Bring on the Bling

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ich gehe nach Deutschland!!

Kiel, Germany
This past Friday, I received an email from the University of Utah Learning Abroad Office, notifying me that I had been accepted into the German program. I literally started screaming as soon as I saw it! I had been back and forth for months trying to decide if I should apply, weighing pros and cons, trying to figure things out. I can't believe it's finally happening. I posted on Facebook that I was going, and decided that I should probably explain a little bit about this life-changing opportunity...

Last year, I decided to go back to school to get a TESOL certificate, which would allow me to apply for ESL jobs internationally. One of the requirements at the U is to take a foreign language that we have no experience with. The purpose is to put us in the same situation our future students will be in learning English the first time. With my work schedule and other classes taking precedent, I realized my language class would have to be at night. The only classes that I could take were Arabic, Portuguese, or German. The only time available was M/W from 6-8pm. I was devastated. I had been singing with the Salt Lake Symphonic Choir since I moved to Utah, and would now have to leave the choir since they rehearse on Wednesday evenings. At first, I was against it. I loved the choir, the music, singing, my director, and being a part of something consistent. Plus, I had responsibilities in the choir. I spent many nights driving my friends crazy as I considered the class. Finally, I rationalized with myself and said, "Hey, it's only for one semester. This class isn't going to change my life." Boy, was I wrong!

Why did I sign up for German? 
1. Portuguese is WAAAAAAY too close to Spanish and I know it would give me problems...the same way French did.
2. I don't know any Arabic speakers that live in Utah that could help me practice.
3. I had access to at least 2 native Germans and a handful of RMs from Germany at work that could help.
4. My family comes from Germany.

I took German 1010 last semester and just fell in love with it. I loved most of the people in my class and just ADORED my teacher. Plus, she's a PhD student in Linguistics, so we had that in common. I worked really hard and earned an A in the class. As a part of our grade in any language course, we have to do "communities," where we interact with native speakers. I had some fun adventures diving in headfirst:
Swiss Days in Heber w/Kasia...quite disappointing!
Saving grace: Kerry Christensen playing his accordion!

3rd Oktoberfest...this one was in Snowbird with Cameron
Bought ourselves some Steins! Saw Kerry again! Love him!
Hanging out with a Reindeer at Christkindlmarkt
Towards the end of the semester, our professor's son came and talked to us about the study abroad program in Kiel. He had gone through the program a few years before and extended his stay because he loved it. I listened politely, but didn't think too much of it. I'm almost 30 and study abroad wasn't on my radar. Well, the semester ended and I didn't have any plans for taking the next semester: I thought I was going back to choir. That's what I planned, that's what I wanted...or so I thought.

During Christmas break/vacation, I did a lot of thinking. I also hashed it out pretty well with my coworker, and came to the conclusion that I really did love the language and should keep going. I love taking language classes and this was no exception. I signed up for 1020. And then cried. I really missed singing in choir. Church choirs are great, but I usually lead them and have too many other things going on. I missed just being a part of one. Then, the most amazing thing happened: I realized that I could join the German choir, Harmonie! I got so excited about being able to sing again! I learned that the choir sings all German songs, but the rehearsals are in English (thank goodness). 
First day with Harmonie!
Hilary, Kim, Jim, me
Now that I was enrolled in a second semester, the idea of going to Kiel to study was constantly on my mind...and my professor helped by mentioning it a lot. I found myself suddenly immersed in German: I was in a German choir, I started to attend a German LDS Sacrament meeting, I mainly listen to German pop music, I am learning German recipes, and even started a pen pal with a friend-of-a-friend in Leipzig. What was happening?? Every day, I talked about it to my coworkers and would talk about why I shouldn't go to Kiel. They would respond with the whole "you can make money later" and "it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." I was still worried. My family was getting ready to move to Vegas, my sister and her family had just moved to Provo, and I seemed to be the stable one, oddly enough. I just couldn't see how it would be a possibility to leave them. Plus, I hadn't told my family that I was looking into this at the time. I didn't want to have to answer a bunch of questions that I didn't know the answer to. 

I don't remember what happened or what triggered my decision. I had been praying for weeks about whether or not to go. Suddenly, I found myself saying that I was going to apply. At first, I didn't want to tell my professor because I knew she would be super excited and I don't like to get my hopes up. Well, one of my classmates let it slip and, of course, she heard and we started talking about it. She suggested emailing her son and asking him more detailed questions about daily schedules, fun weekend excursions, etc. I thanked her, but decided that I would wait until I heard if I was accepted. 

At this point, I decided that I should let my parents know that I was applying. I honestly didn't know how they would react. I was glad that they were excited. Mom wants to come meet me in Germany and do some family history in Suhl. SURE!! I told her I still had to finish the application. The application process was interesting. I had to write a few essays and applied for a few scholarships. One of the scholarship applications required a letter of recommendation from my professor. I asked her to write one and she sent me a copy. I cried as I read it...she was so sweet and made me sound awesome on paper! And yes, a copy of it is posted on my fridge.I'm still waiting to see if I will be awarded any scholarships. Regardless, I'm going to Germany! I will be selling my car to help pay for it (yikes), but it's worth it in my mind. The program starts July 4 and goes through mid-August. I will be in class Monday-Thursday at the Christian-Albrechts-Universit├Ąt zu Kiel. Our classes will be taught by a native of Kiel, but the students will be just from the U. I will be doing a "home-stay," so I will be living with a family instead of the dorms. We have a few excursions built into the program, with a weekend in Berlin, and day trips to close cities, such as Hamburg. Obviously with weekends off, I will be traveling: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are really close. Plus, we will be getting a bus pass with the program, so I'll hopefully get to run around a bit! Students can learn to sail and row on the rivers and fjords that surround Kiel, which is super exciting! 

So many things to think about and get in order! I can't wait!! Looks like I should email my professor's son and get the skinny...WOOHOO!!

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