Have you ever been so on the go that suddenly it’s two years from now and you can’t remember how you got there? Or even walked down the hall and in those few seconds you’ve completely forgotten where you’re going and why? During those times I have to take a moment and figure out what is happening. This month marks 2 years since I’ve moved to Germany and it’s time for some reflection.
Before I moved, I’d been to 3 other countries (do Americans count Canada? I guess. So 4 countries). Most of that travel was on one major solo trip that changed a lot of my views on the importance of getting out of one’s home.
But since early 2015, here’s where I’ve been:
Iceland (I mean, just the airport)
Is this a humble-brag? It is neither humble nor a brag, but a list. But it comes off as bragging, I do understand that. And honestly for this reason I’m not a fan of checking in on social media everywhere I go. But sometimes, most of the time, the places are so cool I want to tell everyone to get over here immediately and join me in this coolness (hint.). I also love taking pictures and getting perfect shots and then improving on those. Plus I feel like posting those shots in hopes someone will someday comment on the quality (hint.).
I do realize how lucky I’ve been the last two years, not only because I’m centrally located to go exploring but because my partner has been supportive in this habit and also loves to go places. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to do and see a lot of what I’ve done.
But now, I am back to full time work, in a new industry, straddling languages, and feeling a routine again. The past two years I’ve filled the time with teaching, both business English at the language school and courses at the university, and while that added up to full-time a lot of the time, now I’m really back on the 9-5 grind. Before my schedule was different everyday, now everyday has suddenly gone totally predictable in terms of where I’ll be and when. Which leads back to that “I’m so tired the weekend is for being horizontal” feeling. Though, I don’t really want to get into that habit, so we’ll be finding ways to change it up.
Part of that is getting back to this sadly neglected blog. We’ve gotten pretty good at being weekend warriors so there will be lots to post there. I’m also going to delve deeper into German culture, language and the city of Wiesbaden in particular. This may be obvious now, but when I first got here, I thought of Germany as this homogeneous whole, which looking back was so naive. I can now hear accents of people from across the river and I know some friends have different words for the same food than other friends. I also know that some friends have never tasted foods from other parts of Germany than where they’re from, the regions are so different. I want to see more of the country this year and continue trying to stay away from hotels, or at least chain hotels, to stay immersed.
But it’s pretty exhausting. Hence the title. I am by no means having whole conversations in German all day everyday; mostly what I’m doing is listening and reading in German, then replying back in English. I’ve gotten to the point where I can craft somewhat simple emails in German without Google and I can have small talk with my more English-shy colleagues but I feel like a child when I talk. It’s pretty amazing how one’s personality changes when they speak another language. I’ll have to go more in depth on that later.
This combination, plus being new on a job (and honestly, it also being winter) has really stretched my brain and it feels like a workout; I am so hungry all the time! I also sleep much deeper. But I’m also much slower to react these days, I judge everything I think two or three times over before I say anything. I feel like I see more, that I notice things and patterns in people more. And I like this hyper-awareness. It’s helped when navigating train stations and new streets and in new meetings with new people. It’s also helped my relationships, especially the one in my home ( ❤ )
I had planned before I moved for what I was going to do to bring in some money (and, by extension, stay here legally). Before I went back home from my last vacation to see Zach, we decided I would start researching potential job opportunities. I decided to try out rowing clubs first and after the initial emailing, we set up a Skype interview for a few days later when I was back home. The interview went great for all of us and I told them what I needed to get to Germany as a legally employed person.
I should pause for a moment here because this all sounds very easy. In reality, this was a decision that went back and forth on Z’s and I’s parts even after I had the job confirmed. We went through all the scenarios “what if the language barrier is too hard? what if the visa is denied?”but ultimately, at some point, the direction has to be chosen and action taken down whatever path is chosen. I imagine we’ll encounter these situations many more times.
So I came over to Germany as a rowing coach on a visa very specific to this purpose only. I can discuss the nitty gritty bureaucracy of getting all the right paperwork at a later time. While I was happy to still be on the water, I was very aware this would not be a permanent situation. I also worked a few days at a clock shop in town, almost the moment I landed. This job was had because I went to the owner and said “are you hiring?” and nothing more formal than that. But I really didn’t want to just “live” in Wiesbaden and spend all of Zach’s money, I wanted to work and continue that growth. I had set myself expectations that IF I found a job, a nice career job with benefits and everything, it would probably take a long time so being patient would be essential. It turned out to take 18 months (sorry I ruined the ending).
Since I like coaching so much, the next step was teaching. I researched the best methods of teaching Business English in Europe (thanks to my cousin Tessa who had done the same thing in Italy). I also wanted to stay connected to the defense contracting network I had just come from and sought out opportunities there. While I eventually worked a small amount for a boutique firm here, it was not a long-term opportunity. I also realized I don’t think I want to go back to that industry again. Or maybe later. Who knows. So I learned as much as I could about teaching ES/F/L and finding certificates to make myself a good candidate. If anyone else is interested, I highly recommend this online school (putting my email [firstname.lastname@example.org] in at the bottom for a coupon code gets you 15% off). I kept all the materials because it was really well written. I enjoyed the videos and assignments as well.
So, certificate acquired, it’s now early summer of 2015 and I emailed out my resume and certificate to all the language schools in town, plus a few public German Gymnasium and Hochschule (as well as the public community college) and two language schools wrote back. The first said they were not able to sponsor a visa for me, but to please come back when I acquired the work visa (which again, I’ll talk about this later, but esentially what they’re asking for is impossible). The other one was happy to sponsor a visa, had done it many times for native speakers of other languages before, and would love to interview. After the interview, it was a 4 week wait for the official work visa to come in and I began teaching in early fall. I also quit my coaching job at this point which was really tough to do emotionally.
While I loved teaching, and my business client list grew, this also didn’t feel quite right. It was an excellent step and foothold and provided me the boost to feel accomplished and productive. For a few months, I began to think that maybe education is what I wanted to do after-all and I did the research to see what I could do to make this happen. In the end, I didn’t like it enough to pursue further education goals and began the process (again) of finding the right industry and job fit.
Eventually, after some searching and lots and lots of reading, I found what I was pretty sure would be my new job late last winter and as of this month have “officially” started 🙂 I’m working in a German company, speaking in English and German and I’m in a totally new industry (marketing and advertising). I’m also having a blast and constantly learning. So while it’s all still very new, I feel like I’ve finally made that transition step from feeling temporary to feeling more stable and consistent.
To be super cheesy about it, I wrote all this down to help me remember these last two years have not been a cakewalk, but something has been accomplished and world views expanded. I couldn’t possibly touch on everything I’ve thought or felt in this one entry but I’ll have to write it down soon. I hope if anyone else is thinking of moving abroad they can feel some inspiration from this, that it is possible. Or if I’m the only one reading this, then dear future self, you’ve done a lot, it was hard, it was fun, remember to keep your chin up and continue to enjoy the adventure 🙂