Thursday, July 28, 2011

Die letzten Tage

Tonight will be my last night in Göttingen, Saturday will be my last night in Germany, and on Tuesday morning I will board a plane that will take me from Bologna over the Atlantic.  In other words, next time I write, it will be from America for the first time in seven months.  It doesn't feel like an end though.  This journey feels more like a beginning, as I have many more adventures to look forward to in the United States, both in and out of Saint Louis.

In the meantime, life in Göttingen has continued to be fairly consistent.  My class (which was today described by the Cornell philosophy professor I sometimes sit next to as an "endless parade of stereotypes") has been somewhat frustrating this month, but my German has become exponentially better than it was am Anfang (in the beginning), so I still have little to actually complain about.  I actually made a list the other day in class of why I am incredibly glad that I had the opportunity to come to Germany for two months and how this experience has been incredibly valuable.  There are quite a few things in addition to my improved language abilities:

1). The Goethe Institut has provided a unique intercultural experience, the likes of which would be difficult to replicate (hence, unique).  I have known that my classes have been diverse in every way from the beginning, with this month's group including four Libyan doctors, one Japanese and two Argentinian graduate students, a Costa Rican veterinarian, a Russian student of linguistics and music, a Finnish engineer, a Spanish high school English teacher, two Syrian students looking to pursue graduate programs (in computer science and painting) in Deutschland, and three Americans--two university students and a professor.   This has exposed me to viewpoints and led to conversations (all auf Deutsch, mind you!) that I would never have been able to experience had I not come to the Goethe Institut.  On the other hand, the diversity of the group becomes an afterthought after a day or so, and our everyday interactions do not differ greatly from those that I have with my much more homogeneous peers back at Wash U.
 This thought struck me especially intensely during my class's final lunch out together this afternoon, where the entire group of us was sitting around one long table, eating the same food, and having the same sorts of conversations I would be having with any other group: our travel plans for the upcoming weeks, what we thought we would like to do in the future, how much we missed our families, and why the food was taking so long to make it to the table.

2). During my two months at the Goethe Institut, I attended classes with five different teachers.  This gave me the chance to experience a wide variety of different teaching styles and methods firsthand, which has been very valuable experience considering that I am currently planning to pursue teaching English as a second language for at least a few years after graduation and I believe that the ability to understand and empathize with students is integral to being both an effective and a well-respected teacher.

3).  Spending the summer here gave me an opportunity to actually live in a small town in Germany and come to understand the pace of life here much more so than if i had spent only a week or two traveling around.  I also made a few German friends during my time here, and while they won't last much beyond the summer, speaking with them provided insight into what it is like to be a person about my age living, studying, and working in Germany.

4).  Living in the center of Europe also allowed me to travel more, which has also been fantastic.  I have a much better feel for Germany as a whole than I did at the beginning of the summer.

5).  During my time at the Goethe Institut I have made several very close friends from Wash U who I might not have otherwise met, and they will certainly make the next year much brighter.

6).  I am finally ready to go home.  When I left Bologna two months ago, I was not at all ready to go back to America.  In fact, I had a hard time believing that I would be ready to go back even two months from then.  While it is true that I still love Europe (and especially Italy) and would happily live over here for an extended period of time in the future, in the moment I cannot wait to catch that flight back to America and see my family and close friends again (eight months is a long time when I've known most of these people fewer than three years).  So while there will be a lot that I will miss about living in Europe (rhubarb yogurt, frizzy water, an abundance of heavily utilized public parks, rampant pedestrianism, etc.) I am looking forward to reacquainting myself with some of the things I am starting to miss about America (free water in restaurants being a big one).

Overall, I think that's a list that more than makes up for the frequent bouts of cold rain and a few boring weekends spent alone watching the aforementioned rain from my whitely impersonal room in the tower. 

See you on the other side!

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