It feels appropriate to start ‘corresponding’ now; two Fridays ago I returned from my first trip to England in eight months and being back here in the former capital of Germany, Bonn, I can now be sure of one significant fact – that I am here because I want to be here, not because I have to be.
I moved here at the beginning of September, a third year Geography student at The University of Bristol, funded by the SOCRATES ERASMUS exchange program, an EU sponsored project which organises exchanges between university students throughout Europe. Of course I came here of my own accord, but after eight months of sitting behind a wall built of geographical vocabulary, it no longer felt voluntary. I was here because I wasn’t going to be beaten by the foreign language, the absence of the familiar and the uncannily direct-speaking people.
Two weeks ago I bit the bullet and went home. I jumped on a train to Brussels, got stopped at Brussels without my passport, traveled back to Bonn to get my passport, and then hurried back to Brussels again. On the train I heard British voices; I was home. I was no longer ‘outside’ of the circumstances; I was an element of them, able to participate in them; feel a connection to other people; live! My phone rang and I spoke in German. I was the German on a train of Englishmen. The visitor, whose trip was just that, a trip, temporary and limited by the pressures back ‘home’.
I thought of Bonn–home. Just as I’d begun to feel comfortable in my surroundings I realised that it is not up to me where my home is. The feeling of ease I experienced upon arriving in England was the result of being taught to know that I am a product of the country, and by believing in this knowledge, my mind relaxed. However, the mind and heart are two very separate entities, and whilst ‘knowing’ I was home, and even relaxing in my surroundings, I wasn’t there in spirit; it was as though I had not packed this in my suitcase, it lay waiting for me in Bonn.
So when I returned to Germany, I left this strange world which they call ‘England’ behind and arrived ‘home’ in Germany. It’s amazing how quickly we can adapt to our surrounds; leave our past behind us, where it belongs, and survive in starkly different circumstances. It comes down to just that – survival. When we see life as a choice, survival can be a struggle; should I really be here? Is this right for me? Would choices A or B not be better? However when we relax, accept and stop fighting for control and survive off belief and belief alone, that’s when we begin to go places.