So I’m going to Germany. For 11 months. It feels unreal, but the excitement grows everyday my plane flight gets closer. So does the nervousness. I’m leaving everything I know behind: friends, family, even my language.
So why Germany? The start of this story goes all the way back to 1896, when my great-great-great grandparents emigrated from Bremen to Sulphur Springs, Ohio. Thus the Geigers, Bauers, Longs, and my personal favorite, the Schnarrenburgers, got all tangled up in family tree. My grandma told me stories of her grandparents only speaking German. Unfortunately, the language was not passed down, as my grandma’s parents didn’t think it was wise for her to learn German in the middle of World War II. My family still possesses some German heirlooms, including primers, catechisms, and a big old German bible. My freshman year of college, I moved in with one of the steamer trunks the Schnarrenburgers traveled to the United States with! Family is very important to that side of the family, and we always try to gather every Thanksgiving. Over dinner and dessert, we would slowly work our way back in time, sharing stories about those at the table, those recently deceased, and those long gone. Every year I learned something new, and every year my desire to connect to these roots.
In Kentucky, it was highly suggested that students take two years of a foreign language in high school. My choices were German, French, and Spanish. I had heard that the Spanish program wasn’t rigorous and that you weren’t guaranteed a good teacher, and you weren’t guaranteed to have the same teacher each year. French really had no interest to me, and I had heard that the German teacher was really good. My friends all suggested German, and the German club was really active. At this point, I was also set on an engineering career. A little bit of research showed that the Germans were an economic powerhouse and the economic driver of Europe. Germany had a thriving aerospace field, and is a gateway language to Eastern Europe, a region I have always wanted to explore. I had a personal and a career oriented reason for learning German, so I decided to take it my freshman year of high school. I fell in love with the language immediately. It made sense to me and was beautiful in a way that many don’t realize. I listened to German music and radio, read things in German, and even wrote words in German in other classes. I signed up for German II the next block, and took German III as an independent study my sophomore year. After that, my schedule was too full with AP classes to continue taking German. While disappointing, I realized it was best for my college and career plans. I thought that this was the end of my German studies. Sure, I planned to travel to Germany at some point, but I didn’t have plans to take classes. Little did I know I was wrong.