Annika V. from Germany in Kaisa Auge-Katz’s Chicago, IL cluster:

Study, get a job, build a home, marry, have kids ‚ that’s how I always thought my life will look like. “Always” means since I can think of and “thought” means past tense; it means “not anymore”. My life changed when I made the decision of staying with a foreign family in a foreign country for one year. It changes again since I’m living here, and it will change again when I’m back in Germany. As I mentioned before, I had a plan, that probably looked very similar to the plans my friends had made in high school. But I think it’s time to change this plan. No‚ it’s time to diversify this plan.

Living in the United States as an au pair changed me. But it is not the living itself. Of course, the different culture with different food, different habits, and the different language broadens one’s horizon. Nevertheless, it is much more the experiences I gained by speaking to girls (or rather friends) from all over the world, whose life has been so different from mine in Germany. Yet, it is now so similar by being au pairs.

It is much more the experiences I gained by managing my life by myself: no mum, that makes my laundry and cleans everything for me; no dad, that pays attention to how much money is spent and earns it in the first place. Now it’s me, that takes care of laundry and keeping my and the kids’ room tidied up. Now, it’s me, that earns the money and keeps track on how to spend it.
It is much more the experiences I gained traveling. I value the diversity of the world so much more, since I have seen so many beautiful places, that have such a variety of nature, cultures, and people, only to name a few factors. It makes me more curious about what else is, there, in this big, wide world and I’m so excited to see more, because I’m not done yet.

Lastly, it is much more the experiences I gained being on my own, but never alone. I have to get things done by myself: paperwork, taxes, planning vacation, finding classes and taking them. There is no one, but me who fills out the forms or book the flights. However, there are always people, which have my back and which I can rely on: my wonderful host family, my family in Germany, my new friends here and my old friends in Germany. Knowing that makes me a more independent, young woman than I have ever been before.

The new plan looks like this: study (still, because I want to know MORE), get a job (because I want to stay independent and help people at the same time), and travel (to see MORE). That’s the plan. I don’t know if I will find someone that will marry me and I don’t know if I will have kids. I can’t plan that. I can hope and I can wish for it to happen. So, that’s what I will do: LIVE.