So, my last post was about how much of a pain it was just getting to Leipzig. But once I was in my dorm room and finally had time to sit down and realize what I had done, I started to get really depressed. And since I had had such a crappy start, I think that this feeling was warranted. The bad thing, though, is that it got to the point where all I could think about was going home. I missed my girlfriend, my family, and just home. I even tried contacting my airline to see how much it would cost to reschedule my flight. It got that bad.
When I would talk to people about studying abroad, everyone always at least mentioned culture shock. They would talk about it like it was a medical diagnosis, a scientific phenomenon that is your psyche’s natural reaction to being thrown into a new culture. I’d always nod along and think, “I really don’t see what the big deal is. It’s just a new place. It can’t be that bad…” But I never really knew what it was until I got here. It didn’t help, of course, that I had never even been out of the US before, so I had absolutely zero reference points to what culture shock could even be.
I think my first week here was all about getting acquainted with culture shock. It was my first experience with it, so it only makes sense that I had such a strong reaction. It wasn’t pretty, either. There were times, like I already mentioned, where I just wanted to pack all of my bags, get my flight changed to the very next day, and run home. Other days, I just felt too depressed to do anything. And still some other days, I was just angry at the way German people did things in such a German way. Now that I’m so far removed from those feelings, I can’t even say what exactly I got angry at, but that doesn’t really matter. The point is that my first week wasn’t a good one.
But then something amazing happened: things got better. I mean they obviously had to if I’m still here, right? I think that there were a few things that helped me out the most. It’s list time.
- Hang out with people. It doesn’t matter who it is, just so long as you’re not sitting alone in your room thinking about your woes. Every time that I was around people and just doing something else, I would feel better because I was distracted. That helps a ton.
- Talk with people back home. I must have talked to my girlfriend for at 12 hours that first week, as well as my family. These are the people that you can lean on for support when you’re in need, and you should! I don’t think that I’d still be here in Leipzig had I not been talking to them.
- Talk to your study abroad support. I didn’t say anything to my study abroad coordinator until Thursday of my first week, at which point I was actively trying to figure out how to go back home. This was a terrible, terrible mistake. I should have emailed her as soon as I found out about my flight issues. After I had, I felt much, much better. This is what these people are paid to do, and they enjoy their job. Talk to them!
- Time. Yes, time. This is what probably helped out the most, actually. After a while, the foreignness of everything wears down to the point that you become at least comfortable with it all. It’s like that cat poster says: “Hang in there!”
And that’s all I have to say about that. After this post, I will (hopefully) be doing regular updates about what I’ve been doing in the last week or so instead of digging so far back in the past. And don’t worry, there will be pictures! Don’t worry about that.