by Heike Fahrenberg
Dear readers of our Newsletter -
even though Irene wrote her farewell-letter below at the end of the last term, I’m happy that she agreed to let me share it with you at this point in time, when just another semester is starting up and a new group of students on both sites have just begun their study-abroad experience with us.
All the best from Germany -
For the last month I have been trying to put into words my feelings towards you and our relationship during this past year. This has been for a month, since it was then that I had my last visitors from home, a month ago that I panicked looking at the calendar and thinking of all the work to be done, a month ago that I realized the countdown had started, and a month ago when I saw that this, our unique one year relationship, was coming to an end. As I pack today and put my boxes together I feel quite an interesting mixture of feelings: excitement, relief, satisfaction, nervousness, tiredness, accomplishment, uncertainty…
Our story was not one of love at first sight and it took us sometime to get to know each other. 10 months ago you were a total stranger, and now that we have figured each other out, it is time for me to part. Back when we met, you looked to me like a grey, busy and (most of the time) angry looking one. I always thought you needed to smile more, you were too consumed by your own experiences as to share anything with a newcomer, and felt that you looked at me as “just one more Spaniard, just one more exchange student, just one more twenty-something” in the city. You challenged me, shocked me, surprised me and while a few times you made me wonder „what on earth am I doing here?!“ you also made me think that Europe would always be the place where to feel at home.
I don’t think any relationship can be valued as a “success” or “failure”, and so won’t be ours, but I know that I will always take with me what I have learnt from you. Of my five years abroad, you have been the most challenging one. Of course I was newer to the language than ever before, but there didn’t lay the biggest challenge; it was on the YOU being BIG vs. ME being SMALL that I felt many times lost. You and your 4 million people may be many in number, but it was rather this year and not when I lived in the smallest of villages in a lost fjord in Norway that I felt most alone. In your cold and dark winter days, I wondered why had I not made my way to a Mediterranean county instead; in sharing an apartment with those so different to me, I wondered why I had not chosen a dorm; fighting with your grammar, I wondered why had not picked a romance language; and so the list goes on… But in the challenge lays the learning, and I can say that I leave you feeling bigger than never before. 10 months, 118 pages written in German and uncountable experiences latter I look back and know that every day was, without a doubt, worth it.
As I leave you, I am somehow afraid of having idealized my former partner to whom I am going back to: Middlebury. Especially during the long winter, when things felt difficult here, my thoughts would turn into the assertion „Oh, this would be so much easier there“… I know though, that he has his faults too, and probably reality will hit me once I am back. But I stay positive. Our upcoming reencounter has also a brief expiration date of just a year, and knowing how fast time goes by when I am there, I will try my best not to miss any opportunity he may have to offer.
But don’t be jealous dear! I know too, that sometime soon I will be looking back and missing you. And I believe that what I will miss most, is probably what was also my biggest challenge with you: freedom. Freedom in the sense that I had the time, the space, the resources and the options to do new, interesting and different things whenever I wanted: theaters, museums, cafes, lakes, trips, restaurants… the options were almost endless. And though this sounds like a real dream (and many times it certainly was one) in this freedom lies also some form of loneliness and confusion. I alone was to make every decision, plan, pic, chose, take a first step… You offered me the time to stop and think much more than what I had been able to do in the busy schedules of my last four years, and that was a huge bless as well as a great challenge. Goodbyes are always difficult Berlin, so lets do this with a smile and a positive attitude. Because with your spring, summer, the sun (and the World Cup) you became livelier, friendlier, warmer… and from then on, I could only see your greatness. Quite the one to be with at this point in my life! Glad that we made it together. My life-motto is to leave everything better than how I find it, so I really hope that, somehow, I have contributed to you and your life as a city. Take care of yourself my dear. Stay cool! ‘Arm aber sexy’ as they say
At some point, I’ll be back.