Zuzana Kabešová from Prague imagined her year abroad very differently. Here, she shares her experience as an international student during the Covid-19 pandemic in Leipzig and gives us a glimpse into the challenges and frustrations she encountered on a daily basis.
The day I moved to Leipzig was weird and stressful. I have never studied abroad before, so that was something new and exciting.
I moved from Prague, so I am aware that it is not that dramatic of a move since it’s only 3 hours away, but I was still very scared. On the other hand, I could’ve just hopped on a train or bus and be back home in a few hours. I found a dorm that I couldn’t visit before renting it and with a roommate I’ve never seen before so I was not sure what I was getting myself into.
Another of my struggles was my German, I got a B1 certification, but I wasn’t sure if that would be enough.
With my limited German I was immediately afraid of not fitting in and that the language barrier will be too much and people will look at me in derogatory terms. Luckily, everyone in my class seemed friendly but I was too shy to even approach anyone. My first semester was a winter one, and like many other people, I suffer when it is dark and cold outside.
So naturally, I spent most of my days in my dorm after school because it was too cold to go anywhere, and if I wanted to go somewhere I would be most definitely alone.
o describe my housing situation better, it’s one room where I sleep, eat and study and then a shared bathroom and kitchen. Safe to say I wasn’t really happy because I was still getting used to things.
I promised myself that the summer semester will be better! Oh, boy was I wrong.
When I came home for semester break, It would never occur to me that I won’t be able to go back to my dorm: for almost five months (because Germany closed the borders with my country for a while). Don’t get me wrong, I am very blessed because I can stay at home with my pets and family. The school was way easier because nobody knew what to do and I spent my days watching TikTok and sipping Dalgona coffee.
But my supposedly three years abroad degree shrunk to me crouching over a shining notebook screen, not exploring the city at all, and the feeling of dread and guilt, that I’m not moving anywhere in my life had slowly crept over me. I made almost zero new friends. How am I supposed to shoot my shot over direct messages during class? Most of my classes are in English, so my German worsened so much over the past year. All my classes are in English, but I assumed that simply living in Germany will help me a little.
Now the only German I use is my “Rewe German” which is “Danke” and “nein” when they ask me if I need it.
I feel more isolated than ever. I feel like I can’t even keep up with the friends I have left. Obviously, I have friends, but it seems difficult to keep in touch. I am tired of asking how everything’s going – when the days are literally the same. There is no good way of meeting new people. Except for online dating apps of course, but I don’t want to get murdered on the first date. (Am I right, ladies?) So with every chance I get, I return home and hang out with my dad and cats. Online school is now way harder too. I assume teachers think that we have plenty of time now since everybody is home, so they increased the workload?
So now back in Leipzig when everything’s closed, I need to make the best out of it because my time here is limited. It’s the small things like getting an oat milk latté or get food delivery.
In November I got my very first haircut in Germany so that was a big thing for me too. It is my second summer semester and I’m feeling kind of optimistic about it.
I am supposed to get a tattoo here and I would like to get a bike and explore the city a bit more. The weather will be warm and my classes this year are better. Maybe I will attend some German language school too. I know I am not the only one feeling like this, even though it seems like it most of the time, but I wanted to share and maybe receive some validation from strangers online. It is safe to say it was not a good year for (foreign) students.??