Updates from phase number 3
Hello! Here we are again, sitting at the desk, blank computer screen ahead. As always, I had high hopes of writing something deeply moving and inspiring about all the incredible things I have learned about myself and the world since being abroad. And…. as always here is a run-down of what I have been up to lately.
Not that I want to be too critical of myself for not writing novels about my time here, I got a horoscope the other day (bear with me, I promise I'm not about to get too witchy on ya) and it said “your only responsibility in being alive is to let yourself feel everything” and I kid you not when I say that almost made me cry. Of course, I want to document this experience in every way possible, but it's always good to remind myself to live now and learn later. I know when I studied in Athens I didn't learn the real value of that experience until months after I got home. Anyway, now that I've soothed my guilty conscience, here is what I have been up to.
The semester ended for me on January 27th, and my full-time internship began on Jan 31st. This marks the official beginning of the last phase of our program here in Germany, the work phase. This completely arbitrary deadline, of course, caused me to panic about how much time I had left here and left me feeling stressed for weeks. Yay! We’ll get into some more developed thoughts on time later.
The end of the semester marked a big change in terms of seeing friends and classmates a bit less, and with many of them being Erasmus exchange students some of them are even preparing to move home. It was sad to say goodbye to this phase of studying and learning all the time, but I was excited to see what came next in terms of internships. And little did I know how much learning I would continue to do!
I started working at the Theater here in town, as of right now I am assigned to one production, but am waiting to hear about the possibility of doing more. It has been a really incredible process, albeit a little frustrating. Here are some thoughts from my experiences so far:
The German and American theater systems are really vastly different, something I wasn’t totally prepared for. Though learning, navigating, understanding, and synthesizing those differences is the reason I came here for a year so as with most things here, I've just had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Some of those differences include titles meaning different things (not just language-wise but for example, Dramaturgs exist in both the American and German theater systems but do slightly different things), some of the most important positions in an American rehearsal room don’t have a direct equivalent here *cough* STAGE MANAGERS *cough*, the process has far less structure and far more collaboration (of course this has its benefits and setbacks), the rehearsal schedule itself is different (i.e. no delineated Tech rehearsals, off-book date, etc.)
For the less Jargon-rich simplified version, from my perspective (which I acknowledge is quite narrow) I have observed far more structure in the American system. Professionally and Educationally in the US, when it comes to theater, there is a need to document everything. Every rehearsal and every meeting has detailed notes. It's as if in the US the arts must be as professional as possible to justify our right to exist. Here I have observed far more open space for creativity and an understanding that mess is just a part of the process, we need not know what every step was to arrive at the finished product. The surprise of this is only amplified to me when you know that the theaters here are working with budgets 10 times of anything I have ever experienced in the states, save broadway Disney blockbusters. Overall, I think the American structure could help clarify and streamline a lot of the German production system, and likewise, I think that the arts funding model in the US is somewhat unsustainable and cannot survive having to constantly prove itself forever. Either way, learning about another system has completely altered the way I look at my own… THIS is why we exchange people!!
General demeanor in the German workplace was also something I had to adjust to. There is a stereotype that Americans are ‘fake nice’, but let me tell you, sometimes a little fake nice goes a long way! Everyone I have worked with, both in internship and volunteer opportunities, has been incredibly kind, but damn it takes a minute to get them to open up to you. Overall, while being abroad you spend a lot of time looking at your home country with a critical eye, so it's nice to acknowledge every once and a while that sometimes there are really good things about your culture. Americans' energy and enthusiasm, regardless of how fake it may be, is something I will look forward to upon my return.
And to close with a third thought that has been a huge part of my internship experience so far, the realization that there are so many types of learning. Of course, my German is getting better every day, but it is by no means actually good enough to be working a full-time job here, lol. This has caused a bit of frustration when I feel that I have something to contribute in the workplace but don't always have the complete vocabulary to communicate it. Similarly, the differences between the structure of the systems create the same kind of disconnect. I may have a comment on how we would fix a problem in the US, but that might not be a plausible option here due to staffing differences. Lastly, being the new kid on the block of course means knowing my place and not correcting things that are out of my jurisdiction. All of this combined has led to me taking a lot of notes. Often when I have something I think I’d like to say, I write it down first. That way I am learning the lesson, I am making the observation and thinking critically, but am not overstepping my role as an intern. And now, after only two weeks I have over 20 pages of notes, of things such as what kind of director I want to be, how theater systems can operate more efficiently, how I want to treat my coworkers in the future, what are my priorities in approaching creative projects, and so much more. So what might appear as me just sitting and watching rehearsals has turned into one of the best classrooms I’ve ever had, one where I get to choose exactly what I am learning from every moment. I love it!
Other than work I have also continued with both of my main volunteer organizations. They are the Deutsche Amerikanisches Institute and the Kinder Zeichen Schule.
At the DAI I work in the Library for a program called “storytime” once a week I get to read stories and lead songs and a craft for kindergarten-aged students. It has been such a small part of my week, but such a source of joy.
With KZS I get to create drawing and coloring templates that kids (and adults) can download online for free. It's been a fun way to be creative and is a really fun team to be a part of. If you fancy doing a bit of coloring, see if there are any pdfs on the site you are a fan of. (it's currently in German, but we are talking about working to translate it as a project for the coming months!)
I also had two fun-packed weekends so far in February. Last weekend I traveled by train to Munich where I got to visit some old friends. It was the perfect escape after the first week at the new job. And this most recent weekend my host-sister from Saarbrücken came and visited me here in Heidelberg. We had the perfect girls' weekend complete with shopping, brunch, a rom-com movie night. It was fun to get to play tour guide in my city once again. (although as a native speaker, I did make her call to get a dinner reservation, so I really can't take all the credit)
As I settle into the last phase and make some final decisions about how I am going to spend all of my praktikum times, I have been sinking into a pressure that I have to make this the most amazing experience, this is my ONE year abroad I have to fill it with absolutely everything! Spoiler alert….that kind of pressure makes every single decision insurmountable. So I have been working on making the decisions that feel the most right in that exact moment, then adjusting later when things are off. And just like that, you have a Virgo admitting that plans might change so miracles really do happen.
Here's to longer days and FINALLY some sun in Germany!
Here’s to being comfortable being uncomfortable and finding your place in completely new communities!
Here’s to closing a chapter and embracing another!
Here’s to filling the days with adventure, but taking care of yourself along the way!
Too cheesy? Probably.
Let's do some gratitude and some pics and get you on your way.
eins) people who ask you how you are. Something so simple, but not as common here as you think. When a coworker says hello and asks how I am, my whole day changes. It's the little things!
zwei) my German friends who allow me to make travel plans to visit two days before it happens. Thank you for embracing that annoying American spontaneity.
drei) My university program. The last few weeks have made me incredibly grateful for the well-rounded theater knowledge I gained at SUU. I have seen an emphasis here on specializing so it's really cool to not just know acting but to have taken courses about directing, lighting, props, set, you name it. Big shout to TAD for that one.
And now for the interesting bit… the pictures!
(I did not have time to put these in any particular order, so bear with me on the randomness)
Emmi and I brought these matching sister bracelets from a clearance rack downtown. We also apparently are equally clumsy and have both cut open our fingers in the last week....whoops!
Look at that smiling face! So fun to have Emmi visit HBERG!
We bought these matching purple tops, not for the purpose of being matching that just kind of happened on the account of we are the same person.
Smiling selfies in the sun!!!!
Lukas was the first Erasmus friend to go, this photo was supposed to be based on the last supper. I have no idea what is happening here, but I seem to have taken the photo at the exact moment he was angrily pointing at me so that's fitting I guess.
Being abroad doesn't make me exempt from trends. I played wordle for the first time and was incredible at it... naturally.
This was an example of a craft we made with the kids for storytime. It is to go along with the book The Kissing Hand!
View out the bus window as I drove away from my last Uni Lecture! WE DID IT!
Took an EARLY train to Munich, but that meant it was quiet and I got to see the sunrise. 10/10
Another example of a story time craft. I was pretty proud of this one, and the kids' crayons were SO CUTE.
Went to see a movie alone on a Sunday a few weeks back and had a delightful time. I think there were only 2 other people in the theater. It was called 'An Impossible Project' and was all about analog surviving in a digital world. Honestly, it was pretty cool. I'd recommend it!
Olympic Park in Munich.
And a downtown Munich stroll.
It was an amazing view but... very windy!
Like, seriously, VERY WINDY
Very important sisterly ritual: ice cream, face mask, netflix!
till next time