It’s been hard to fully concentrate on making a proper blog post because my focus is going in every direction. I am thinking about what I must do tomorrow, this week, in these 11 months. This feeling has been with me since I first arrived in Germany, as I hauled about 60 or more pounds up and down elevators at the Frankfurt airport trying to find the train station.
My anxious, fluttering thoughts had some time to calm down for a brief moment. Upon finding the train station, I sat on my enormous luggage in triumph. I tried catching my breath while simultaneously gulping down mineral water (why do the Germans drink this to quench their thirst?! Not only does “gulping” create a burning sensation on my throat, but now I’m burping from the carbonation. How do they make it look so chic…). It suddenly hit me I had never bought a train ticket. This was a situation I had been planning on dealing with online during my flight…until I realized that Wi-Fi does not exist in the sky. So, reserving a spot on the train had been left to this very moment, out of breath and gulping carbonated water with 10 minutes to spare. A few minor Internet issues later and about a minute before departure, all was once again in order. Once on board, I found a free spot to sit down and stare out the window while we traveled south.
I arrived at the Tübingen Hauptbahnhof perfectly fine with luggage in tow. I got a taxi to the address where I would be staying all year, but when I arrived, I realized I had no way into the building or my room without a key. The student union building, where my key was meant to be picked up, was in the opposite direction and closing in about 20 minutes. I feared I might have to sleep in the streets that night. Many hours later, this glitch was somewhat sorted out, or at least enough that I was able to sleep in my very own room that night.
My advice to students coming to Tübingen, or travelers going anywhere really, is to always keep the complimentary comfort items your flight gives you! You never know when you might be without any sort of bed sheet on your first night in Germany and tossing around while the busy street below you roars continuously. A big shout out to Condor Airlines for the blanket, ear plugs, and an eye mask!
Throughout my next couple of days in Tübingen, I continued to create great little stresses for myself: getting on the wrong bus, arriving at offices outside of business hours, forever and always being some kind of lost. I would panic. My heart would beat fast and I would think about how my immense, self-created to-do list would have to be set back once again.
But when I boarded that wrong bus, I got off at a street that somewhat resembled what was on my poorly, hand drawn map. I simply asked a man if he recognized the street I had written down. I was actually just minutes by foot from my destination.
And when I arrived at the university offices too late to register for my student ID, I just kept walking down the street. I found the bank at which I had wanted to open an account. The banking process turned out to be pretty easy and I was still able to check one item off my mental to-do list for the day despite my earlier disappointment.
And every single time I have gotten lost (which is most days), I have continued to walk in any direction that seems familiar. It doesn’t matter if I don’t reach my destination as easily as I had hoped. I enjoy the new walking route and the sights I am able to discover.
It is important to go into your exchange year or study abroad program without expecting too much of yourself. You will be tired, confused and probably embarrassed by how little you know the language of your country, especially when speaking to natives. You can give yourself time. I have to repeat this advice to myself just about daily. Before arriving in Germany, I had already been planning what I wanted to do and in what order I should do it. I was trying to be in control of my experience here. But after being a week here, I can see that such thinking only sets me up to be in a panic. Exchange life will keep you busy enough without you intervening with an agenda. Sei locker und mach dich keine Sorgen! (Just relax and don’t worry!)