New Country, COVID-19 Crisis by Erin Hauptmann

Schöne Leser (Lovely reader),

A Study Abroad is an experience of a life time. For me it is a chance to understand a completely different way of life 4,545 miles away from my home. I arrived in Bamberg, Germany on March 2nd, having decided to go two weeks earlier than originally planned, allowing extra time to adjust to a new life, in a different country. 

I took the train from the airport into Bamberg, then a bus to my apartment complex. It was very difficult getting use to the bus system (American struggle). I did get on the right bus line…but in the opposite direction. Luckily, a nice German women informed me I needed to switch to the same bus number but the other direction. Google maps would have been very helpful, but I did not have service in Germany yet. I got off the bus at the next stop and dragged my 70 pounds of luggage through cobblestone streets trying to find my way back to the train station. After about an hour and advice from very friendly Bamberg citizens, I found the train station and took a taxi to my apartment.

The first week was a big shock, the way of life was completely different. Offices closed at noon, and Bamberg has a very different German dialect which was difficult to understand and made me question my German language skills. This mixed with homesickness and Jet-lag put a damper on my spirits of studying abroad. I knew it would be different and challenging, but it was nothing I could have properly prepared myself for.

Before I left America, I made plans to take a train to visit one of my best friends who lives in France. I had not seen her in 3 years is it was exciting to spend time with someone who is like family to me. It was an amazing trip that allowed me to be comfortable with being in Europe. I learned a lot about the European lifestyle, and was a lot more confident to be in Bamberg for 6 months. I took this newfound confidence, faced my fear of the bus system and registered with the government and Bamberg University. Little did I know that in the next few days, things would be getting a lot more hectic, a lot has happened in the three weeks I have been here.

At the beginning, the coronavirus was not spreading as fast and we were not yet aware of the severity. After only a week of getting comfortable with Bamberg living, the State of Bavaria declared that we go into Ausgangseinschränkung (exit restriction/quarantine). We are only allowed to leave our homes for groceries or to get exercise (no more than two people). This was definitely a set back that I had not taken into consideration for my study abroad, experience of a lifetime.

I was getting emails from the US Embassy and from CofC recommending me to come home. Europe went from level 3 travel advisory to the highest level in just a week. The coronavirus situation became chaotic very quickly and it was scary. The question of staying or leaving was difficult. After talking with my family, we came to the conclusion that it would be most beneficial for me to stay and finish my study abroad (which really hadn’t begun). I was safer health wise to partake in social distancing and quarantine in Germany, than to travel on trains and through airports which would have increased my risk of exposure immensely.

It has been an another stressful transition into quarantine life in Germany of trying to keep a routine and keep myself busy. Running, taking online Barre3 classes, staying connected with my family and friends, cooking, and reading Jane Austen have been very helpful in keeping busy and healthy both physically and mentally. Of course Netflix has also been a huge help…I have been continually finding different ways to practice my language skills by watching my usual shows in German. As well as listening to German news to stay updated and watching German crime shows, “Tatort” recommended by the amazing Dr. Koerner!

]This is a crazy time for everyone in the world right now. The most important thing is that we wash hands, and stay home, and never give up! I am confident that we will get through this difficult time. Even though the COVID-19 crisis has put me quarantine for the beginning of my study abroad, I can say with absolute certainty, that I will never forget this experience and am learning new life lessons everyday. 

Bleib gesund und sicher (Stay healthy and safe)

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