I Moved to Germany: 4 Month Update

mental health, Relationships / Dating, travel, Uncategorized

Last time I moved to Germany to live with my boyfriend was in December of 2016. It was the first time I had ever actually been outside of an airport in Germany and the first time I decided to live with a boyfriend. Back then, I’d just finished taking German 101 and tasted the raw hardship of spending several months apart in a “long distance relationship.” We agreed sometime before that I would come and visit him in December and I would plan on completing a semester of my Master’s program online to stay as long as possible. My plan worked, and I was able to live with him from December 2016 until May 2017. While it was an incredible experience and crucial foundation to our relationship, this time dug deep into my greatest fears and showed me the privileges I had when living in California. For someone who already has anxiety and is somewhat of an introvert, the stress of adjusting to a new culture, language, and customs made it difficult- to say the least.

xmas
My first Christmas in Germany – December 2016

Even so, I like to think that my struggles during this time are what propelled me to finally make the voyage again two years later (October 2018). I saved up what I could, parted ways with my jobs, sold my car, packed my bags (and my cat), and moved out of my mom’s California home and into our apartment here in Germany. Some people called me crazy, others called me brave, but in the end, it was the overwhelming support of my close family that gave me the courage I needed. For most Latinas with immigrant parents, leaving home is almost unheard of. I am fortunate to have an incredibly open-minded mother and an encouraging father who helped me see the vastness of life and ask, “Why not now?”

1

Many of us millennials in our 20’s are struggling to fit the mold of our parents as we transition into a time when we’re supposed to be “adulting.” Ironically, this is really just like any other phase of our lives- a time of self-discovery and learning from our mistakes. We’re notorious for being the generation that somehow ruins everything, doesn’t work hard enough, and wants everything- right away. Can you blame us for feeling a little bit overwhelmed by society’s expectations? I find myself constantly wondering whether the next step I take will be the one that finally makes people take me seriously, and quite frankly I got tired of trying to please everyone. Feeling a strong disconnect with my hometown and knowing I had the freedom to change my situation, I closed my eyes, jumped headfirst into the next chapter, and stopped looking back.

Funnily enough, I faced (and continue facing) some of the same struggles again when I moved to Germany. When I arrived I had trouble figuring out my visa, faced several moments of culture shock, and once again had to overcome the language barrier. Four months later: I’m still struggling to find a secure job, create a solid social circle, and feel confident enough to attempt a full German conversation. But as an avid traveler who spent time studying abroad and found her second home in Australia, I can safely say that “home” isn’t always where you think it is. No matter how secure or comfortable you feel at home right now or how determined you are to stay in the same place- with time comes change and one day you might find yourself feeling unfamiliar with your own home. Humans are built to change with our surroundings, and my experiences prove just how adaptable we are.

2

One of the biggest fears I had before coming to Germany was losing my entire social circle and having to build a new one from scratch in a new city. But if there’s anything I learned from being in a long distance relationship for 2 years, it’s that relationships aren’t dictated by the miles between each other. It’s easier now more than ever to maintain friendships even from abroad because of the internet, social media, and other apps that keep us all connected. Throughout my travels (especially when I traveled alone) I learned that strangers can actually be incredibly helpful and friendly. In fact, they might even end up being one of your closest friends. Besides, what’s better than having friends to visit when you decide to go abroad again?

I’m proud to have a global network of friends now because I forced myself to talk to the people next to me during my trips (sometimes out of nervousness, other times out of desperation for finding friends). It certainly can feel embarrassing, pathetic, or even stupid when you’re the odd one out in another country. But think of how you would act when meeting a foreigner in your hometown- probably excited to show them around and get to know what they think of your country! Keeping this in mind, I’ve tried to reach out to other travelers as a fellow newbie in this city by attending Facebook events and striking up conversations with Germans around me. I can’t say it’s easy or always fun, but it is an experience that has helped me grow and feel more comfortable with living in my boyfriend’s home country.

3

The last four months gave me perseverance, strength, and the courage to keep telling my story so that others may hopefully be brave enough to travel, live abroad, or simply expand their horizons. I am so thankful to have “closed the distance” on my international long distance relationship- I get to see my partner every day, to experience his culture firsthand, and to work on myself in the process. Whether you’re heading on a trip soon or waiting for the right time, I would love to hear about your experiences with travel! Feel free to comment below with some of your adventures as well as any thoughts you had on today’s blog post. Thanks for reading!

What My Long Distance Relationship Taught Me

mental health, Relationships / Dating, social media, Thoughts, travel

Long. Distance. Throw those words together, add in the relationship aspect, and you’ve got a pretty difficult recipe ahead of you. For some most people I’ve talked to, they draw the line at even a few days apart from their partner. Yet after two years of doing long distance, I still haven’t thrown in the towel. Of course, no matter how long or how short the distance, there’s no easy way around the obstacles that come with this kind of relationship. So why invest in a long distance relationship at all?

For starters, one of the biggest lessons I learned from long distance was the true meaning of commitment. This may sound like a no-brainer, but I’m talking about commitment not only to your relationship but also to yourself. This includes making sure you stick to a routine that distracts you from the difficulties of a long distance relationship (LDR), committing to the time and additional attention your partner may need to feel confident in this relationship, and disciplining yourself with the long timeframes that pass between seeing one another and saving up money/planning to see one another.

One of the things I’ve done to ensure that I have a routine is studying (when I was a student), going out/making social arrangements with friends, hitting the gym to take my mind off those really hard days, and always carving out time to either text or call my significant other. While now we manage to text throughout most of the day and always squeeze in one phone call, at the start of our long distance we hardly made time to talk and both realized how toxic it was to our relationship. As corny as it sounds, communication really is the heart of maintaining most relationships- and it’s honestly what strengthened our relationship in spite of the large distance (9,157 km from Los Angeles, California to Hanover, Germany).

skype.jpg

We worked hard to understand our 9 hour time difference, determining what time each of us would wake up or wind down for bed, and respecting that sometimes we may not have a chance to talk because of work, school, or just being human (overslept, too tired, etc.). But no matter how busy we got, both of us made sure to remind each other of our love, appreciation, and commitment to this relationship. From a simple compliment to a selfie of their outfit, I was always grateful to know that he was thinking of me and that I could still get a glimpse of his day. Technology really is vital to long distance relationships today, and I truly don’t know if I’d be as happy if it weren’t for our privilege to communicate daily using WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facetime, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

At the beginning of my relationship, my mother bought me a short e-book by Gregg Michaelsen that really changed my entire outlook on long-distance relationships. This quick read (took me only 2 days to finish) helped me address any hidden fears of trust, commitment, and worries about our future.

I learned how to overcome my insecurities and how to communicate them openly with my partner. I also learned that physical connection isn’t everything- and how to make the most of my time with my LDR partner when we were finally together again. While saving up money to see each other can be incredibly costly depending on the distance, it’s certainly worth it to develop a cadence for when you’ll see your partner again and have a solid date in mind for your reunion. This continues to be one of the biggest motivations for me throughout our time apart, and it’s also really fun to keep a countdown of the weeks, days, and hours left until we’ll be together again.

countdown.jpg

So while this blog post certainly isn’t to try and convince everyone to jump into a long distance relationship, I wanted to provides some guidance for people who might be contemplating the feasibility of an LDR or are already in an LDR and looking for a little advice.

What are some of the things you’ve learned from your long distance relationship? Do you have any questions or ideas I could address in future blogs? Feel free to email me or comment below- and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more LDR advice & more!

 

Traveling Alone Changed My Life – Studying Abroad in Sydney

College Tips, travel, Uncategorized

Traveling alone is a giant leap into an adventure- no matter where you go or even if you’re visiting the same place again. No two travel experiences are exactly alike- and each time that I travel, I learn a new lesson.  One of the biggest lessons I learned during a trip was when I traveled on my own to study abroad in Australia. Just reminiscing about it now (2 years later), those short four months went by in a flash and completely changed who I am today.

Australia had always been a country I was fascinated with- starting with my obsession over Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin (R.I.P.) and love for the movie “Kangaroo Jack.” I’d always loved the idea of a country so incredibly far away and literally “down under,” but with incredible wildlife, wonderful people, and a stunningly beautiful country. Fast-forward to 2015- I finally decided to make the huge trek over there during my last semester at UCSC. Upon getting accepted by the University of Sydney, I was overjoyed but also unprepared for the journey ahead of me. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, but even at 21 years old I had no idea how significant this experience would be in shaping my life today.

The first step was getting on that 15 hour flight from LAX to Sydney. I arrived at the gate for Qantas (the only airline I considered for that lengthy flight)- thrilled and incredibly nervous for the journey ahead of me. Despite the long flight ahead and my crippling anxiety, a little bit of booze and a whole lot of food helped me get through it. After arriving, I finally got out of the plane and attempted to find my ride to the hostel. I’d never even stayed in a hostel before, but this was one of the best I could find and I needed a cheap place to crash for a few weeks until the start of the semester.

Wake Up! Sydney was definitely one of the coolest (and craziest) places to stay. If you’re young and looking to meet other young travelers, it’s the perfect way to enjoy Sydney and party any night of the week. Since I definitely couldn’t live in a hostel while studying at the Uni, I finally had to get my head on straight and look for an apartment (I used Flatmates.com). After searching far and wide with my friends from the hostel, I finally found an amazing apartment in Glebe- just outside of all the craziness of downtown Sydney and only five minutes from my university.

The months flew by after moving in, and I was so excited once I made friends from my classes and started to finally form a social life. My flatmates were amazing and I had such a phenomenal time even when I explored the city on my own. There’s something great about just going out on your own and experiencing a city without anyone or anything holding you back.

I hopped on a bus one time (after moping for most of the week about my lack of a social life and desire to see more of the city) and I went all the way to the Opera House on my own. Everything seemed to slow down after the first month of living abroad- my friends from the hostel had all gone home, I was still adjusting to my new apartment, and I had a whole new university (and city) to navigate. I remember breaking down a few times on the phone with my dad. I felt like it was too long of a wait before going home, too long of a flight to get home, and just too much for me to handle in general. Little did I know that simply waiting a little while longer and taking some steps to branch out would make all the difference in the world.

I managed to make some new friends in my classes, opened up about my anxiety and really worked on pushing my comfort zone while traveling and living abroad. I visited new places and took several plane rides to see the best of Australia. My travels took me to Cairns, Ayers Rock, Melbourne, and of course all around beautiful Sydney. I learned to be more independent, manage my money, cook and clean for myself, budget my time wisely, and especially believe in myself more than ever before. Without this experience, I can’t say I’d be where I am today or even feel the way I do about myself today.

Whether you’re studying abroad or just traveling alone for the first time- remember that you’re never alone. People in other countries are often friendlier than you think- so long as you communicate yourself appropriately and respect their culture. Next time you’re unsure about traveling alone, just think of the freedom you’ll have to work on yourself and embrace making new memories and socializing with interesting people. Don’t be shy to speak to the person next to you, even on your flight there! I actually ended up running into the guy next to me on the plane because he was a professor at the university! Remember, people all over the world are often excited to meet foreigners and hear about their life experiences.

So- are you thinking about traveling alone or studying abroad someday? If you’ve ever traveled alone, comment below with your experience and any of your tips for people who haven’t gone yet! Until next time- thanks for reading “From My Perspective.”