In a week I'll be touching down in Houston for the summer. It'll be the longest stretch of time I've spent at home in about a year and half. It will also mark the end of my first year in Germany. Most of you who read this probably already know that I'm not one to spend a lot of time on these entries (except on rare occasions where it's necessary). Seeing as I'm spending at least another term here I don't feel like giving a big summation just yet but I do think that some amount of reflection is in order.
I think my expectations for this year were maybe more realistic seeing as I'd already spent time in Berlin. But really after spending a year in NRW I can honestly say there is no comparison. Berlin was a wonderful, truly life changing experience, however there really is no comparison. My time in Berlin hardly counted as time in Germany, I barely associated with German people and the only measurable improvement in my German was that I could cram words together faster than most people in my seminars. A year living in Germany and not actually being apart of an exchange program has been a much more enriching experience. Yes most of my friends were Brits(with a couple of Americans thrown in) but they were amazing people all the same. And yes I met most of my German friends at a bar, but it was a bar filled with people who I would get along with anyway so I don't see why it matters. I can say with some certainty that I made an impact on the lives of some people here. I know that when I come back next September I'll have people to hang out with and a good idea of what will be expected from me at work.
Working at the RvW Berufskolleg was a great experience. I feel like the working atmosphere was mostly relaxed and genuinely enjoyable. The students were at all different levels, but I hope that in some small way I was able to make a difference in their English. At the very least I stopped hearing "My English is not the yellow from the egg," as often as I had at the beginning of the year. I grew attached to a couple of classes, and saying goodbye is going to be hard. I've already had a breakfast in my honor in one class, not one but two cookbooks gifted to me and of course a collection of Schlager hits, which will be using to annoy the rest of you for years to come.
Tomorrow I'm going to the Abiball, which is like their prom. It's funny because I didn't even go to my own prom, mostly because I didn't see the point. This time however not only was I invited, I was not really given a choice. I'm not trying to be arrogant and say that I'm the best TA that my school has ever had, but it is nice to feel appreciated.
As to personal growth, I mean beyond the cliched self-discovery that Americans always feel when they go abroad, I think I've actually become a more patient and understanding person. There were plenty of times here when I felt that I was going to lose it, but I was able to work things out civilly and ultimately positively. I think the most important thing I've learned about myself though is how I can function without a ridiculous amount of stress in my life. I've learned that I'm not actually as cynical and bitter as I thought I was. Christmas for example actually brought out a child like joy that I can't remember really ever having before. Sitting around a table in the kitchen watching a 4(5?) year old squirm around waiting for the Christkind made me realize that I'd been a Grinch about Christmas all these years. I'm not saying that I like American Christmas (I still hate it), but Christmas in general doesn't piss me off anymore.
And for those of you worried that 9 months abroad has robbed me of my Americanness, let me assure you that that is not the case. Sure I'm different, but I'm still louder and more opinionated than most of you. I miss America dearly and it's going to be great to be back, even if only for a little bit. I look forward to sitting out in the Biergarten at the Gingerman, or catching a ballgame at Minutemaid (I know that it probably isn't worth it anymore) and hell getting some tacos at Taco C.
I know I'm not much for blogging (or putting up pictures) but I hope that those of you who stuck it out in between the unacceptably long breaks in writing did enjoy reading what little there was. I don't know what form this project will take next year. I'm thinking I need to let my pictures do the talking.
In any case, this has been a hell of a year and I look forward to what the next one will bring.
Bis später (I know that's really cliched, but whatever)