My First Year Back in the US

July 04, 2016
It has now been one year since I moved from Germany back to the United States. This past year has been a fresh start for me, even though I'm returning to old places. Now I have a new perspective and appreciation for the things I took for granted about my life in America.

Since my adviser dumped me just weeks before I returned (and after the damn thing had been written, I might add), I've had to find a new one and restart my whole Master's project. But I find now I am much more confident and comfortable with my own abilities to both address the topic and approach my adviser about things I don't understand, when I think I've made a mistake or something isn't working for me. I've had to TA, and while I did not enjoy it and found it very stressful having people be dependent on me for part of their GPA, I did learn a lot about working with people, explaining ideas and setting boundaries.

Looking back on my time in Germany, I still have very mixed feelings. To be quite honest I was miserable for a lot of my time there and it wasn't the work I was doing itself. Rather, I always felt very much like an outsider. I started taking German lessons but stopped because the teacher would pick on students and make fun of them when they made mistakes. People in the north of Germany (and I believe other parts of northern Europe as well) tend to be very formal towards one another, which come across as cold and distant rather than respectful to me as a mostly-American (parents are from the UK). I remember talking to someone upon my return to the US and saying that it was quite difficult to make friends, but I'd heard that when you did make one they'd be your friend for life. They asked me if I found that to be true, and I had to answer with "I don't know, I didn't make any German friends."

We got knocked around a lot, too. We never got a lease to the apartment we lived in for over three years, despite working for a university I was refused health insurance the first year and a half I was there. and they were so slow to reimburse me for travel we went into debt one month after two work trips. I may have been suspected of being dead at one point.

But it wasn't all bad, either. I loved things like the way people would line the canals, parks and anywhere green and grill on the few nice days. I loved the little dogs, the Rathaus/townhall (see above), the Weihnachtsmärkte/Christmas Markets (below), the beautiful lake in the middle of the city, and the roses on every corner. I miss quark, our heat being included in the rent, the cheap internet, the public transit, windows that open two ways and being able to drink a beer in a park or square.

But most of all I miss the chance to travel. I had 30 vacation days a year, plus an assortment of holidays we don't really have in the US, like May Day and Ascension Day. I got to travel all over Europe, sometimes for work which meant my University paid for it, including Venice, Florence, Cologne and Stockholm. They also sent me to Kathmandu, and a town in  South East India on the Indian Ocean. These are all opportunities I had don't think I ever would have had open to me had it not being for moving to Germany and sticking to it.

I don't regret my decision to move at all - I hope and think it will keep paying off in the future having my first job be international, plus I'll have work experience before graduating with my master's degree. 

Back in the States I feel like I belong. Between a lot of people knowing some English and the German my husband was able to learn we got by, but I can really express myself here - I can make jokes people understand, I'm funny again, I can be charming and personable where before it was all about communicating the facts. I can cultivate relationships with my friends and family for more easily here that when I was abroad. I got to see my sister get married a few months after returning, and my husband is able to care for his sick mother better.

Most of all I am proud of myself for taking a chance for in taking it for betting on myself and my abilities, for pushing through the hard times for an investment in my and my husband's future. I took a great risk and while I think had I stayed here in the US I would still be very happy today, I know I will never look back and wonder what if I had moved abroad, what opportunities was I too scared to pursue. Moving to Germany was the bravest thing I've every done, and I find great satisfaction in doing something daring even though I am, honestly, a huge wuss.

+ Queuing

+ The great variety of cuisines I can get here, including....

+ Spicy food

+ How kind and friendly people are here, even complete strangers

+ Bug screens

+ Clothes dryers are standard (it took days for our laundry to dry in rainy Hamburg)

+ The diversity of people, their bodies, how they dress, their hair, tattoos, etc

+ Eggnog

+ How widely accepted credit cards are

+ Free tap water at restaurants

+ Free, open Wifi

+ Stores are open on Sundays

+ free, convenient public restrooms and no shelf toilets

+ Halloween

+ Far fewer smokers

+ People saying "excuse me" instead of just pushing by

+ Chipotle

Happy Fourth of July from a repat home once again

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