Was kommt als Nächstes?
A few weeks have passed since I landed back in the U.S. with a powerful jet lag numbing my mind. Looking back on my summer abroad is like remembering a vivid dream–except I have photos, sketches, journal entries, and friends to prove it.
I know I’ve already said this, but having the opportunity to meet so many people from all over the world was the highlight of my time abroad. I’m proud of the ways I pushed myself to meet these new friends. Not everyone is pictured up above, but I’m thinking of them. I deeply appreciate the kindness of strangers and our shared ambition to connect through a foreign language. I do have some regrets, though. I spent so much time alone my first 2-3 weeks compared to the rest of my stay. I could have tried to speak more, to explore or travel more. But I find that I don’t linger so much on my regrets as I have in the past. Clicking through my folders of photos reminds me of what I accomplished. I learned more German, and I kept up my sketching and blogging. I know more clearly now the areas I need improve in myself. I worked hard and I went to Europe on my own.
For any student readers planning to do the same:
- Get Whatsapp. I had not set up Whatsapp before I landed in Germany, and it was a big mistake. EVERYONE communicates through Whatsapp–international students, host parents, locals, everyone. I got by with Wifi and Facebook Messenger, but you have to find free hotspots for it to be of much use.
- Cheap food. If you’re on a tight budget like I was, you’ll want to explore your area and find the restaurants and stores that have a balance of cheap, good, and filling foods. (If you’re in Germany, find the best Döner places). Buying snack foods like granola bars at supermarkets helped me get through classes.
- Expect unexpected expenses. Always budget more money that you think you’ll need–especially for things like food, transportation, textbooks, etc.
- Give yourself time to rest. If you run yourself down doing too many things, you’ll be too tired to properly enjoy everything. I took one day off a week. Depending on the length of your stay, you might need a couple days or just one quiet evening to relax.
- Write everything down. Everyone says this because it’s so important. Even if you’re too exhausted to elaborate several days worth of activities, a simple bullet point list of where you were and who you were with will bring up more memories than a blank page.
Never complain. Be respectful. Eat new foods. Take it all in.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am volunteering to spend time with and help international students this coming school year. It’s so important to make the most of your time when you’re abroad. I want to help new students avoid those lonely first weeks. I want to be a part of the international atmosphere here. I’m excited to jump back in.
Sketching: July 29-August 10
These are my favorite pages out of the sketches I collected during my entire trip. It was all very quick and on-the-go, but they came together nicely. Landing in England was a shock. Who knew you could get used to the intense concentration needed to listen to, translate, and speak another language. Being able to babble in English without thinking felt so strange at first. The few days I had in London were such a crazy blur. I think my page from July 30th captures it well. If you are ever in Soho in London, do yourself a favor go to the Korean BBQ restaurant KOBA. It took us some wandering around on foot before we found it tucked away on Rathbone Street. It’s a bit pricey, but it was the best money I have ever spent on food.
My final sketches from my time abroad. I spent a week with my friend Ines at her home in Dover. On the way home I got to spend a night traveling to and sleeping at an airport. I luckily had window seats the entire journey home. (Don’t get me started on aisle seats).