Year Abroad Update, Part The Last

This is going to be my last year abroad update. And not because I’m too forgetful to keep writing my blog (no matter how likely that would be)! I’ve recently decided that I’m not going to continue with studying German, and I’m also not going to continue with my year abroad. So I guess my “year abroad” updates are actually “semester abroad” updates? 😛

Neither of these decisions have been on a whim. In fact, my reasoning is going to take a bit of explaining, since both decisions impact each other quite a lot.

Academic Reasons

Firstly, I’ve been considering dropping German for some time now. I’ve found that I prefer studying linguistics, so more of my time and effort has gone into my linguistics modules than my German modules over the last two years. This means that my German hasn’t been improving as it should have been, which not only drags down my linguistics marks, but also makes me anxious about going to German classes.

Since I don’t feel my semester abroad has benefited my German much at all, I can only imagine that the grades and the anxiety about German classes would get worse in fourth year. Admittedly, my German grades may only be the difference between a first and a two one, but there’s no way of knowing that they wouldn’t actually end up being the difference between a two one and a two two.

Personally, I’d rather graduate with as a high a degree I can get in one subject, than graduate with a degree in two subjects and know I could’ve done better if only I’d have dropped my weaker subject.

Future Career Reasons

Secondly, I’ve realised that it’s very unlikely that I’ll be looking for a career involving my German skills. Quite frankly, I don’t see the point in dragging my degree down for a subject I don’t even plan on using. And I certainly don’t see the point in completing a year abroad I don’t want to be on for a subject that doesn’t require one.

Mental Health Reasons

Yes, I did just say that I don’t want to be on my year abroad. I dreaded coming, as I think I may have mentioned in my first couple of updates, and my feelings on it have barely changed. I’ve been lonely here – I don’t particularly enjoy trying to make friends in English, never mind in German. Bear in mind, here, that everyone has accents, speaks fast, and uses words I wouldn’t understand even if I could tell what words they were saying. It’s more than a little overwhelming.

And it’s the same in lectures – I almost never know what’s going on, so while in my linguistics modules (where I only know what’s going on because I’m already familiar with the subject), I’ve been just about managing, in the modules where the subject matter is completely new… I’m simply lost. I’ve learnt almost nothing in those modules, which means I get anxious about them, and would be very likely to fail them.

So not only is my year abroad pointless academically and making me unhappy, but there’s a chance I wouldn’t even have passed it.

I do sometimes wonder if I’d have been ok living in Germany if I weren’t studying, since life did eventually become more normal. But I’d still be lonely, and living in a flat where I can’t be comfortable in my own kitchen because I have so many flatmates who I barely know. And if I’d gone for a work placement rather than a study placement, I’d still be shy and anxious, and I still wouldn’t have wanted to go.

In short, it’s just better both for my degree and my mental health this way.

What happens now?

Happily, I can say that Newcastle University have been very understanding about this. I had thought “well, I’m here now, there’s nothing I can do about it; unless it’s a life-or-death situation, I just have to stick it out”. But as soon as I emailed my personal tutor – without even including as much detail in my reasoning as I’ve put here – she had all the relevant staff members contacting me, explaining what my options were. I had expected an interrogation of-sorts, or at least for someone to ask me “are you sure this is what you want? Are you sure you’re sure?”, but nobody questioned that this was what was best for me, and I had thoroughly thought it through. I’m not sure why that basic sort of trust surprised me.

That was little over a week ago, and now I’ve sorted things out with the Erasmus office, sent in the forms for my degree transfer, deregistered at the university here in Tübingen, and arranged a new end date for the rental of my room. I even have an exact moving out date.

It’s all happened so fast, but I’m so happy that I’m coming home to stay.

I’ll be starting my final year at Newcastle in September, as I’d have done if I’d completed my year abroad (but of course without any German modules). This gives me about eight months off. But I don’t intend to waste them relaxing! If nothing else, it’ll give me time to really focus on working on my novel, which I’m super excited about. I’m also hoping to get an internship with either a publishing house or a literary agency, or a job as a waitress if that doesn’t work out. I think it should benefit my future far more than a second semester of being lonely, anxious, and overwhelmed in Germany would!

I could’ve avoided all this…

One final point that I’d like to make is that I did also speak to my personal tutor about dropping German and not going to Germany at all way back in second year. Perhaps it would’ve made my life easier if I’d have gone through it then. After all, it would’ve meant that I’d have spent my final year with and graduated with all my linguistics coursemates, which would’ve been great.

But I also think I’d have felt like I was chickening out of it, taking the easy route. Even now, I sometimes chastise myself for giving up. But the thing is that I tried, and now I know that it’s not for me. I think it’s helped me work out what I want from my degree, and I guess from my life too. I’ve never been closer to finishing my novel than I have in Germany, and I’ve also never wanted to be a writer more. It’s also helped me build my confidence – if I do it in German (and alone), then I can definitely do it in English!

So while I haven’t had the best time in Germany, I definitely do not regret coming here and giving it a shot!

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