the long road to routine

In dealing with homesickness, I’ve been thinking about when I am going home a lot.  And not just going home for Christmas.  My thoughts keep skipping over Christmas and the summer semester to next August or September, when I board the plane to come back to the USA.  Maybe I’m creating unrealistic expectations of what going home will be like, but in times of frustration with the language, the student visa paperwork, and other things, I can’t help but dream a bit.

Before I left for Germany, quite a few people told me not to discount the possibility of me falling in love with German culture and life and wanting to stay here.  And to be fair, I can’t make that decision yet.  Maybe I will come to love living in Germany over the next year and will want to stay another year or even become a citizen.  Right now, though, I miss my family and close friends in the USA far too much, and there are certain positive aspects of American culture that I appreciate much more now that I’m away.  I don’t think I’ll mind going home at all, nice as Germany may be.

I am getting slightly less stressed now that I’m slowly but surely making progress on getting through the administrative stuff that I have to do to study here.  The roller coaster of homesickness isn’t as crazy as it was last week, and more often than not I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to make it through the year.

But to stay here beyond the year, I would really have to love the lifestyle.  The lifestyle I lived in America has both pros and cons, and the lifestyle I’ll live here will have those as well.  As I get more used to living in Germany and living in a city, I’ll discover lots of cool new things.  I’ll probably post lots of pictures I take during study breaks and on weekends, and I’ll probably have lots of new stories to tell from all the experiences I’ll have here.  Fun fun fun!

But going anywhere new has that effect, once you get comfortable enough in your new setting to explore.  I got comfortable enough living in Wilmington this summer to start waking up super early to go photograph beach sunrises.  And to go seek out some local treasures.  But after a while of living anywhere, you are used to the things you like about the place and the things you dislike.  You enjoy living with the first and learn to live with the second.  Sure, you can still have fun.  But it gets harder and harder to find new things about where you live that make life extra-exciting.

Germany will be extra-exciting once I get used to the language and the culture.  But I don’t know whether being here for a year is enough time to finish exploring all there is to see and do here.  What I’m trying to get at, though, is this:  eventually, any place you live becomes old hat.  Maybe not boring, but you’re used to it.  If you really love your lifestyle where you live even after you have found all the local treasures and cool things to see and after you have tried all that you are interested in trying there, then you have a good reason to stay.  There may be other places you would love just as much, but it is hard to see any new location rationally until the excitement is replaced by routine.

So I’m not sure I’ll be here long enough to reach the point of knowing all there is to know about life in Darmstadt or not.  But by the end of my year here, I’ll be able to more accurately compare studying and living in Darmstadt with living in the places I’ve lived in in America.  For the time being, I’m operating under the assumption that I am here for one year.  Until that year is up, I will learn what I can.  I can’t be sure about much else at this point.

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