In 2005 I left Germany to live with my boyfriend, Chris, in paradise, in New Zealand. We lived happy, worked, found friends and got married there when after three and a half years Chris got a post Doctoral position offered in California. We thought thoroughly about moving to the US. I had plenty of prejudices when it came to America. But in the end California is different than the rest of the US, right?
First time I arrived in San Francisco was in July 2008. In the beginning we were renting a very small room in Menlo Park. I was trying to find a flat for us and also to get the work visa. My first impressions of California were a bit different compared with the enthusiasm of others I met at Stanford. The standard of life seemed low compared to what we were used. Life in California is far more expensive than the rest of the world; the quality of the rented apartments is low. We moved flats five times before we found a suitable home in Palo Alto in the Oak Creek apartments. Public transport is terrible, people are highly dependent on cars, often commute for long periods. Work was difficult to come by with the economical crisis at the end of 2008.
This does not mean that living there was not exciting and nice. No. We met some awesome people from all over the world and we became close friends. We hiked in some of the National Parks. We had the ocean – you can be a tourist all year round. I volunteered at Stanford, GABA and Habitat for Humanity. After a year I found a job in Silicon Valley as a language specialist at Apple. Life was good!
After a little bit more than two years in California, a time came when we realized how lucky we were to have some more time to explore the surroundings, and equally important, some more BBQ time with our very good friends.
But in the end there was the Adios AmIGoS (American International Group at Stanford) farewell party. The last time we saw most of these really great folks for a while. California doesn’t feel like home, at all, and it never will, but we have made so many friendships there and met so many great personalities whom became very good friends – and so many more moved away from California – that there was real sadness in also leaving.
In October 2010 my husband and I left our jobs, gave up our apartment, sold or gave away all our belongings and went on with our lives in Europe. During the weeks after our arrival there was a never ending list of things to do: get new health insurance, new cell phone plans, new bank account, change addresses back to our parents’ houses not to mention finding new jobs and a new place to live. We jumped in, heads first.
When I think back of my life abroad first of all I think about the friendships I made, all the experience gained and the courage it takes to make dreams come true. At the end of my travels I found myself. I hope this will inspire you to do stuff others just dream of.
Love and snowflakes from wintry Germany,