My journey from India to Germany has been nothing short of a transformative adventure. Three years ago, I embarked on this path, leaving behind Lucknow for Kiel. As a 27-year-old PhD student in Sociolinguistics, specialising in the linguistic landscape of Jharkhand, my transition was marked by a series of challenges and triumphs.
Choosing Germany for my higher studies was not solely my decision but rather guided by my esteemed supervisor, Prof. Dr. John Peterson. His expertise in my research area, coupled with the resources available at Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, made it an ideal setting for academic pursuits.
Adjusting to a new country with a vastly different culture was no easy feat. From navigating the intricacies of daily life, such as shopping and bathroom customs, to feeling the absence of family support, every aspect of my existence felt like a lesson in adaptation. The initial weeks were particularly arduous. Yet, as time passed, I found my footing, gradually embracing the nuances of my new life.
From a small town to Kiel
I found solace in the city's unique charm. Situated near the bustling metropolis of Hamburg, Kiel offered a perfect blend of urban convenience and small-town charm. Its vibrant café culture, sprawling parks, and picturesque waterfront made it a delightful place to call home.
I remember the small victories that marked my journey towards independence. Simple acts, like navigating the city without relying on maps or discovering hidden gems in Kiel, filled me with a sense of accomplishment. Each interaction, whether with locals or fellow expatriates, offered valuable insights, enriching my understanding.
Of course, there were instances of culture shock. The directness of German communication, a stark contrast to the subtleties of Indian interactions, initially caught me off guard. Likewise, the seriousness with which Germans approached casual greetings, such as "How are you?" revealed cultural nuances that I had yet to grasp. With time, I came to appreciate these differences, recognising them as integral aspects of German society.
Independence and cultural shocks
With immense support within the university community I navigated the intricacies of German academia. Adapting to the German education system posed its own set of challenges, yet I found solace in its structure and flexibility. As a project-based PhD student, I enjoyed a level of autonomy that empowered me to pursue my research. The interactive classes I took fostered a dynamic learning environment.
Amid the academic rigours, I discovered a newfound sense of independence. Yet there is a longing for the familiarity of home. The aroma of Indian spices, and the warmth of family gatherings – I yearned these in my solitude. I also found a balance between my financial needs and desires through prudent spending and a willingness to explore budget-friendly options.
I am filled with gratitude for the experiences that have shaped me. Each challenge I overcome, and each lesson learned has contributed to my growth as an individual.