I would guess I’ve heard this question at least a thousand times since I moved to Germany. I am from St Louis, Missouri in the U.S., and I’m here at the Technische Universität Chemnitz to get my Master’s in Psychology. As much as I hear the question, I’m always happy to answer it – because I’m happy to be here in Chemnitz.
My path to Chemnitz was a long one. I started learning German when I was in 7th grade. I can’t really remember anymore what made me choose German over the other languages at my school, but I remember that right away I liked the challenging extra-super-long compound words and tongue-twisting pronunciations. I always loved the language, and I studied it through high school as well.
Then I started studying at the University of Missouri, with Psychology as my major and German as a minor. In order to complete the last few course credits of my German minor, I enrolled in a summer institute at the Philipps-Universität Marburg. The program lasted only four short weeks but had a huge impact on me. I travelled back home to my university in Missouri to finish my Psychology degree, but now I was completely convinced that I was supposed to be living in Germany instead of the States. It sounds crazy, I know, but I was convinced! I decided to upgrade my minor in German to a full major – so that at the end of my studies I would have two Bachelor’s degrees and would have a better chance of admission to a university in Germany.
I graduated from college in December of 2012, but I wasn’t quite ready to leave my home country behind. I decided to stay for a while longer and gain work experience in the field of psychology. I had two really educational and fulfilling jobs in the next two years: one working with patients receiving psychological and psychiatric care at a quasi-residential facility, and one working in a nursing home as an activities assistant. I had created a good life for myself, but still, something was missing. In early 2014, I finally felt ready to plan a move to Germany.
First, though, I had to prove that I spoke German at a high enough level to succeed in a university setting. I took the TestDaF (a long and very comprehensive ‘Deutsch als Fremdsprache’ exam) which tested my reading and listening comprehension as well as my ability to speak and write in German. My results were pretty good – but not great. I scored at the top of the range in two areas (TDN 5), but at only a satisfactory level in two others (TDN 3). With these scores, I applied to various MA Psychology programs around Germany.
Unfortunately, most universities had set their minimum German language proficiency requirements at a level I just hadn’t achieved with the TestDaF. I needed at least TDN 4 across all 4 subtests, which meant I was automatically disqualified from many universities before they even read my CV. However, the Technische Universität Chemnitz was interested in the total sum of points instead of the individual scores. Because of this, I was granted admission to the university’s Master’s degree program in Psychology and got my chance to move to Germany. I received the notice of admission in mid-August, and was told I needed to be in Chemnitz ready to study by October. Insanity!
So, in the shortest and craziest six weeks of my life to date, I quit my job, moved out of my apartment, bought a one-way plane ticket to Berlin, signed a lease for an apartment in Chemnitz, said goodbye to my family and friends and moved to the former Karl-Marx-Stadt. 😉
Yeah, I was excited then, but I had no way of knowing what I would find here… It’s true that I’ve had my share of frustrating Sundays when all I wanted to do was go grocery shopping (out of the question; forget it!) and I’ve had way too many funny language barrier mistakes to even begin to count. But I’ve also found some truly fantastic friends – both natives and other internationals – and I finally achieved my goal of living in Germany! Every day feels more like home here in Chemnitz, and I have never once regretted my decision. And even though I still get asked on a (very, very) regular basis, “You’re American? …But what are you doing here in Chemnitz?” …I still have never gotten tired of answering it, because:
My life has never been better, and I couldn’t be happier to be studying Psychology and living here in Chemnitz.
Post from Sarah, Master in Psychology, 06.16.2015