The transition back to Davis went rather smoothly, I think. I moved into my apartment with my friends Rachael and Meg, and made time to see many of the people I hadn't seen in 15 months. Most of all, it was really great to see everyone at the Newman Center again. I will never forget some of the greetings I got from people when we saw each other for the first time. I have also been hanging out with some of the students from Berlin who are now exchange students here. For the most part, we speak in English, as they were nice enough to only speak in German with me in Berlin. Every now and then, I have been able to convince them to speak in German with me, which always makes me extremely happy.
I've also started back at work again, giving tours of UC Davis. It was such a nice surprise when I found out how many people remembered me and welcomed me back, saying that they missed me and that there was a "hole" in the tour guide family while I was gone. Giving tours has really reminded me how much about Davis I missed while I was abroad, which is neither good nor bad, it simply means that I got to experience very different things last year than my peers did.
Classes started again, too. Since I'm in my last year and need to finish up all of my major requirements for both the Economics and German majors, I'm taking two classes each: German Literature 800-1800 and German Writing Skills for the German major, and Economic Development and International Microeconomics for the Economics major. So far, the classes have been the most difficult adjustment to being back in the United States. I am not used to writing papers, doing homework, or studying for tests in the middle of the term. I'm also not used classes meet multiple times a week. To be honest, this transition has been downright stressful. I don't know how I can finish the amount of work I have for my classes, while working, looking for an internship, and being active at church. Somehow I have been managing, with a lot of late nights, and at least the results I have produced so far are telling a different story than I feel I'm living.
I feel like everything I do here in Davis, I compare with my life in Berlin. This is probably not the best strategy, but I do it without even thinking about it. Some things are better in Davis, others were better in Berlin. These comparisons are especially brought on when people ask me questions about my time abroad, and some of these questions don't have a straight answer.
One of the most common questions I get is, "What do you miss the most?" This actually took me a very long time to figure out an answer to. Of course, I miss the friends I made while I was in Berlin, all of whom are now spread out all over the world, and it pains me a little to know there are some of them I will never see again. I miss living in the big city, where there is ALWAYS something to do, something new to learn, something new to experience. I miss the history of the city, and I miss the changes constantly taking place. The changes I experienced and I know are happening right now are what remind me I will never really be able to go back to the city I love. But when it all boils down to it, I miss the food. I miss the fresh bread I could buy for just a few cents, when the bakeries were the only stores open on Sunday mornings, and enjoying a leisurely breakfast with my roommate or with friends. I miss the culture of eating food to-go, when I could get a small snack or a large meal for a few euros in a few minutes, but in comparison to fast food here, it was actually quality food, not a bunch of preservatives. Most importantly, I miss Döner Kebab. That is one thing I have not been able to find here in California. If anybody finds it, please let me know. (No, it is not the same as gyros!)
"What are you the happiest to have back in California?" The weather. I made a mental comparison on the first of October, because in 2010, that was the day I pulled out my heavy winter jacket, which I then wore nearly constantly for the following five months. I grew quite sick of that jacket, and actually didn't bother to bring it back with me to California. On the first of October this year, I wore my work polo and shorts, and when I biked to work, I thought to myself, "Hmm, it's a bit chilly. Maybe I should have worn pants instead." Pretty soon, though, it warmed up more, and I was fine. Even now, in the middle of November, I am fine with a sweatshirt. To be fair, though, a lot of people around me are complaining it has turned cold, so maybe I'm just more used to cold weather than they are now.
"Are you glad to be back?" This is the question that frustrates me the most. For those who want a simple answer for such a simple question, my honest answer is, "No." Glad is not the adjective I would use to describe how I feel about being back. I am feeling a whole range of emotions, but glad is too simple to adequately describe how I feel. As I mentioned earlier, there are good things and bad things about being back in America. On related notes, I also get asked, "Didn't you miss your parents while you were gone? I know they missed you!" Of course I missed my parents, and my friends too. These are important people in my life. But if I live my entire life staying in one place so that I will not miss my family, I am going to miss out on a lot more of life. In addition, I have noticed that I actually talked to my parents and saw my parents more often while I was abroad, thanks to our weekly Skype calls. Back in Davis, I have only talked to them a handful of times. As for the friends I have missed, I am extremely happy to see a lot of them again. But college is temporary, and everyone is going to graduate soon, if they have not already. Most are not going to remain in the Davis or Sacramento area after graduation. In addition, I now have friends all over the world who I now miss as well, so with that logic, I could have also stayed in Berlin and stayed with them.
Overall, the transition back to Davis has been as much of an experience as the transition to Berlin was. I have days that I am ecstatic to be back in Davis, and I have days where I wish nothing more than to be back in Berlin. One thing that has been made completely clear to me is that I cannot stay here forever. From this point forward, I am always going to look forward to something new, whether that be a new job, new experience, traveling, or moving halfway around the world again.
By the way, I definitely do plan to get back to Germany. If everything goes my way, I will be back within the next five years, at least to visit. Who knows if I will ever be able to move back? Only time will tell.