2015 was an exciting and challenging year for me. The highlights of my year were without a doubt completing my MA and moving to Berlin, two events that taught me a few very important lessons. 2015 marks a caesura in my life: Old chapters were closed and new ones started.
Master of Puppets
Studying in Heidelberg was a great experience. It took courage, determination, and aguante to finish what I started. Though, looking back, I might not have been entirely ready to start studying in Germany (in German!) back in 2009, my stubbornness and determination (which I view in this case as synonyms) got me through my first years at the rather elitist University of Heidelberg despite the skepticism of many a professor who had never met a Mexican studying Slavic languages in Germany, and the difficulties inherent to moving to a new country. Anyway, that was back then when I was getting my BA.
This year I got my MA in Eastern European History at the same university. The challenge this time around though was writing my thesis while working three jobs. I had to work that much in order to keep the whole project afloat. I worked two part-time jobs at the university and edited a biography of Friedrich Ebert together with a good friend of mine from Wisconsin while writing a rather demanding text. Juggling all four things at once without dropping the ball is easier said than done. I was but a few months away from graduating and the prospect of having to temporarily put the whole thing on ice kept me awake on many a night. I wasn’t going to throw the towel since that would have meant losing my student visa, but that reality increased the seriousness of the situation. I felt like I was getting burned out but just kept on truckin’ and in the end delivered a solid thesis. Just as crucial as my determination here was the support, both financial and moral, of my girlfriend, my friends, and my family. Glad y’all got my back (you the real MVP).
In the end, receiving my diploma was worth the trouble.
Starting anew in Berlin
In order to fully close the chapter in Heidelberg I still had to leave town. It’s not that I was desperate to get out of there, but I was definitely aching for a change of scenery. I felt like my time in Heidelberg was up and that the healthiest thing for me to do would be moving somewhere new. The opportunity to leave came, however, at a rather unfortunate time, at least socially. I had never had more time to spend with my friends and I felt like I was making the best out of that by really enjoying the city and their company without having to even think about my studies. That was nevertheless coupled with the reality that living in Heidelberg is not really the same if you’re not a student.
I was offered a job in Berlin on September 21, and on October 1 I was on my way to the German capital. I accepted the job before I even had time to think everything through. I had less than 10 days to figure out how to get to Berlin, find a place to live, move out of my place and find somebody to take over my room, and have a beer with as many people as possible. It was all very stressful but fortune does favor the bold and I lucked out big time. A good friend of mine happened to be moving to Frankfurt (Oder) that same weekend and offered me a ride, and two other likewise good and old friends living in Berlin offered me a place to stay while I figured out my situation. I am very fortunate to have such good friends. The whole move to Berlin wouldn’t have been possible otherwise and that’s something I’ll never forget.
The professional challenge
2015 was the year I finally started working full time in Germany. The process of applying for jobs was frustrating, though I did luckily manage to get a job relatively soon after finishing and was able to extend my visa thanks to it: A little background information: If you graduate from a German university you are automatically granted an extension of 18 months to look for work. The kicker is that the job has to be related to your studies and your pay has to be adequate for your degree. In my area, History, native German speakers are usually preferred since most positions at, say, universities or foundations involve public relations work. Hiring culture is also different in Germany than in the United States (I mean that in a bad way). In the States many employers will give you a chance if you have the right attitude, but in Germany employers don’t roll like that.
There are always two sides to the coin. Maybe I’m just impatient. I mean, I do have a full time job, got my visa extended, and live in Berlin. The other day, a friend of mine from Syria living in Prague put things in perspective for me and made me realize that my situation is not bad at all. Maybe I’ve been so long here in Germany already that I just have to find stuff to complain about, for when in Rome… However, seen objectively, looking for work here in Germany is no walk in the park.
A year to remember
2015 showed me that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Knowing that people believe in you and have your back is also golden, and having people in your life willing to give you a helping hand is worth more than all the money in the world. Perseverance pays off, and stubbornness is actually a virtue.
That being said, other highlights included Obscene Extreme 2015, finally seeing Carcass live last month here in Berlin, sailing in Friesland, and celebrating my birthday with my girlfriend in Amsterdam.
I’m looking forward to 2016.
What were your highlights from 2015? Share ’em in the comments!
Season’s greetings, Seb