Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to succeed in a foreign country without missing home too much

I really like Germany. I've enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to live and work here for the past nine months; the idea that it will come to an end in three weeks is both hard to believe and sad. I am fortunate enough to live in a time when world travel is both possible and easy (if rather pricey and stressful sometimes), so I can say with some certainty that this will not be my last time in Germany. Despite that, I will miss my colleagues, my job, my friends, the language, döner kebabs, and the place I've called home.

That does not mean, however, that my time here has been all sunshine and roses.

The entire winter, for example, was cloudy. And grey.

Sometimes you really just want to have a normal conversation in English, without having to coach a reluctant student through unknown vocabulary. My colleagues are fluent and friendly, but there's something different about talking with a native speaker, especially one with whom you have inside jokes.

A couple things have allowed me to read and hear English on a regular basis. I highly recommend them to anyone who is traveling in a foreign country, has access to the internet, and just wants a taste of home.

Thing 1: The Daily Show. John Stewart is hilarious and the studio audience laughs along with me, unlike Germans. Germans aren't big into displays of humor.

Thing 2: The Colbert Report. Ditto. As an added bonus, you can watch both shows from anywhere in the world (or at least in Europe). For reasons unknown to me, they are not part of the "if you don't live in the country where this was produced, that's too bad for you, nya-nya-nya" rules that accompany pretty much every other thing on television.

Thing 3: My home library. In addition to its collection of real books - and I will be reveling in that collection soon enough - it has a number of electronic resources. I have downloaded audiobooks and ebooks all year with great joy and had a grand old time not working so hard to understand every single page. Don't ask me about reading children's books in German. No fun. I think many libraries have a partnership with a company called Overdrive, which provides these electronic resources. Check it out if you're so inclined.

Thing 4: Skype. Seriously, how did the world survive before video calling? I've had my bouts of homesickness both in Germany and while at college, and Skype has been a lifeline. I talk with family and friends regularly. It's nice to feel like I'm still somehow part of these important people's lives even though I'm across an ocean.

Thing 5: Chocolate. Sometimes you just need it. Chocolate is delicious.

So there you go. Along with actually liking the place where you live, making friends, and having a purpose for being wherever-you-are, this is my formula for living abroad. Feel free to add any other stress-relievers or tricks that you know.

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