Grad School: Epic Odysee

So, I’m in SAN FRANCISCO!!! I gotta say, it was a really long arrival day with some bumps and a very tired Ari by the end of it. When I was waiting for the BART at the airport to get me to Daly City to get a cab from there to my home in the dark while being ubertired, I got really sad and homesick and just wanted to go back asap. But once I was in my rented room, I could not have been happier- the people are really nice and warm and welcoming and my room is bright, clean, big and has a spacious walk-in closet. It looks like a very typical American suburban neighborhood (which, in my case, means it looks like awesome).

And since it’s gonna be grad school from here onwards, it’s gonna be my new series in a wider theme. From how to get settled into your new city over student-friendly grocery shopping to finding the best public places to meet people, go partying or just having a good time πŸ™‚

Groceries

So, first day. Fighting jetlag and starving stomach by exploring the neighborhood. Guess what’s right around the corner? A shoppingmall! And they have everything, and I mean EVERYTHING from Victoria’s Secret to Forever 21 to Sephora OPI nailpolish to Chipotle and Godiva Milkshakes and Starbucks and oh so much, I was overwhelmed and super happy. Then came a downer- the only grocery store within walking distance is a Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice, conveniently located store and I can be lucky to have it so close by but when I pictured my future grocery shopping, I thought of New York’s Pathmark. You know…the broccoli au gratin and isles of ice-cream flavors and unhealthy stuff I know I shouldn’t eat but love anyways… Nada! Instead I was confronted with organic and healthy everywhere and and gluten-free fries, nuts and isles of fruits and vegetables. Should be my choice of consumption but it’s also a big question of money and since I wanna cut my budget short, I need to be picky at times. TJ has really friendly stuff and a healthier variety of microwaved and precooked foods (picture instant noodles with dried organic meet..yay). Their cosmetics section was also quite small but that might only be my branch.

So, today on my third day, I decided to take faith in my own hands and looked up nearby Safeway stores only to find out that there was one within walking distance…or so it seemed. “Hey, let’s walk 2 miles to that store” said noone in San Francisco ever. Cause the locals know about one phenomenon I blatantly ignored: The hills! What should have been a 20 minute walk, took me almost an hour through suburban neighborhoods wher

e every street looked the same and all the houses were equally nice and yes, oh, a palm tree but oh, shoot, also a steep hill, how far am I really willing to go for this stuff?! Turns out- pretty far. 2 miles, 60 minutes and 6 steep hills far, to be exact. I gotta say though- that Safeway was exactly what I was looking for and I could have spent hours in there, I was instantly happy and felt relegated to New York last year but only for a few minutes because I was completely aware of the fact that I would have to carry everything back again. I think crossing by the Ice-cream isle without getting any was the hardest part of the day.

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Wheeere is the safeway? I only see fog, hills and houses

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More Fog, hills and houses

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FOUND IT!!!

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Happiest version of myself I could possibly be πŸ™‚

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So yeah, my legs are tired, my body is aching from the heavy bags but it was still very much worth it because I know I have a bunch of Rica A Roni’s downstairs (and cooked with meet and some fresh vegetables, it’s really not that bad).
Stay tuned for more stories because tomorrow I’m going downtown!

Cheers and go grocery shopping!

Ari

guess who’s going to San Francisco today?

People, can you take a moment and cross your fingers for my dear long-distance-roommate, who is currently either on a plane to London, somewhere in the airport in London, or even already on a plane to Los Angeles?

She’s a bit worried that things are going to go wrong. Or, what am I saying, she’s freaking out about everything.

I’m sure everything will be just fine and you’ll hear soon from her about how wonderful and absolutely epic San Francisco is, but in the meantime, it can’t hurt to send her some good thoughts and wishes, right?

Good luck, Ari, and keep us posted!!

Countdown Series: 1 Day

Well…I warned you. I kinda failed in keeping up my daily countdowns but this week has just been full of last minute preparations and several goodbye events and lots of sleeping. Also, I am getting more nervous by the hour basically and I am convinced that I forgot something really, really vital that will make me get turned down at my port of entry- do you know that feeling? I mean, you will always forget something but there are things that are really not worth crying over and some others that just cannot be forgotten… anyway, moving on to prevent a nervous breakdown!!

My bags are packed and should anybody open one of them, they would find an interesting hodgepodge of stuffed animals, tons of nailpolish, pictures and yes, here and there clothes as well. So, here is to my last countdown which kinda relates to packing and flying:

1 Day- Time for Presents!!

I gotta say I was overwhelmed by all the awesome postcards, pictures, presents and words of support that I received upon saying goodbye to people. It’s really amazing to have such a great support network and it makes challenges like that more fun and less frightening.
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I took all the cards with me (I know they’ll help against homesickness) but there are two things I am very much looking forward to during the plane ride:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis book was sent to my by my long-distance roommate a few weeks ago and I believe the first entry is supposed to start on the plane. It’s a small journal that is divided into 12 months with every month holding a few challenges for me. Apparently my friends brainstormed for that a while and I can’t wait to get started on it- of course I will share all adventures and challenge results here, too. Just saying guys, it ain’t gonna be a boring year for all our followers! πŸ™‚
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo many pages full of fun and challenges- I think we should all take a moment of silence to honor Judith’s arts-and-crafts skills!!!

On top of that, my friend of 18 years gave me a present that I had to swear I would only open on the plane…naturally, I am really really curious and can’t wait to rip of the wrapping like an impatient four-year-old on Christmas. What could it beeeeee, I wanna knoooow!!
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Bottomline: Tomorrow is a little bit like Christmas, Eastern and Birthday combined and once I am in my new room with all my suitcases, I’ll be a whole lot less nervous and a whole lot more tired! Good night and hopefully talk to ya’ll state-side soon πŸ™‚

Cheers and give your best friend a present!!

Ari

Countdown Series: 7 Days

Whoop whoop! I gotta admit, there might not be 7 more countdown posts following because I’m becoming increasingly busy with last preparations and making sure that I didn’t forget anything important. But I still have a few things worth noting so here’s to:

7 Days- Walmart

Dude. It’s insane. Walmart is not just a supermarket that somehow always seems to be within reach and conveniently opens 24/7. It also got the most ginormous proportions ever! I am not even kidding, this thing is like an airport terminal. You can get lost in there- I know that because I have. It’s consumerism at its best but it is consumer heaven! THEY. HAVE. EVERYTHING! They have Nutella for a reasonable price. They have ALL sorts of Oreos…like PEPPERMINT-CHOCOLATE-DOUBLEDECKER-OREOS! They have ISLES full of ice-cream flavors and brands. Most of the packages and bags come in supersizes. It’s insane, basically. And once you recover from that epiphany, you might just be lucky enough to have a friend close by a….wait for it ’cause it’s gonna be legendary…SUPER WALMART! Not kidding, there are even bigger versions that would fit my entire house. Wow. Just wow. And yes, I know what you must think: Where does this girl live?!…Not in America. Most of the time, Walmarts also have a Taco Bell or McDonalds on the property so that you can buy food after you bought food and I totally get it. You just need to sit down and somehow recover from your Walmart shopping spree. Best part about it- I found a true Plan B for my life: Become a Walmart greeter! Seriously, the minute I found out that it’s a job position, I knew it was made for me. Who else would greet the incoming shoppers with an enthusiastic: “Hi, Welcome to Walmart, HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW POP-TART FLAVORS YET?!?!?!??!?!?!”

Cheers and stop by Walmart!

Ari

*photo credits to Pinterest

Countdown Series: 8 Days

Who implemented luggage weight restrictions?! And who made time pass by so fast?! I feel like there are sooo many things still to do…convert euros into dollars. Get all my documents together. Be sure to HAVE all important documents. And, most importantly, pack my bags. Luckily, my dad must have won the Tetris World Series at some point in his life, he’s amazing in folding and storing a waaay to big pile of clothes into an obviously waaay too tiny suitcase. Oh yeah, and there is obviously still the feeling that I must have forgotten something. Am I ready for….

…8 Days- Big City Life

I grew up in a tiny cute town in the middle of nowhere. No big crimes or news except maybe for occasional headlines like “Freddy the Raccoon escaped his cage”. It’s a great town to raise kids but a depressing town to grow to a youngster in. At some point I think people debated building a skater park but that never happened and after the only 16+ club in the entire area burned down, there was nowhere to go out to either. Well, what can I say- there’s a reason I graduated as best in my year…there was simply nothing else but studying left to do. But I love life in big cities. I love the buzz and having lots of people around me. I enjoy being exposed to all sorts and types of people and classes. While some people might hate the anonymity, it allows me to be myself and sometimes dance through the streets or throw on a ridiculously extroverted outfit to go to the supermarket because NO ONE CARES! You can be anything and, most of the time, people will either ignore you or smile at you (friendly is most cases, sometimes also a little sympathetically). I appreciate the great choice in cultural, social and educational events and I mean…come on- there’s just no way HONY could work in towns like mine.
I know San Francisco is not the biggest of cities in the US, a lot of people actually said it’s got a small town feeling to it. But I also heard it’s super open-minded towards everything and very opposed to stagnation in any way. Well, I’m intrigued. But I’m not a naive dreamer, I know the downsides of living in a big urban environment. A very good friend of mine got robbed by a guy with a gun in the streets of the Mission district yesterday and stories like that remind me of the dangers that do lie behind some adventures. Sometimes, movie scenes and real life aren’t that different from each other at all (both the movies with a kiss in the rain and the movies with robberies and murder and mystery). Like Paracelsus said: “The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy”. 8 Days!

Cheers and go get a dosage of big city life!

Ari

Countdown Series: 9 Days

It’s getting serious guys, we are in the one-digit numbers… and it’s not only starting to sink in for me but also for my friends and family. My friends are organizing all sorts of “lasts” events, my grandparents started going through old photoalbums to dwell in the past and reminiscence on your life and my parents started treating me as if I’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and would die next week instead of going abroad: “Why don’t you tell us what you want for dinner for the rest of the week and we’re gonna make it for you?” “Oh no, you don’t have to carry it downstairs, your brother’s gonna do it.” “I think you should go to the movies with your brothers, its on us”. It’s awesome but doesn’t make it easy really to go away. Which would let me to my next point:

9 Days- Leaving My Comfort Zone

Everybody has them and they can be a BITCH! I mean, the only positive thing about comfort zones is that you can JUMP them. That, however, takes courage, sometimes lots of it. As my time at home is coming to an end and the challenges ahead are becoming more defined, I am sitting in bed at night thinking about all the new things I’ll have to do on my own. Bank accounts, budgeting, phone, driver’s license, masters degree, cooking. It’s not like I haven’t traveled or lived alone yet but this time, it’s gonna be different. I know for sure that this summer was the last one I’ll ever stay at home again for that long, being a child, meeting with friends like old times. After grad school, there will be work, lots of work, the days of 3-month-long holidays are over. I know I have an amazing support system and I am lucky for that but all of them are gonna be far, far away. 9000km far away to be exact. I’ll have no one there to turn to and ask for support, no host family, no original circle of friends, I’ll be on my own. Entirely. Wow. So, in 9 days it’s not only time to begin THE YEAR but also the time of uncertainties, challenges, barriers and problems. The time to get past my comfort zones and while this isn’t part of my usual countdown- excitement-list, it belongs just as much to a semester or year abroad as the cultural stuff you’re looking forward to. I don’t doubt that I will get to know friends but it’s the starting off point, the problems that will come in between the studying and traveling and surfing and socializing. And I’ll have to handle them like an adult. Problem is, I’m not good at being an adult. I’m just cleverly disguised as one. I also didn’t think that I would ever be brave enough to go on an adventure like that on my own, it’s not common where I come from and I used to envy the few friends that went on exchange years or gap months. Always wondering how it must feel to go away for a long time, throw yourself into cold water. I lived their year through the eyes of facebook pictures, always being amazed by their adventures. But now it’s me who’s going, not my friends, me. Awesome…Just that I have to overcome the fear of the things that will go wrong in the future and accepting the uncertainty of things. I love not knowing what this year will bring me and how I’ll be one year from now, but it’s difficult at the same time. Well…will be interesting to look back a year from now I guess.

Cheers and go cross something off your bucket list!

Ari

Countdown Series: 10 Days

Wooow! I can now start counting down on my two hands, craaaazy. And while time seemed to not pass by fast enough after I booked my flight, I am now starting to get a little nervous. Finally I guess, people started to think there was something wrong with me. A year ago, I couldn’t wait to go back, I was all like ONE YEAR IN THE STATES, WOHOOOOOOOOOO LET’S GOOOO. And at the end of every month I did a silent shout-out Γ‘ la U-S-A! U-S-A aaaaaaand now EVERYBODY: U-S-A!!!! But since last week or so, I am catching myself every once in a while thinking: Holy Shmoly, hang on a sec…one year? As in TWELF MONTHS? Wait, that can’t be…from August till AUGUST?! Moooommmyy!Β It’s just- when you think back to where you were a year ago, it might seem to you like time past in the speed of light. But if you remember all the little stories that happened to you within each and every month, all the studying you did, flirts, relationships, forming life plans, you begin to realize how much can happen within one year. Your whole life can change- I know mine has- and it’s both a little frightening and exciting to think about going through this alone…but maybe those kind of things are the ones worth pursuing? But don’t get me wrong, I am an optimist and even if this year might not turn out as imagined, I could easily twist it into something with lots of life lessons. So, here’s to:

10 DaysAmericans

Now, this one might seem a little confusing and too obvious to be worth a blog post. In the past years I had thought a lot and often about Americans, the American culture and the country. After all, it is always being sold to you as the land of the free, the land that makes any of your dreams possible. Then, I went to an international university where I met all sorts of nationalities- and opinions. While talking about Americanism there altered that glorified picture a little bit, going to New York last year made me realize something important: No country is perfect, not Germany or France or South Africa or the UK and not the US either. If you went into a debate about US politics with me, I’d probably agree that it’s questionable in many aspects. But to me, what makes a country, are its people. And I have never been anywhere with such a great number of strangers that were so open-minded, friendly and helpful as the people I encountered during my travels. ‘Whaaat‘, you may think, ‘Is she talking about New Yorkers?!‘ Yes, I am. I ran into strangers on the street, men as women, giving me compliments on my clothing style, without any hidden agenda, it was just a genuine compliment. I was cheered up by a street musician in a subway car, who could see I had a bad day and who dedicated a little melody to me. Vice versa, I caught myself consoling a cashier at my supermarket who had just gotten a rant from her boss and couldn’t hold back her tears. No matter whether people in the subway, on the park bench next to me, Baristas or homeless people, all kinds of personalities started chit-chatting with me throughout the months. And I had interesting talks. Men offer women of all ages their seat in the bus or subway. And when asking people on the street for directions, they would do their utmost to help me and if that meant putting all their shopping bags down and delay their errands to wait for the map app to load, they’d do it.

The US seems close to my own culture, with both countries being classified as the “Modern Western world” and yet, there are so many differences on various levels. I know that the US is not the only country with people who are welcoming and warm- hearted and I don’t generalize by putting Americans on the top of the food chain and everyone else below that. It’s a personal affection, I guess. While this constant “Hi, how are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Good, thanks” might feel superficial and empty to some, it works just fine for me. And I am missing this…interaction, maybe? And the hope that, although you might have a bad day, there is a high chance that a complete stranger could turn it around at any minute, anywhere in the city. I love my Germans, but at this point in my life, I want to be with Americans…which doesn’t make me sound like an Anthropologist aaaat all, I apologize. Thing is, while writing this post, I realized that I was writing away my nervousness and got back my sheer happiness to go to SAN FRANCISCOOOO! 10 Days!!

Cheers and go spread some love,

Ari