Köln and Kindergarten: Possibilities for a future in Germany

Karah Kemmerly

Last night I got back from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) fall orientation in Köln, and today I feel as if  I’ve seen the future.

Not the clear sort of future you might see in a crystal ball or through time travel- especially because time travel terrifies me- but a glimpse of the possibilities. After having spoken with several students pursuing a Master’s degree of Ph.D here, I am very seriously entertaining the idea of returning to Deutschland for graduate school.

This isn’t necessarily a new idea. I’ve always thought about coming back: maybe to do research, maybe to teach, maybe to try to get a job, etc. But there was always a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that made me hesitate. I worried about cutting ties with friends and family at home or making those relationships work long distance. I worried about finding housing and dealing with German bureaucracy. And I especially worried about trying to make new friends, and trying to establish good relationships with my colleagues across a language barrier.

Honestly, I haven’t stopped worrying about these things. But after living here for almost two months and having spoken with other students who are experiencing the hardships and homesickness and still loving their lives, I can’t help but feel that the nagging voice might be exaggerating. Sure, there will be challenges, but maybe sitting in a restaurant for two-and-a-half hours before getting the bill is worth it if it means I can do archive research in German. In just two months, I’ve learned so much about myself, about a new culture, and about my home culture. I could learn so much more by living here for a few more years. And now I think it will be difficult for me not to take advantage of that opportunity.

In addition to these realizations, my weekend as a tourist in Köln was fun. We got to see the Kölner Dom, stay in the nicest hostel I’ve ever seen (DAAD spoils us), go shopping, drink a Kölsch, and take a few photos. After having weeks of gray and rain, a little fall sunshine was a nice change. Here are some photos from the trip:

Now that I’m back from Köln, I’ll be trying something new in Freiburg as well. Monday afternoon I have an interview with Seestern Kindergarten, and I’ll start volunteering there soon for a few days each week. I’m hoping that spending some time in a Kindergarten will give me a better idea of whether or not teaching is something I’d like to pursue. Obviously spending time with three- and four-year-olds is different than writing my own lesson plans, but it will at least give me the chance to see more of the German school system. And since these kids haven’t started learning English yet, it should be a great and entertaining way to improve my German.