(Very) Long Overdue "I've Arrived" Post
While I was waiting to board my flight from New York, I wrote a Facebook status that said "New York, I love you and I'll miss you terribly but here's to falling in love with new places!" Almost three weeks later, I can say that has indeed happened.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by my “buddy” that HdM so kindly arranged. She was extremely helpful in helping lug my absurdly heavy suitcases back to my hotel. She showed me around some of Stuttgart on the first day, then I tried to take a nap to recover from the jet lag (didn’t happen), and then Carolin (my buddy) made me dinner that night. She made me homemade spätzle and I couldn't have asked for anything more comforting on my first night in a foreign country than a homemade meal. She also took me out for a drink in the city that night, so it's safe to say I had a very nice welcome to Stuttgart that helped me feel right at home.
Despite feeling extremely comfortable from the beginning, I guess I could still call it culture shock when I first arrived. The language of course is the first and most obvious difference that started to intimidate me, even on the plane ride over. Also, it’s been an adjustment to life moving slower. I’m accustomed to power walking everywhere since that's the normal pace in New York and Toronto, but I'm trying to learn how to slow down my pace, both physically and mentally.
It’s amazing how much more I’ve seen when I’m not entirely focused on getting to my destination.
The last startling difference is the food, which can be grouped into 3 food groups: beer, carbs, and meat. Fruits and vegetables are a rare find and it’s the truth when people say beer is cheaper than (bottled) water.
Orientation has been happening for the past two and a half weeks, filled with administrative tasks in the morning, a 3-hour intensive German course every day, and events to help us get settled. The German course is called "intensive" but it feels like the opposite. The professor walked into the classroom on the first day and started speaking nothing but German. Extremely intimidating at first, but he's proven to be hilarious and even made a deal with me because I missed the midterm while I was in Dublin on Monday. He reminds me of a German/Italian Mr. Bean.
I said I love it here but I guess I should explain why. To start, I love change, meeting new people, and trying new things. I like this slower pace of life where everyone isn’t focused on getting to work or shoving you out of their way. Living in the dorms feels like I’m reliving first year in a different country and luckily, with all the knowledge I learned from my experiences in first year at Ryerson. I love my room, my building, and the campus. Ryerson has some sort of a campus (some call it that, some don’t) but nothing like here. HdM is surrounded by nature (gaaaasp) and plenty of paths to help you enjoy the beauty of it all. There are a few HdM buildings in the city but there’s also a subway (the S-Bahn) right on campus.
It’s been amazing to always be surrounded with people from all different countries, usually Australia, France, Spain, and the Netherlands, to name a few. We all come from extremely different places and backgrounds but get along so well. There’s nothing more comforting than a familiar face so it’s also very nice having a group of us here all from Ryerson.
The weather here is unbeatable compared to this past winter in New York, which was an absolute nightmarish arctic tundra. I am so happy to now be living in 65F and sunny every day. I haven’t let go of the feeling of excitement since I got here. I’ve never felt this way in my life and I never want it to end.
I don’t think there’s anything better than being excited to wake up every day.
Besides falling in love with Stuttgart, I’ve been able to visit a few other cities as well. I left for Dublin last Thursday and didn’t arrive in my destination until 24 hours later. I planned this trip while I was in New York and knew basically nothing about the best ways to travel through Europe. My only goal was to find whatever was cheapest, which I certainly did not achieve anyway. My grand idea was to fly Ryanair from Frankfurt Hahn airport, to London Stansted, to Dublin. Little did I know when I booked these flights that Frankfurt Hahn is nowhere near the city proper of Frankfurt and any train + bus ride there from Stuttgart is at least 2.5 hours and at least 60 euro. So thanks to Ryanair moving my flight forward 25 minutes due to strikes in Dublin that ended 2 days before I left on the trip, I missed my connecting flight from London to Dublin by about 2 minutes. Ryanair has absolutely no sympathy because they’re a “one-stop” airline and they didn’t move my flight more than an hour. I had also bought a train + ferry ride from London to Dublin as a backup in case I missed my flight, which I also missed because I thought I could make the flight.
After repurchasing the train + ferry ride, I set out on my journey from Stansted to the city proper of London via another train and the tube. I actually liked navigating my way through the tube because I like learning new subway lines and how they all work differently, and then I got on my train to the north of Wales. The train ride was going smoothly for about 3 hours, which I passed out on, then woke up because I realized the train was stopped. The conductor came on and announced that someone had jumped in front of a train just ahead, meaning we had to backtrack an hour. It’s not the train’s fault that someone jumped, but it is their fault that they decided to backtrack so far and we missed the train that was supposed to be held for us.
This series of unfortunate events ended when the conductor introduced me to the nicest group of Irish people who adopted me into their group and guided me the way all the way to Dublin, even so far as to give me a ride through traffic from the ferry port to my hostel. These people helped turn my nightmare of a trip into one I'll always remember and pointed out the humor in all of it. The Irish man who drank (from what I saw) a small bottle of wine, 3 whiskey and cokes and 2 beers also bought me a drink.
Alas, I arrived and all my misfortunes were forgotten over one of the best weekends of my life. Between the beers we were able to make a day trip to Kilkenny and Glendalough, which were both absolutely beautiful. There was also nothing better than being reunited with 3 of my close friends from Toronto to explore Dublin together. As I said earlier, my grand idea was to fly through London Stansted on my way to and from Dublin, which thankfully proved to be a grand idea on my way back because everything actually worked out according to plan. I was able to explore London for a few hours with a hop on/hop off bus tour, which I figured was the fastest way for me to see as much as I could. I saw all the major tourist traps, bought some Belgian chocolates, and ate the best fish & chips at the Liverpool Street station.
We started planning Dublin back in November and I was looking forward to it ever since. Now there's Prague the first weekend of April, and Barcelona and Rome the first weekend of May to look forward to. I want to go everywhere but I guess actual classes start on Monday (which I also just chose yesterday). The most prominent feeling I've felt here is excitement and I truly never want to leave.