The Strangeness Of Coming Home

Kelsey Ennis
Major: History and German
Bonn University, Spring 2017

Being back in the USA, I am not out of place, no one thinks that I’m not American, and everyone’s first inclination is to speak English with me. It’s easy, comfortable, relaxed, and a little boring. It’s about two weeks now that I’ve been back in Michigan since spending five months abroad; two weeks since spending most of my days speaking German instead of English,  two weeks since I’ve seen all my friends from overseas. It is strange to be back, my home hasn’t really changed aside from roads being torn up downtown and the mall being a bit emptier than before. There’s no more gelato stands for me nor fresh baked chocolate buns from a bakery. I still insist on saying “Prost” when drinking with friends- complete with the most important eye contact, and drink coffee readily in the afternoon. There is one thing that I will miss aside from food and friends that happened all over during my time in Europe: the assumptions and guesses on where I was from. The first week I was in Germany, I got talking to a couple walking their dog along the Rhine. A bit into the conversation they asked and answered, “Where do you come from, Holland?” I corrected them but it took a bit to convince them that I was not European at least. I got a lot of similar responses  from talking with strangers and even started keeping notes on where they thought I was from: Russia (other German students of my professor), Germany, Belgium (a guy asked me where the bank was when we were there and confessed that he thought I was native), Romania (I don’t see it…), the part of Munich around Neuschwanstein (from a group of ladies on a bus), Italy (I was at an international night at the university and was asked if I would prefer to speak German or Italian) and Sweden (from a guy running a convenience store in Bonn.) Between my friends I talked with there, no one had quite the varied guesses that I had. My family, as I’ve mentioned before, is from Germany on my Mom’s side, and Norwegian on my Dad’s side, so a lot of the guesses made sense. I think the reason that I got so many guesses was that I was comfortable with where I was, I felt at home there, in that culture.  Coming back to the US then, to everything being the same, to everyone speaking the same language that I had grown up with, is comfortable but not as challenging day to day, and so in that respect it is a little bit boring. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy though; I’ve had a lot to do here in terms of preparing for school, a wedding, and moving, so I have not been left idle.

This is the last blog from me, now that I am back in the States from Germany. I sincerely hope that the few snippets of my life in Germany through this blog have been entertaining and educational. I had the time of my life in Bonn and it was unlike anything I could have hoped for. The people, the challenges of a different language and culture, the triumph of feeling at home there, all made it a trip and experience that I will not soon forget. If I had not gone, I would not have ended up feeling as much at ease with the language as I do now, I never would have fully understood the emotion and logic that goes behind it. I do miss Germany, and I will go back, but in the meantime; why don’t you go in my stead?

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