik/With love from a plane somewhere over the Atlantic,