And so it begins

Posted on October 9th, 2011 by

Some random health related building

I started classes this week (although it was more so orientation; real school starts next week). Walking in, my first thought was, “Did I just make my way into the United Nations building?” My class has got every continent covered (and numerous times over) expect for Australia/Oceania (does anyone actually know what’s correct?) and Antarctica (Happy Feet was a last minute drop). Well, the first thing we were supposed to do was to state our names, say where we’re from, and what we’ve been doing as a profession. We started going around and I realized the insane lives these people have led. Some are doctors, nurses, and dentists. Some have done humanitarian work in the war torn areas of the Middle East and Africa. Some have spent anywhere from a couple of years to a decade working with Doctors without Borders. Some of been working with the criminally insane in Africa. In other words, they didn’t just graduate from college four months ago… well, it comes to my turn to introduce myself. By this point, saying that I just completed college feels like being a five year old who’s proud that he can pee without his pants needing to be at his ankles. Oh well, nothing I can do about being young (the average age has got to be around thirty or so). From there, it was a pretty slow paced day and we just got to know each other a little bit.

The second day, we’re going over Word. Yup, Microsoft Word. You’re probably thinking the same thing I was. “WTF? Word?” But surprisingly, it was a lot more interesting and helpful than I ever imagined. A large part of this was because our professor sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger (minus the muscles but all of the accent). I still can’t help but smile when I think of him saying header and footer. I don’t exactly know how to type out an accent but think of Arnold saying kung FU and then added the “ter” at the end. That probably still doesn’t make sense, but give me a pity laugh or something. Anyway, here are a couple of his great quotes:

“Not backing up your data leads to suicide candidates.”

“Not smartly putting pictures in a document can be the equivalent of a magnitude seven earth quake.”

“It’s not money.” After somebody took too many sheets of paper.

Give Blood. Save a life.

More seriously though, this lesson was one hell of an eye-opener. Computers, which are ubiquitous these days on college campuses such as Gustavus, can present quite the challenge for those who either studied in an earlier time or another place. I am by no means a computer whiz, but there were times when I felt like the second-coming of Steve Jobs (RIP). But it really made me realize how blessed I am to have grown up with all the advantages that life in America brings.

So one thing I should probably clarify after my last blog. I’m not currently homeless. I’m living with my aunt and uncle (or at least that’s what I call them). They’re actually my uncle’s wife’s second cousin. I think. In other words, we aren’t actually even related. But they’ve been kind enough to house me since my arrival in Berlin. The challenge has been trying to find a place to live that’s farther into the heart of the city where I’d be living with people who are more my age. Even though that hasn’t quite worked out yet, it’s been nice living here. Their three children have moved away, but these past two weeks all of them have come back at different times. It’s been great getting to know them and also experiencing the city with actual Berliners.

A blank box. Why would anything go in there?

So I need to complain a little bit right now. German bureaucracy is the devil. Since I’m going to be living here, I obviously need a visa or residence permit or something of the sort. Totally understandable. Before that though, I need to register where I’m living with the local government. Again, legitimate. What’s not legitimate is that you’re supposed to do this within two weeks of moving but appointments at the bürgeramt (kind of like extensions of city hall) are fully booked four weeks out. So on Friday morning, I went there at 7:40 AM (it opens at eight) and there was already a line of 15 people waiting (apparently I’m not the only one getting owned by red tape). After a little over an hour, I finally talked to someone. Seeing as I had filled the form out the night before with the help of my family, I figured it wouldn’t take long. And it didn’t. But that was because the lady looks at the form, points to a blank box at the bottom, and says I need a signature there (this is all done much too cheerfully; she’s the real-life German version of Dolores Umbridge). How was I supposed to know that I needed a signature in a blank box?!?! I then leave empty-handed and pissed. I wasted an hour and a half of my life to simply have to do it all over again next week. Where’s the decency?

With my first week behind me now, I’ve had a little taste of what graduate school will be like this year. Even though my classmates are quite impressive, I’ve come to realize that there is no reason to be intimidated or question myself. Their accomplishments and experiences don’t change who I am. I still went to a great university and got an incredible education. I still have the same desire to learn and become the best I can be. And I still know how to read. With these skills in place, I know there will be trying times over the course of the next year, but I’m ready.

Hugs and hand pounds,


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