In 2012 I met Thomas and a relationship started – one with another person, another culture, another country, another continent. The two following years brought a lot of movement, externally and internally. We visited each other, learned, loved, fought, met friends, explored cities, bars, cooking, tv shows. Many pictures were taken, many moments shared.
In the summer of 2013 — after 11 semesters — I finished my university education with the “ersten Staatsexamen” (first state exams, compares to a masters degree). A big hurdle that brought a lot of hard work and many moments of doubt and despair but I made it and what an accomplishment that was. Afterwards it was time for a break and I went to Florida for three months. I would have loved to make use of the time there and looked into interning at schools but unfortunately the USA are very cautious with what they allow foreigners to do and how much they have to pay for it (visa stuff, büäh). So instead I had a lot of freetime and tried to make it worth while with reading, drawing, watching shows, being a good house wife, walking around campus, talking to strangers, hanging out with flatmates, doing guest lectures. Thomas’ stepmom — Janet — taught German and French in a top notch school (the kids do an international baccalaureus) and seemed to have a radar for any European person that comes to live in Florida. That’s how I met Alice, a French woman, who was teaching French and German at the University of South Florida. Imagine US Americans speaking German with a French accent. Three times I visited her class and did presentations on Germany, talking about general facts, history (they asked), food and pop culture. I met curious and open minded people and had a great time.
Janet invited me again (first time 2012) to come to her school and do a guest lecture as well. And as well it was a very special experience. I met very smart and curious children and teenagers, eager to learn and pretty good at German. I spent the day at the school as Janet was my ride and so I spontaneously visited a class for European history. I thought I would sit in the back and get to experience the class but the teacher had other ideas. “You are more interesting than what they would ever hear from me. The stage is yours, you have the whole lesson.” — Um, ok — That’s a surprise, but sure, why not. I whipped out one of the presentations I did at the university and did another round with that. I didn’t mind one boy falling asleep as I knew some of those kids were coming from really far away and getting up really early. Maybe part of it was also my lack of entertainment qualities at the time ^^.
In between I dealt with applications for my upcoming “Referendariat” (a 1 1/2 year payed internship to become a fully qualified teacher) and preparing to move to a whole new city. I had the choice between three and chose Potsdam — a city next to Berlin — 2 hours south of my hometown.
On December 31st I boarded a plane back to Germany and spent New Years Eve in the air. Three days later I drove the two hours to Potsdam to look at a room in a shared appartment. Four weeks later I moved in. And started a whole new chapter.
New city, new place, new job, new everything. The Ref was a mix of being at a school — teaching a few hours and observing — and attending seminars where we got some theoretical and methodical input, also a save space to share, connect and support each other. For each of the two of our subjects we got a mentor at our school that was accompanying us in those first steps in the life of a teacher.
The ref is known to be hardcore, pushing you to your limits and beyond — with crazy workloads and being subjected to critizism at any given point, by different people, whose ability to do so are often questionable.
While many struggle with the amount of work, my struggles were slightly different. The school that I had gotten was a place of bleakness and non desire. No one wanted to be there — not the students, not the teachers. While there were certainly many that did an amazing job with a lot of heart, they couldn’t quite change the underlying atmosphere. And me . . . I didn’t like being there either. If my mind was still in denial — doing things because that’s what you do — my body was already screeming at me. I thought I had developed a food intolerance before I realized I had IBS. At times I couldn’t take deep breaths and I generally had just no energy. While others were doing night shifts, going on four hours of sleep, I had difficulties forcing myself to work until 6pm. With this, being in a new city, knowing few and the boyfriend on the other side of the ocean I hit rock bottom in the winter of 2014/2015. I don’t like being misserable so I pulled myself back out.
I stripped away all the guilt in my life — guilt for eating too much chocolate, smoking too much weed, taking too many baths. I started seeking nature, hiking for hours, lying in the grass, reading outside. I bought a new bike and went exploring. Spring came and with the warmth everything got easier. Also the ref was coming to an end. With a detailed schedule planning three weeks ahead, I managed the final hurdles — showing two meticulously planned lessons and a final 20 page paper.
Finally — after 20 years of education — I was done, I was free, no more being a subject to being graded, evaluated and measured.
After one and a half years, I finished the ref in the summer of 2015 with good grades and in good health. During this timen Thomas and me visited each other back and forth. It certainly was a busy time of my life. Before the school year ended, I had a lot of space to teach what I wanted, a lot of freetime and I finally felt like I arrived in this city, having made good friends.
In the summer of that year — 2015 — Thomas was doing an internship in California and it was time for me to explore the other side of the coast of the USA.
In between worlds