It was a tough winter. It was long, dark, lonely and isolating. I managed to get some fresh air once in a while with the occasional trip or visitor, but I spent the majority of these last months struggling. It’s safe to say I was depressed. I had so little energy or passion that I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I was eating poorly and sleeping all the time. I was waiting lethargically for one day to pass into another. In social situations, I would retreat into myself and things would proceed around me in a blur.
Although I proclaimed the dawn of spring one sunny day back in March, that day was followed by another month of deep winter and left me feeling defeated. Meanwhile, my short-term subletting agreement was about to end and I would need to find a new place to live. I started looking far too late and found myself three days from being without a home. I felt like I was out of options. I inquired at a hostel across from the train station and learned that my budget could afford me a bunk in a 10-person dorm room for a few weeks. If I couldn’t find a new place by then, I feared I wouldn’t have the willpower to finish out my Fulbright year. I could almost taste my failure, and I was more despondent than ever.
Then suddenly, like a burst of oxygen to my drowning spirit, everything changed. Friends who had been out of town on holiday returned for the new semester. They sympathized with my desperate situation and promised to help me find a place to live. And magically, within 24 hours, they had found me a room in a “Verbindung,” which is the German equivalent of a frathouse. A few days later I was moving in, the fraternity brothers helping me carry my things into their cozy villa by the river. Overhead shone the big, yellow sun, an old friend who existed only in memory. It felt like a warm symbol of better days to come. And indeed, it was. That evening I was warmly welcomed by my new housemates, and over the next few days I jumpstarted my body with picturesque jogs beneath newly-sprouting leaves along the river. Everything was suddenly lining up for me. I had just one more problem to resolve, and that was to find a job for my return to the United States.
A few days later, I awoke around 3am from a funny dream. Like I often do, I reached for my computer to surf the internet until I could fall back asleep. But I opened up my email and got a sudden burst of adrenaline. While I was sleeping, the German American Chamber of Commerce had sent me an email offering me a 1-year paid internship in their San Francisco office. It is a German-speaking office and the position is market entry consulting for German companies looking to establish themselves in the United States. Essentially, this was my dream internship. They were asking me to start August 1, exactly one month after I return to the U.S., conspiring perfectly with my plan to spend a few weeks with my family at home in New Hampshire. It seemed so ideal.
My knee-jerk reaction was to share the news with Michael, one of my closest friends from college who is in law school in San Francisco. He was on Skype and eagerly answered my video chat. After a few minutes of exchanging various versions of “yippee!”, I asked him about possible living arrangements in San Francisco. I knew he was moving into a new apartment, and we had talked about the possibility of my coming out there and us living together. He told me he had signed a lease agreement for an apartment downtown, that he was looking for a roommate, and that living together sounded like a lot of fun. To top it off, his lease starts August 1. We googled the address and learned the commute to the German American Chamber of Commerce is a mere 12 minutes. And thus, minutes after I learned I had been offered the internship, I already had an apartment in San Francisco with a close friend!
I then remembered that Marie, a German friend of mine studying in Berlin, would be interning in San Francisco at Germany Trade and Invest, the sister office of the German American Chamber of Commerce, which is located on the same floor in the same building. I was already imagining going on lunch break together and getting after-work drinks. I later learned that she had found an apartment, too, and it would be a stone’s throw from Michael and me. And aside from Marie, I have a handful of other great friends in the Bay Area I can’t wait to connect with. It was all working out so perfectly. Fate, fate, fate!
I knew with all the excitement that I was not getting back to sleep. It was still dark outside, but I looked at the clock and realized the sun was about to rise. So I put on my jacket and climbed up to the chapel on the hill behind the frathouse. I sat myself up on ledge and, for the first time since arriving in Würzburg, I watched the sunrise. The symbolism was palpable as the morning light climbed up over the horizon and glinted off the gold-topped steeples and red brick rooftops. It was just me up there on that big hill, and the sun was rising before me, echoing the promise and renewal in my own life. The dark winter was over. The helplessness was over. My life was blooming into spring flowers and I was truly alive again. This was everything I had been waiting for.
So here I am now, with just under two months left of my Fulbright grant. And as far as I can see, it’s smooth sailing from here. I am resolving to make the most of every day, to truly enjoy this golden period of my year. I worked hard for this and I endured a lot to make it to this point. I am proud of myself and proud that I will end this experience on a high note.
I came into this knowing it would be challenging, but I was confident that the overall trajectory would be positive and fulfilling. I lost that confidence somewhere along the way, but things have worked out more perfectly than I dared to hope for. Cheers, world.