It Wasn’t Beautiful Until it Felt Like Home

Sarah Keizer
German and Tourism & Travel
Bonn University, Germany
Spring Semester 2017

I had seen all the pictures before, of the great beautiful canary yellow Hauptgebäude, of the Rhine River and the great Cathedral of Cologne, and wondered when it would be my turn to witness it myself, to stand where history stood. When I arrived to Bonn, I was in what the Study Abroad Office called “The Honeymoon Stage”, aka where everything is glamorous and perfect and why didn’t I come sooner?

It didn’t last very long, not even a day. The common German phrases I prepared in my head vanished as soon as I stepped off the plane, we were rushed into German bureaucracy as we arrived to the international office, and shipped off to my dorm in the middle of who knows where (I should have paid better attention). I was in a different world where there was limited time to take it all in slowly, and the very thought that I had a home in America was bizarre to me. There is no way to prepare for culture shock, I learned. Like a common cold, you just have to let it run it’s course.

It wasn’t until my first class that I began to feel at ease. Meeting with the other international students–nervous people who were going through the same serpentine of emotions that I was–nearly killed my despondency. We figured out where to get the cheapest groceries, what bus would get us to class the quickest, and how many kilograms of Haribo we could get for five euros. Also, decorating your dorm room is a surprisingly great way to make yourself feel at home, I found, especially when you can buy begonias for a euro.

I realized that my problem was that I was separating Bonn and Kalamazoo in my mind, as if they were actually different worlds. As if they couldn’t be connected in any way, and only one could exist. I wish I could’ve gone back a week ago and told myself that I am the connection to both places, that both can be home to me if I make it so. But, cheesy enough as it sounds, I couldn’t make Bonn my home without a family to help me through the changes.

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