Languages, Literatures, & Cultures
Germany. Good Time
As the train rumbled to a standstill somewhere outside of Mainz, I awoke from a deep slumber to find myself feeling out of place and somewhat off balance. On this, my fourth time in Germany on a study abroad program, the same paranoid questions and concerns were making themselves heard again. Why was I here? As with every other trip abroad, these concerns were eradicated within the first week of my stay. I was there because I love the German country, people and language. As the train pulled into theHauptbahnhof in Bonn, there grew in my stomach a nervous tickle; I was home.
When I reached the front door of what would be my new house, a man came to the door. His name was Werner and he would be playing the role of dad for the next seven months. As time passed, I grew to be more and more a part of the family. I had my assigned chores, I listened to the gossip and tried to help as best I could with ‘issues.’
One of the most enriching aspects of the time spent is that I was totally cut off from the life that I knew. I had to look inside and find out who I was, independent of the defining influences of friends and family. There was a lot of soul searching involved and eventually I was able to present a Me that I could call my own. This, on the brink of the most significant life change to date, leaving college and entering real life, was crucial to my development into the person I am today. It has also greatly contributed to my academic, social and intellectual success. It was shortly after the conclusion of this first session that I reached enlightenment, after a fashion. I was sitting in a bar listening to a friend of mine. When he finished speaking, my response came with such ease and comfort that I was surprised. My companion was also quite surprised and it showed on his face. I had put together what Iwould call my first real German sentence. This is when it dawned on me that I could speak another language beside my native English. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. All of my efforts and experiences now took on the form of an intimate relationship with a foreign culture.
I fit in quickly at the University of Cologne and made many friends in my classes. With the different format of classes and exams, I did not do as well as I had expected. Inretrospect, though, I gained important experience at the University that will effect all of my uture dealings with the German people in both private and professional arenas.
As I began working on my internship on a full time basis, my disappointment about my University grades quickly faded. I was initially only supposed to work for three to four days in a week, but the work became exciting and so fulfilling that I started feeling driven to work more and longer days. My boss had trouble coming up with enough work to keep me busy, and exposure to new and interesting facets of the ‘real world’ became a daily occurrence. This was the most crucial part of the process in terms of character building. I realized that I really was interested in doing the things that I had planned for my future. I wanted to be involved on the people side of business, and I wanted to work with Germany in some way. While boarding the plane to come home, I knew that when I got home I would have to answer numerous questions and tell numerous stories about my experience, but Iknew that there was no way I would be able to find the words any time soon. A friend had presented me with a T-shirt that summed up the experience simply and comprehensively. On the shirt was written: Germany. Good Time. As I disembarked from the plane, and entered Kennedy Airport, it dawned on me that I had not had a long chain of great experiences, but rather the single best time of mylife.
Chris Quigley, ’00