Believe it or not, I’ve been living abroad for exactly six months now. In one sense, it seems like just minutes ago that I was boarding a plane in Boston and asking myself what in the world I was doing; in another, however, it all seems lifetimes away.
The past year has brought more change than any other year of my life. At the beginning of 2014, I was still an undergraduate, spending my Christmas break at home and writing a thesis on Plato and Thomas Mann. I had just made the decision not to apply to American universities in favor of moving to Germany, and I was terrified that it was all going to come crashing down by the time I graduated.
Now, I’m living in Mainz in Rheinland-Pfalz, nearly halfway through the first semester of my masters’ degree. I haven’t seen my family for six months, and probably won’t for another nine. It’s been a season of growing into things–a new language, new people, a new educational system, a new way of seeing the world. It’s a humbling and exciting business, this.
And after four months here in Mainz, I don’t just feel like a visitor any more–I know where the most convenient food stores are, where not to walk at night, and which buses to take, and I give directions to tourists. I have a job, and some sort of social life, and go to classes and debate tragedy and existentialism in Hamlet along with everyone else. It’s good to be here.
It’s been a hard year in many ways, due to some things that I am too sick at heart about to put into writing. And at the same time it’s been one of the most beautiful of my life.
It’s strange–when I arrived in Germany all I wanted to do was blend in, to lose my American accent and reach the point where I could “pass” as German as fast as possible. Now, though, I’m not sure I want to do that anymore. When people say, “I thought you were from Austria!” or “I thought you just had a strong dialect!” it’s incredibly flattering (and also short-lived; it becomes apparent within a few minutes that I am *not* any sort of native speaker). At the same time, however, it’s strangely disturbing–do I really want to lose that part of my identity that publicly marks me as not German? If I can pass as 100% German, do I stop being American somehow?
This “living abroad” concept is as now as much a part of my existence as my feminism or my belief in the power of beauty–but when do I stop being someone who is living abroad? When is abroad not abroad any more?
I’ve thought about the title of my blog, and what will happen after I (most likely) return to America at the end of my masters’ degree, two years from now. I have a feeling that when I move back to the States the name “Emily Abroad” will still fit, because America will have become, just slightly, a sort of abroad for me. After you’ve invested so much in another place, after you’ve fallen in love with a language and a people and a country, can you ever really go back?
In the end, one of the greatest joys of my time here as been keeping this blog, and I’m grateful to all of you for reading and commenting and generally caring. I would love any feedback you might have–what would you like to hear about in the coming year? Any pressing queries about Germany, about living and studying in a foreign country? I would be happy to hear from you.
I’m excited for the new year. Gaudeamus and Excelsior!
Alles Gute und Liebe,