Things I learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding a bike in the snow can be dangerous
#7 - missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
#6 - how to not be the student
#5 - German
#4 - I am a Georgia girl
#3 - you're allowed to visit home on a year abroad
#2 - the future comes no matter how hard you try to avoid it
#1 - it's all about the people
Honestly, this is the simplest lesson in my entire countdown. There is no witty story or profound moment of enlightenment involved. And yet, it is without a doubt the most important thing on the list. I'm sure almost every Fulbrighter formed preconceived notions on how their year was going to turn out as soon as they got their placement letter ("I got Berlin?! I'm going to be so culturally diverse!" "Munich?! Lederhosen EVERYDAY!" "Forchheim... is that a real place?"), but I found it really has very little to do with where you are, but rather who you're with.
Now all the Fulbright ETAs met at orientation and again in March at the Berlin conference. So I've met a fair share of the 140 people placed across Germany, and trust me, it is a very diverse group of personalities. So the fact that I ended up in the same region as 6 other amazingly awesome ETAs, I'm going to say was fate. You may remember my explanation of ETA and famous, well those people are my group - the other ETAs in the Franconia region (we prefer to just call ourselves "Franken"). We don't like to brag, but at the convention in Berlin, we got the impression that we were the closest-knit group of ETAs there. We're just that awesome. We hang out (or used to hang out, now, I guess :() fairly regularly, and became incredibly close through our woes and triumphs over the year.
Without these people, my year would not have been half the success that it was. So that is why I wanted to use my last post as an official Fulbrighter to introduce you to FRANKEN, the most amazing ETAs Germany has ever seen:
GemmaYou know Gemma. The better half of Gemily. Poor Gemma is the only British assistant, so she has to put up with a lot of our Americanisms. She and I live together and basically come as a packaged deal in the Franken group. Two years ago, Gemma did was an ETA in Berlin and (like me) had been just looking for any reason to get back to Germany. Basically she's so awesome that she's already had an entire post devoted to just her!
JenniferJennifer and I have a pretty similar story in that we quite randomly decided to study abroad for one year, fell in love with Europe and have been doing anything we can to get back. I think that's why we get along so well. Only, instead of Switzerland, Jennifer had spent most her time in Austria (they have the Alps and really strange accents, so, I mean, it's not too different from Switzerland). She has had some interesting luck in her Fulbright year, between crazy landlords and extreme medical adventures, and I'm always so impressed by what a positive attitude she keeps through it all! She also frequents Hotel Baptistella for caramel corn binges and HIMYM marathons.
ErinErin is the only one in our group that doesn't live on a direct train line. But despite the hassle, she always manages to make it out with us. I like to think that she is the most rational and sensible one out of all of us, but at the same time, she cracks me up every time we hang out. She is also very good at rapping. Especially when her only line is to say "Ausgebildet".
AndyOh Andy. Andy was the first of our group to leave when he headed home about 2 weeks ago. He is definitely the life of the party in that he is the one who is always encouraging us to party at all. Andy was living abroad for the first time this year, so he probably did the most traveling out of any of us. I swear, every weekend he was in another country making new friends and having an awesome time. He is also the mastermind behind the ETA and famous videos. And it's uncanny how many people wink at him.
MattSind Sie der Beck? We like to call Matt "der Beck" since that is his last name and also the name of a very popular bakery chain here. Despite having probably the worst experience with German bureaucracy ever when he first arrived (and for the following 4 months), he was still able to come out with a positive attitude and a good sense of humor about it all. He is probably the wittiest person in our group and can always think of the best response in any situation. He is also very outspoken about his love of ethnic women.
ZachZach is my music nerd buddy. Since we both have a history of studying music (some things will haunt you forever), we formed a special bond over a children's evening performance by the Bamberg symphony (hey, cheap tickets are where it's at). Aside from singing, Zach's special talents include dancing - with moves he only first busted out with at the Berlin conference in March. Since then I think we've all looked at Zach in a new light. Until two weeks ago at the Berg festival in Erlangen. There we met a completely new side of Zach, that, for the sake of internet exposure, we'll refer to as #DZ. Long story short, I told #DZ I would marry him and I meant it.
Of course there were other people (both ETAs and... well, not ETAs) who I met along the way that definitely impacted my year. But these 6 - the Franken group - were really something special. So thanks, guys, for helping to make my Fulbright year as awesome as it was. And whoever I end up with next year has 12 very big shoes to fill.