I remember it well—the day I became a student of Eberhard-Karls Universität in Tübingen, Germany. Paperwork with official stamps finally in hand, I bounced through the cobble-stoned streets of the Altstadt toward the bridge that hangs across the Neckar River. Looking out over the old buildings of this once-walled city neatly reflected in the Neckar’s still water, I savored the day’s accomplishments. It was indeed a fine start to my second week of life in Tübingen, on Tuesday September 11, 2001.
Thirty minutes later at the campus computer lab, my upbeat mood came crashing down when I read with disbelief the headlines about the terrorist attack in my home country. Outside, students carried on with their afternoon, not yet aware that thousands of people had died or been injured when planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. None of it seemed real; my heart sank, but I was not hopeless.
The next day, and in weeks following, I unleashed a series of emails detailing my perspective from abroad to a list of family and friends—revealing more than general updates and the life of a university student in Germany I had first intended. The email list began as a method to keep in touch, but evolved into a means to help others see their own country and the world in new ways.
During the year I studied abroad, I traveled within Germany and to 11 other European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and Vatican City), writing home about each adventure. Through my correspondence, my family and friends watched Germans grieve with the US in the weeks following September 11; they joined me for Christmas 2001 in Finland, with a Finnish friend and her family as we broke tradition on Christmas Day and took an overnight boat cruise from Helsinki to Talinn, Estonia; they felt my curiosity as I rid myself of Deutschmarks and held the Euro’s paper currency for the first time on January 1, 2002; and they discovered what German universities have to offer, especially Tübingen’s unique charm and history.
When I arrived in Tübingen in late August 2001, I was no stranger to travel; however, that year embodied more than study or travel, it heralded significant change in my own worldview in addition to those around me. In the years since, I have traveled to many more places, and I intend to continue that way of life wherever I am, inviting others into the journey.
The above is a slightly edited version of something I wrote in early 2015 just for myself. Later in the year when I applied to the Peace Corps, I used part of it in my application essay. Now I post it to share that next month I will begin my service with the Peace Corps as an English Teacher in China.
More information forthcoming about what I will be doing and where I will be going, including a more formal announcement. Stay tuned…come, follow me on the journey!
3 responses to “An invitation to the journey”
You are such a wonderful writer that your descriptions of your wanderings–and wonderings–make me (almost) feel like I’m right there with you. Thank you! I’m looking forward to hearing about–and seeing pictures of–your next set of adventures. Joyous travels! Jackie
Thank you. Your blog is inspiring to me. I am a former peace Corp volunteer, current aid worker and a travel lover. I am also the mother to a wonderful four year old with nf1. We have been considering moving abroad, but we were hesitant as we were not sure how our son would do. Your blog is helping me to think bigger! Thank you
Hi Amanda– You’re welcome, and thanks for your comment. Sorry for my slow reply. I think it would be wonderful for your child to experience life abroad. Before you go, consider seeing your NF specialist. They may recommend an MRI and how to monitor symptoms. For me, it was a lot of work to get approved by Peace Corps, and I think one reason why they let me go was excellent notes from my neurosurgeon and genetic specialist. But I don’t have much pain or other issues with my tumors. So that’s something to consider.
I’m back in the US now, hope to continue blogging again about the end of my service and my transition. Thanks for reading, and good luck!