Old Town Dresden from atop the Frauenkirche, 30 September 2017. Privilege is being able to book tickets for a day trip about 12 hours before departure. While I'm grateful to have the ability to do this, and to have visited Dresden for the first time yesterday, it's something I and others like me have to recognize.
Many Americans, from what I've heard and experienced, seriously underestimate the geography of Europe. While Germany may be between the size of Montana and New Mexico, it takes a bit more than just a hop, skip, and a jump to find yourself in another country (though my travels over the last month and a half seem to beg to differ). Europe is quite large, and unless you have an international drivers license and a vehicle, it's not quite as easy to drive through as some of the smaller East Coast states may be/seem to be.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have found myself in a position, both in terms of time and money, that allows me to do a bit of international sight-seeing. As referenced in this blog post, I spent my first couple weeks of my new life in the Fatherland traveling outside of it – to Italy, Estonia, and Latvia. Anyone who follows me on Instagram and actually reads my sometimes-witty captions knows that I have also been to Erfurt, Meißen, and Dresden in the last month as well.
In this same amount of time, I have inherited a futon from the dumpster (read: from next to the dumpster), a tea kettle from a former tenant of my apartment, and a desk chair from someone who used to live down the hall; I have purchased bedding for my bed and the futon, a poster for my wall, and two pairs of shoes from Deichmann; I have taken a month-long intensive German language course, finally narrowed down my multiple-dissertations-worth-of-ideas into a coherent (and most likely doable) thesis topic, and started an internship for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. I've eaten plenty of Currywurst and Flammkuchen (and am not sick of either meal), and I finally have a student ID card that, as of this morning, is valid on all public transit in the Leipzig area until March 31, 2018. I'm registered with the citizen's office in Leipzig, I have a German bank account, and I bought a bicycle off of Kleinanzeigen (sort of like Craigslist).
Through all of this, and especially because of all of this, I see my privilege. It's not like it has ever been lurking in the shadows – I am a middle-class white girl from a wealthy suburb of Columbus, Ohio, after all – but I am reminded every day I wake up and decide whether to take the tram or bike to the city center for a bakery breakfast of (typically) heiße Schokolade and Käsebrötchen... and yes that means hot cocoa and cheese bread, in case you were wondering.
The fact of the matter is, everywhere I turn, I see how fortunate I am. I have definitely worked for everything I am able to do now and wouldn't be here without many people back in the U.S. who believe(d) in my abilities and enthusiasm for whatever project they were/are involved in. Quite frankly, mundane tasks such as walking into my university cafeteria for lunch or seeing my sister's face pop up on Skype to ask me what I've been doing with my new, exciting life is humbling every single day. I am here in Leipzig, studying something I'm interested in, and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world every day.
I know this post hasn't been particularly organized, and I could easily go through some statistics or wait for another week to post, but I'm sitting in my apartment, thousands of miles away from where I grew up and went to college, and my immediate concern is the fact that the internet keeps failing and I wasn't able to talk to my best friend in Ohio today as planned. So I guess what I want to say is this: my privilege is overwhelming. I want to make the best of it, to share my experiences with other people and hope that they will also recognize and, in some cases, appreciate the position they find themselves in. I know I won't forget any time soon – this beautiful city doesn't leave me with much of a choice, for which I am extremely grateful.
Just some food for thought.