Four years ago this weekend, I arrived in Germany. It was not easy to leave New York and all my friends behind, or to move even further away from my family in the Pacific Northwest. But I was ready for a new adventure, and knew it was time for the next phase in my life to begin.
So much has changed since my arrival… After my fantastic research fellowship came to an end, I began my PhD in Bremen. We moved from Hamburg to Berlin. I became comfortable with German life and (relatively) fluent in the language. But so much has also stayed the same.* Mein Schatz has been a supportive constant, and the very reason why I came to Germany in the first place.
In some ways it’s hard to believe that four years have passed. On the other hand, living here feels so natural and comfortable now, that it’s no wonder time is flying by. I don’t need to struggle any longer to understand what’s going on around me, linguistically or culturally. Some days I don’t even notice I’m living in a foreign country anymore. And now that we’ve settled in Berlin, a diverse and energetic city that’s beginning to rival my affections for New York, I feel more at home than ever. For that, I am so thankful.
Every once in awhile, though, I feel like I’m walking around with the word Ausländer (foreigner) tattooed to my forehead. I kind of imagine it will always be that way, but I don’t really mind. Like Rebecca of The Field Office so eloquently stated in her recent post commemorating her four years in Berlin, being an outsider is a “state that brings with it equal parts isolation and freedom.”
I strongly believe that the freedom of it should be put to good use, and that is my promise to myself for the coming year. After working so hard to fit myself into German society — pretty successfully too, I think — I want to take some time to recognize and appreciate the otherness that I have to offer.
I am deeply grateful for these last four years of my life, and so hopeful for what’s to come.
* That exact week in 2008, by the way, football fever was also sweeping the country as Germany played — and lost (boo!) — against Spain in the Euro Cup finals.