Life lately | Berlin is calling

Germany has European charm by the bucketful, does train travel as well as anywhere else, and offers 100 different ways to cook a potato, what’s not to love? (Answer: absolutely nothing.) But making Germany home as a non-fluent, non-EU foreigner was harder than I expected.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my year of living abroad it’s that plans are made to be changed. You’ll come up with a dozen backup plans and each one of them will fall through. Something goes wrong, someone tells you no, or you change your mind completely and start from square one. As someone that works best with goals and plans, that’s been a huge adjustment for me. Over the past year, I can’t tell you how many rejection emails I’ve read or the hours I’ve wasted scrolling through my Facebook feed and wondering what I’d be doing if I were in the States. Honestly, it’s been the feeling so directionless -not the thousands of miles between me and my family and friends, the seemingly (but not really) insurmountable language barrier, or the lack of quality peanut butter in the entire country- that’s been the hardest part of my first year as an expat.

I started 2015 determined to give myself a future in Germany and over the last five months, I’ve worked really hard to make it happen. And finally I have good news to share with y’all: I’m moving to Berlin to be a grad student!

frei universität jfk institute berlin

Freie University’s JFK Institute, home for the next two years.

I was never one to want to go back to grad school right out of undergrad, but this was even truer during my senior year when I started to become more and more unsure of what I really wanted to do after graduation. But here in Germany -and I think Europe, more broadly- it’s super common to get all of your schooling out of the way at once. (I copy-edited a letter of motivation for a Belgian applying for his FOURTH degree program!)

I’d flirted with the idea of grad school when I first arrived, knowing that F’s plan has always been to get his master’s degree, but it wasn’t until F and I were trying to come up with our “longer”-term plans at the beginning of this year that I started to look at it as a viable option. Knowing that we’d probably have the most luck in a bigger city -Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Dresden- we tried to cast a wide net in looking for a city that offered something that appealed to us both plus something in English for me. I was pretty sure, and happily so, that it would come down to Berlin.

I spent all of March working on my applications, and by the end of April, all that was left was to wait. Waiting for uni-assist to receive them, review them, email my confirmation, forward them to the universities, the evaluations, the interview, the arrival of the letters. It’s been a stressful couple of months, to say the least, but finally, there’s a definite plan. I can’t believe it. I’m a master’s student at Freie Universität -one of Berlin’s great public universities- and I’ll be working towards a career in journalism.

Now to breathe a sigh of relief that my visa won’t run out on the 10th!

goodbye uferstraße

In preparation for the upcoming move to Berlin, we’ve temporarily moved back to Burbecke. Leaving Marburg, my first apartment in Germany, and the friends I have there is definitely bitter-sweet. As ready as I feel to move on, doing the final walk-through and saying a last goodbye was sadder than I expected. But on the bright side, with F in charge and armed with tie-down straps and four suitcases to stuff things in, this was by far the breeziest move I’ve ever made and we were on to the celebratory Kaffee-Kuchen in just three hours. And now I get to enjoy the rest of my summer: time with friends, a summer vacation, cycling along the Rhine.

Do you work better with a plan? How do you handle it when you don’t have one/it doesn’t work out?

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12 thoughts on “Life lately | Berlin is calling

    • Thanks, Kaelene! Such a relief! I spent three days in Berlin in Dec. 2013 and it was nowhere near enough time, so I’m thrilled to be going back. And I look forward to all that Berlin is going to bring to this blogging space!

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  1. Amazing!!! So many congrats! I completely know the directionless feeling you were talking about, and I’m with you that it’s one of the worst parts of being abroad. I’ve had more than a few meltdowns recently about it (I actually just texted a friend the other day saying “I just feel so directionless” haha) but the conclusion I came to was to embrace having no plan, at least until I get home and can look at life with fresh eyes. Enjoy summer and good luck with the move 🙂

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    • Thanks!! The directionless feeling has ruined more than one of my days, but you’re so right about just going with it for now. Letting the doubt get to you definitely takes the enjoyment out of this incredible experience/opportunity we’re lucky enough to have. I always come back to the fact that we’re so young and in no way have to have “it all” figured out. So you’re so smart to take a timeout from stressing about it and just enjoy the amazing trip you’ve got ahead of you!

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  2. Congrats Caitlin! I just moved home after a year abroad in Germany, and I’m already scheming ways to get back 🙂 Grad school sounds like a great option.

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