Three days ago, I started to panic. My husband and I were driving back to Blacksburg, VA after visiting our families in Pennsylvania. For whatever reason, somewhere in the middle of West Virginia, the full weight of what I am about to do came down upon me. My husband was driving. I turned to him and said, “What am I doing?” Then I burst into tears. He turned his head back and forth between me and the road and asked “What’s wrong?!”
My name is Amanda. The U.S. Department of State has awarded me a Fulbright Grant to be an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in a school in Germany during the 2011-2012 academic year. This means I will move to Damme, Germany in September to teach and represent my country until June 2012.
This should all be very exciting, and it is. I am proud and honored to have this opportunity. However, the panic that struck me a few days ago had nothing to do with excitement. What I had realized was that there was at least one large kink to work out before I left. I can attribute the other part of my panic to realizing what I am about to leave behind: my friends, my family and my husband, George.
It’s not as though I didn’t know I’d be leaving loved ones behind. When I started the application process almost a year ago, this aspect of the grant often consumed my thoughts. George was incredibly supportive. He pointed out that many couples live apart for some period of time: soldiers, sales reps, and academics. His being calm about it calmed me. Until Sunday.
I mentioned having one kink to work out, and it’s a big one: housing. I leave on September 4, and as of today, August 23, I still have no place to live. I have been looking everywhere, and so has the director of the school, but to no avail. Both of our families had casually asked about where I would be living while we were visiting that weekend. Answering the question only served to cement the fact that I was unprepared. When I combined this fact with the anticipation of leaving George, it overwhelmed me.
One of the great things about our marriage is that when one of us melts down, the other stays calm. If a bad situation lasts long enough, we sometimes take turns, but one of us always manages to stay rational and clear-headed enough to keep the other afloat. This particular moment of panic was no different; George pulled the car over, dug some wrinkled Starbucks napkins out of the console and handed them to me. “We’re going to be fine,” he said. “What am I doing?” I repeated. “You are taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity that you deserve and that you have always wanted.” Deep breath. “You’re right. Thanks.” He smiled at me and turned back onto the interstate. Eventually, I could smile, too.
So it’s official: panic-mode is creeping in. A friend read my Facebook update and thought I had said “Pac-Man mode.” Since I happen to love Pac-Man, this made me happy. Suddenly everything seemed do-able. Tomorrow, I will wake up at 4:00am and call the Resident Registry in Damme, and see if anyone is renting out rooms in their homes. If no one is, I will reserve a room at the hostel in town. I may not have any permanent arrangements when I arrive , but I will have my wallet, and I know the language. Thus armed, I also know that I will not end up sleeping on bench.