Tatatataaaa! I did it! I survived my 5th semester (if I count the two summer semesters) and I am now enjoying 6 weeks of winter break! I cannot even describe how excited I am about having six weeks without work, internship, school, assignments, or other responsibilities. Because I am spending most of the time at my parents place, I do not even have to pay for my groceries or cook for myself. I can be a spoiled child to my heart’s content!
Another reason why I am extremely excited about my winter break is the fact that I am able to go back to my home country, Germany, for the first time in 7 month! As much as I love being an international student living in a different culture, there are just some things I truly miss, which are not accessible in the US. Especially for this time of the year, I miss some of the German Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas calendar from the first to the 24th of December, St. Nicolas day (“Nikolaus”) on December 6, and the traditional German Christmas market. While Chicago has a German Christmas market, the Christkindlmarket, it is not quite the same, even if they try really hard (btw. the “Christkind”, which the market is named after, traditionally brought the presents on Christmas Eve in Germany. Sadly, this tradition is now changing, I think partly due to popular commercials [thanks Coca Cola :( ]). The Christmas market in Hannover, my hometown, covers most of the city center, which is a pedestrian area. Hannover also has a historic Christmas market, which is located in Hannover’s historic neighborhood flanking houses from the 16th century. This particular Christmas market stands out because of its medieval design: food and articles for sale are hand-made or made from scratch, and bonfires lighten the streets. It truly brings a different feeling to the otherwise hectic Christmas season. In addition, every neighborhood has its own Christmas market, even if it is much smaller.
So while I am excited to go back to my roots and to be able to regress back into the stage of a child for recuperation, going back home also always shows me how much I have changed. It is scary how easy it is to fall back into old communicative pattern with your family or old friends, even if you know that that’s not who you are anymore. And it takes a lot of effort to not remain in those patterns. Probably because I am training to become a therapist and counselor, I would prefer to be able to use my listening and talk skills with my family to avoid ingrained pattern of behavior, which cause conflicts. Sadly, it is not as easy as it sound. However, it is encouraging to see the change in myself when being with my family, because it is not always as clear when I feel stuck in my daily life in Chicago. And it is rewarding in the process of becoming a therapist. It means there is something happening even if it is sometimes hard to see it yourself. Therefore, I will hopefully take some of that motivation back with me when I am returning to Chicago after my 6 week winter break!
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky