This morning, I woke up for the second time alone in Berlin. After two months of being with my family in closer-than-usual quarters, I feel alone whithout them, but I know I’m not alone and I don’t really feel lonely-not yet. The excitement and work of getting one’s life in order and doing things on one’s own prevents the feeling of loneliness to creep in. But it’s barely been 48 hours, so I’m not saying it won’t happen.
As you may know, I decided to move to Berlin to pursue a PhD. My personal history obviously inspired this decision. My mental and emotional constitution (as well as a lot of support!) allow me to follow through.
Traveling and transplanting is always a challenge. Some people are more equipped to deal with it than others- perhaps they’ve been traveling transcontinentally or internationally all their lives. Perhaps they were raised with more than one language and one culture. Perhaps they left home early and set out on their own way the moment the candles were blown out on the eighteenth birthday cake (or even before). I was lucky… And I’m reminded of this everytime get I tell people my situation. Yep, being raised with three cultures, two fluent languages and many chances (read: every summer) to travel, I can’t really take the credit for being culturally savvy and a globe trotter. But, since my first study-abroad two years ago and this step of mine now, I’ve been making the choices myself, and this makes me step out of my comfort zone. True, the way has been blazed by my childhood, and I have the incredible support of my parents and others, but I’m doing things on my own now.
I’m grateful that I haven’t been facing the same anxiety I did my first weeks my first time studying abroad. This time, I have experience at my back, and know how to deal with the stress and worry of figuring everything out better. The hardest part to figure out, really, is what needs to be taken care of. I’ve been having a lot of flashbacks to my first days in Hamburg. I can’t believe that on my first day I already had an appointment for my check-in, insurance clearance, bank account opening, and getting introduced to the university. Thank you, Hamburger DA Frauenclub! This time, though, I got to organize everything myself.
What I’ve done so far:
- moved into my home. I got very lucky with getting an apartment in Berlin. It’s really difficult these past few years. It’s a 1.5 room place with a kitchen and bathroom… Close to several landmarks and excellent transportation connections. It’s only possible because of my parents, and while I know they won’t let me forget how lucky I am, I know they’re glad to know I’m well taken care of.
- officially registered as a citizen of Berlin. Since I took care of the appointment so early, I could do this right away. Usually, there’s a month of waiting before one can register (Anmeldung). I even have my voter’s registration card already for the Berlin State elections in September, though I think one only immediately gets this as a German citizen (usually, one has to live in the area for more than three months to be allowed to vote). It’s cool to vote in Germany, but it’s no where as interesting as in the US this year!
- opened bank account. I had Sparkasse in Hamburg, and decided to go for it again in Berlin.
- signed up for Haftflichversicherung. I only found out after signing up that it’s not totally necessary, but it does put my mind a little at rest. I don’t know if we have this in the US- it’s a personal responsibility insurance. Basically, if I do anything stupid in a public or private space, and I get held responsible for it, my insurance covers it. For example, if I spill wine over someone’s white slacks during a fancy evening event in Berlin, I don’t have to pay all or any of the cost. It may sound silly and I hope I never have to use it, but I also hope it’s worth it (if I ever do have to use it).
- appointments for taking care of paperwork to be registered at the university… There’s so much, and the Frauenclub took care of this for me in Hamburg as well. I have three appointments for this already, and will probably have to make more after meeting with the individuals.
To be done:
- Health insurance. I have an appointment today to find out about my status as student, since they have different relationships with insurance companies. Then, I have to figure out the best insurance for my income (currently: 0€). In the meantime, I’m trying to stay healthy and safe!
- Get money on my German bank account. This is a two part process- one part is easier, one harder. First, I have to transfer most of my savings. I expect to need 1000 Euro for this first month of taking care of business. Second: get a job. It’s scary to be spending my savings without making any money- job hunting is the main task of the month and it’s good to be in the country, since Germans prefer it that way.
- Get a job, this point is so important, it gets its own bullet. Until I can reaply for scholarships to support my PhD work, I need other means of support. The goal is to be self-sufficient by the end of the year (right, Papa?).
- Figure out water and electricity bills. It’s the first time I’m doing this, in the US or Germany, so this is one “grown-up” experience of a few for me.
- Figure out Internet. I never realized how expensive being able to surf and stream seemingly endlessly was until I started comparing prices. People are telling me it’s less expensive than in the US, but when I don’t know what my next source of income is (see above), any per month expense is too much. Still, I want to be able to regularly read and write posts, right?
- Officially register for the university. I’m a bit anxious about this, since there are so many requirements (list of required documents is 10+ items long). I’ll admit things may still go wrong, which is why a JOB is also so important. I definitely, most definitely want to avoid the FaceTime with my parents where I have to say I’m in trouble and need help… But I admit that I know when to ask.
I don’t think I have to be so worried. While this all is a challenge, challenges are exciting and I always have at the back of my mind that I’m not the first person to work on independence. In fact, I’m older than many who have succeeded and I have experiences and the maturity to feel well enough prepared. This is not to say that moments of being overwhelmed are banished… I have snippets of this throughout the past few days.
But I also have snippets of pure happiness. I’m grateful to be in Berlin, Germany. I’m grateful to be able to pursue a PhD in comparative literature. I’m grateful to be able to speak German every day and shop for German foods and take advantage of the cultural attractions. I’m grateful for my family, immediate and extended, who support me from both sides of the Atlantic. I’m grateful for my friend network that I started building in Hamburg and hope to continue building. I’m grateful for invitations to multiple events before the end of the year. I’m grateful for the thriving Berlin job market…
Yes. I have a lot to be grateful for and I’m arming myself with these springs to jump over the hurdles in my way. Now, where’s my CV?
Thanks for reading through the start of my big, new adventure! Have you, or did you ever want to, studied/y abroad? From where to where? If you’re a reader looking for tips on how to get started, let me know! I love to offer lots of unsolicited advice. 🙂