Well I made it. And let me be clear, I made it like… a week and a half about at this point. I’ve mostly been trying to get used to the whole “Being in Germany,” thing that I really didn’t take the time to keep up, or even make, a blog. So for all intents and purposes, it would appear that I have some making up to do. But fear not: I shall stride forward as though nothing was the matter.
To begin, my time here has been not easy. And not easy in the way that I didn’t really expect it to be difficult. As I arrived at Frankfurt Airport, it took me more time than I feel it should to navigate to the train station, and seeing as I was too proud (nervous/embarrassed) to ask for any help, it took me longer it probably needed to, to get there. From there, I managed to get my ticket to Erfurt and due to a reading error most likely due to sleep deprivation (at that point I’d probably been up for 20 hours), I didn’t realize the train that I needed to get on was literally in the station for 7 minutes and a minute away from leaving. I snuck on the train to avoid further embarrassment, and made my way to my destination. Staying awake on the train was difficult because I hadn’t slept in so long, but due to an ultimate fear of missing the stop for the Erfurt Central Station, I forced myself to stay up for the two and a half hour ride to Erfurt. And a last stitch effort to inspire confidence in my abilities, I even re-read Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” for the fiftieth time (let’s ignore how he calls travel a “Fool’s Paradise,” for now). I got off at my stop after being terrified for 15 minutes prior to my arrival that I had been right all along in not getting onto the train originally, only to find my tutor had not arrived at our designated meeting area. So I waited. I waited for about 45 minutes, and just as I was about to say, “Screw this,” and leave, there Marius arrives.
Marius is a nice guy. Nice enough, but we don’t sincerely connect. But he really does try. He took me to my dorm, and seeing as we hadn’t gotten the pillow, sheets, comforter, etc., that I had put down I was going to pay for, we went on this grand journey from there to Michael Friedrich, to Frau Linder (Who was taking the day off), to the head janitor in the basement who ultimately wasn’t there, to calling the janitor on the emergency number he provided and having him, quite begrudgingly, come to my room in about 45 minutes with the sheets and such.
The next day, Marius and I did a lot of other errands. The first major thing I’m surprised by is how God awful I didn’t realize I am at German. And that’s not to say I don’t think I’ll get better, and that’s not to say that I didn’t have a wonderful teacher, because I did (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). It’s just to say that I was a student of an American University’s class of German for merely a year, and that’s nowhere NEAR enough experience to actually understand what the Hell is going on around you. I mean seriously, even that only means I have been studying German on and off for about 8-9 months in a year, only 2 1/2 hours of every week, give or take another hour or two for homework. It’s just not enough to really be prepared for what you experience when you first arrive. When we got my phone that day, I remember we had to go back 1986315 times because first we couldn’t make any calls/text, then the internet wouldn’t turn on, then the internet that had been turned on wasn’t the internet for my phone itself, but the ability to just connect to the internet. And the last time we went, we did not manage to catch the sweet, young woman that we had the first million times we visited. Instead we got a very curt, angry, little man, that spoke a million miles a minute, and clearly had no desire to help us, or do anything at all, really. And in that moment it hit me: I’d be so completely and entirely lost if Marius wasn’t here holding my hand, getting all of this done for me.
Because I guess that’s what I feel like a lot of people studying in Germany sort of assume. We think that everyone speaks English, and even if you can’t speak German, it’s cool, because they’re dying to learn English. I’ve heard from other friends abroad that that’s the case in a lot of foreign countries, and one of the main reasons that they didn’t actually learn the language of the country they visited. Everyone just wanted to talk to them in English. But as the man threw my phone back at me and said something that I could tell meant, “Change the phone’s settings to German,” I immediately knew this man did not speak a word of English, or perhaps, more to the point, had no desire to help out some stupid American fix his phone troubles.
So that’s the main thing I realized. And you know, it was really terrifying before I came, and even more depressing once I got here and found myself unable to understand a good portion of what happened in the conversations going on around me. I was afraid I would never learn German or be decent at it, and I was overwhelmed at how ill-equipped I was. And I think that was the biggest thing that hurt. It really wasn’t that I couldn’t, because I had that idea going in that it would be difficult. It was just HOW difficult it really was going to be going forward.
But since then, things have looked up. I’m in the same Deutschkurs as my fellow American, Anneka, which is nice because we’re always there to fall back on each other when the anxiety of meeting lots of new people becomes too mentally exhausting. The Deutschkurs, while not particularly difficult, is challenging in that it’s really helping solidify foundational German language concepts that we have had to spend not as much time on in class back in the States, due to time constraints. For instance, I can honestly tell you right now that I FINALLY get when to use, “bei,” and when to use, “zu,” and when to use, “in,” or any other preposition of those annoyingly exception ridden two way prepositions. Our professor is certainly no Herr Rotter, aber Frau Völz is a nice professor and even if her stalwart refusal to speak English may be make it difficult to understand what’s going on at all times, which is all the more confusing since everyone in the class save one Italian is much better at English than they are at German, she still is imparting useful and important information. I plan to finish the class, and then take a few more German courses during the semester proper to make sure I’m consistently speaking German while I’m here.
Anyways, I shall close with this: I don’t really know how this is supposed to go. Like, I don’t know what I’m really supposed to talk about, how often I need to write (clearly, as evinced by this being my first post since I’ve been here), or how much I need to write. But I’ll do my best to write two more times this week to make up for the time I haven’t written while here, and I’ll do my best to write about something that I genuinely find interesting, or worthwhile to write about to make sure I’m not just writing down thought fragments and passing it off as an entry. It’s been difficult settling in. But I think I’ve finally made it to the comfortable stage. We’ll see.
Jordan William Reece