Germany: What Am I Doing Here?

Submitted by Rmonte’ Smack on the 2020 winter session program in Leipzig, Germany sponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures…

I loathed the first day I arrived in Germany. Flying here was the first time I have ever flown. Getting my luggage checked was simple. However, the flight itself was unbearable. Being sick combined with the air pressure gave me a migraine. Leaving the airport and seeing the country for the first time was underwhelming. The buildings in the city had graffiti all over. I actually like graffiti a lot, but it can make places look dirty and unwelcoming. I initially wondered to myself “why did I decide to come here?” and “what am I doing here?” I wanted to go home. Getting to the dorms was not any better and I had no plans to unpack anything because of how disgusted I was by everything. I did not know what to do the first day. My reason for studying abroad is to learn German. We all had class and learned how to order things and what the restaurants are like in Germany.

After that class, I went with a few peers from the University of Delaware to get pizza which cheered me up a little. The atmosphere of being in a new place and ordering felt nice even though we did not actually order in German at this time. Getting food from restaurants is a little different here. Servers get paid enough so they do not need to rely on tips to make a reasonable amount. That being said, tipping is still appreciated,  but 20% for a smaller group is not necessary and rounding up the dollar or euro is common. Some smaller owned businesses also prefer customers to order some type of beverage because they make a lot of their money off of that as well and water is typically not free to order in German restaurants.

One of my main concerns about coming is navigating as I don’t have data and I need to rely on public transportation because things are not in reasonable walking distance. Even though using public transportation is pretty new to me, it is simple to use, and the trams are very clean, and they typically run like clockwork for the most part. I am also starting to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. I ordered food in German and went grocery shopping. One thing that is different is they ask for an ID when you use a debit or credit card in the grocery stores. Despite how challenging it is to talk to new people with a language other than my mother tongue, it is also fun and exciting, and it allows me to get a deeper exposure to the language and different cultures. English is a widely spoken language which helps if I get confused or misunderstand something, but I do not rely on that and I still try to figure everything out in conversing with these new people, in German.