…Well it’s been a little over a month so I’m way overdue for an update of my time since I’ve been here! There’s been so much going on since I’ve arrived that I haven’t had time to actually post my thoughts because I’ve definitely been writing every day!
The Journey Over Here
Once I landed in Munich on July 23 after an 8.5 hour journey it was nice to see a familiar face (I guess you could say?) of a woman who volunteers for the club who was holding a sign with my name on it in the arrivals area. Already jet lagged and delirious it was nice to finally arrive at my destination. Once we loaded my bags into the car it took us about an hour to drive to Vilsbiburg. My German wasn’t the best since I had only learned really simple words from my crash course on Duolingo lol but we were still able to have some good convo in the car before I was knocked out sleeping.
When we made it to Vilsbiburg she took me to the office to take care of some paperwork. The office team was extremely welcoming and organized upon my arrival so I already felt like I was in good hands! I was also able to meet my head coach for the first time who was also very nice, the first thing he asked me was if I knew his name lol I was just hoping I pronounced it right…and I did haha.
After leaving the office I was able to go to the grocery store to buy a few things for breakfast and dinner then head to my apartment for the season. Once I was dropped off, one of the office team members showed me around, double-checked that everything was in working order, explained the recycling system to me (which I’m still getting used to) and made sure I had everything I needed. Once he left I plopped down on the couch in the quiet apartment and let everything settle in for two minutes. I felt like I had been going and going for so long that I didn’t even have time to soak in the fact that I was actually in another country.
As soon as the silence in my apartment started to pierce my ears I quickly turned on some music and started unpacking my things to avoid the possibility of feeling alone or maybe even sad. Once I unpacked everything I started to feel more settled. Next step cooking something for dinner. Chicken sausage and spaghetti with veggies (fancy I know). After eating dinner my upstairs neighbor knocked on my door to give me all the wifi information so I could finally connect with everyone from back home to let them know I made it safely.
For the rest of the week/weekend I attempted to beat my jet lag, hangout with a few of my teammates, walk around and get familiar with the town before the days got too busy with different doctors appointments, getting my visa, etc.
Once the next week began we started workouts to get in shape for the season. Straight lifting and running! I knew I would have to adapt to change and that definitely came true with some of the workouts and testing. I thought I had been through some tough workouts at Miami until one Friday we had hill sprints…yep. We even used the tree roots like agility ladders as we were sprinting up the hill. Even though it was a challenging workout I wasn’t used to I pushed myself with the help of one of my teammates and did well! After all our hard work during the week our coaches took us to the pool for a cool down. I’m still learning how to swim so my cool down was both swimming (or taking a few good strokes then switching to doggy paddling) then holding on to the side of the pool with my arms up LOL!!
Day Trips to Landshut and Regensburg
After our first week of hard work I went to a city about 30 minutes from Vilsbiburg called Landshut with some of my teammates. While there we explored, walked through St. Martin’s church, shopped (no I didn’t go overboard) and ate lunch. It was definitely a nice break.
This past weekend I took another day trip to Regensburg with two of my teammates from Holland! It was such a cute city with shops and restaurants galore. Even little side streets that appeared to be desolate were filled with tucked away shops. After parking we walked through the very beautiful St. Peter Cathedral then found a nice bakery to get Cappuccinos. After relaxing we walked around to a few of the shops then stopped for lunch at a really good vegan restaurant my teammate discovered called TaraCafe. Both full and a little tired from walking so much we made our way back to the car and headed back to Vilsbiburg. Definitely another great mini-trip to explore another part of the country.
High School Reunions in Munich
Once I found out I would be playing in Germany this season I connected with my high school friend and club teammate who had been living in Germany for almost a year now. Super random but it was so cool to meet up in Germany having gone so many years without seeing one another. So, for our second weekend off I decided to take a trip to Munich to visit her!
The morning commute started at 10:00 with two of my teammates. We first took the train to Landshut so one of them could show me to a local African shop to get my hair braided and get me familiarized with the trains in Germany. Once we arrived they walked me to the shop, said hi to the owners and waited around for about 20 minutes before they made their way to Munich since my hair was going to take about 3-4 hours.
After I was all briaded up I made my way back to the station and waited for the next train to Munich! Once I got off the train I stepped into a swarm of people racing around me…definitely a very different pace from Vilsbiburg. I texted Meredith as soon as I had some idea of where I was after walking around aimlessly then finally found her!!
Once we took the train to her side of town we grabbed a bite to eat at the Chinese Tower Biergarten in the English Garden. It was a beautiful night out (before it started raining) to hangout and catch up with one another after getting our food and drinks from the food court area.
The next morning we woke up and got brunch at Arts ‘n’ Boards, a really cute restaurant with 20 euro brunch buffet (Sonntagsbrunch=Sunday Brunch in German). After we were full we headed back to the English Garden, I thought I had already seen most of it the day before but I was definitely wrong lol, the English Garden is like Central Park on steroids! While there we relaxed and stuck our feet in the stream while watching the stream surfers…yes surfers. I was so fascinated we probably stayed there longer than we expected lol. To finish up the trip we headed to Marienplatz (downtown area) to see the Glockenspiel and walk around. After she dropped me off at the train station I was on my way back “home” and was pretty exhausted from the packed weekend. Even though it was a quick trip I was so glad I got to see her and also see another part of Germany 🙂
A Team Trip to Wolfsburg and Driving a Stick Shift
This is by far the most adventurous thing I’ve done since I’ve been here lol. My mom told me a while back that I would need to learn how to drive a stick shift one day…and that day finally came. She attempted to teach me once, I failed miserably, got discouraged and hadn’t practiced since lol. So when we found out I’d be coming to Germany she gave me another crash course on everything I needed to know. Then once I got to Vilsbiburg I had two teammates continue to teach me and even took me to practice a few times (thank God!!).
By the time we took our trip to Wolfsburg as a team to spend the weekend and pick up our cars I felt prepared! 🙂
Wolfsburg is where Volkswagon is headquartered, so it made for a fun trip! After a seven hour bus ride with the team, staff and office team we finally arrived at our hotel on the Autostadt campus, pretty much like an autocity with Volkswagon attractions and museums (click on the link to get a better idea of what it is…my description wasn’t the best). Once we dropped our bags off we had the option of going to the outlet mall that was right next to the Volkswagon car factory or relaxing at the pool/sauna…can you guess which option I chose? Yes…shopping it was 🙂 I headed there with a few of my teammates and showed very good self-control. After we had a bit of free time to explore we headed to dinner with our sponsors at an amazing tapas restaurant then made it back in time for the water show on the Autostadt campus.
The next day it was time to pick up our cars! After eating breakfast at the hotel we walked around the campus one more time then headed to the Volkswagon dealership. Once we walked down the stairs to the main garage all our cars were lined up ready to be driven off the lot…then the anxiety started to sink in… was I going to be able to drive off the lot without embarrassing myself??
Once we got into our cars I feel like everything started going really fast to the point where I was always a step behind lol. The dealership employees were walking around helping us get settled into our cars while our sponsors were helping hand out lunch boxes for the road trip. Next thing I know I hear people honking, waving and pulling off as I’m trying to get my music hooked up to the car (because you know a good playlist is essential for a long road trip). By the time it was my turn to pull off the lot … I didn’t embarrass myself!! I pulled off the lot with ease…but unfortunately couldn’t find anyone to follow once I found my way to the main road lol. Like I said I was a few steps behind. My hands were shaking because there was so much to think about in the moment: not stalling my car, shifting gears properly, entering my address into the car’s GPS to lead me home, attempting to find someone to follow, how to pump gas in Germany (which I hadn’t even thought about until it was time to get gas), and just driving on the Autobahn in general.
In all, I handled the whole situation well and I’m actually really proud of myself! I was freaking out for no reason because I had enough practice on the road already, I guess just thinking about the length of the drive was daunting. I did stall my car out a few times but I remembered what one of my teammates told me before leaving, “if you stall out don’t freak out, we’ve all done it a thousand times”. So, the times I stalled my car out in bumper to bumper traffic I calmly restarted my car and got a better feeling for lifting my foot off the clutch and giving the car a little gas and so on. Then, the two times I had to stop for gas were a little different from what I was used to, instead of paying before pumping your gas (whether inside or at the pump) you pump your gas first then go inside to pay, get food, use the bathroom or anything else you may need to do.
Once I finally arrived in Vilsbiburg I made good time and got there around the same time as most of my other teammates. I was physically and mentally drained from focusing not only on the road but driving a manual car by myself for that long…I barely like driving that long in an automatic car lol so this felt like a HUGE triumph.
When Simple Tasks Feel Like Major Accomplishments
Moving miles away from your loved ones and everything you’re familiar with isn’t the easiest but it’s taught me a lot about myself. I was already used to living on my own having done it in college but it’s a little different when you’re in another country not as familiar with the language and even the way of live. Simple things like doing laundry, reading your mail, learning that almost everything is closed on Sundays (tragic for American’s who only know Chik-fil-A to be closed on Sundays lol), picking up/receiving packages, and even going grocery shopping seem like daunting tasks at first. Laundry out of all things right? Figuring out what Pflegeleicht and Koch-/Bunt- Waesche meant for the first time wasn’t as easy as you might think. Trust me Google Translate has become a staple since I’ve been here and of course my teammates have been helping me!
Becoming a Better Athlete and Individual
With our practice schedule some days are tougher than others but I can feel myself improving and finally playing like myself again. Everyday I step in the gym I have to remind myself that nothing will be perfect, mistakes will be made, frustration may occur and I’ll be pushed out of my comfort zone…but hey that’s sports for you, you can’t grow as an athlete without it. I also have to remind myself to not be so hard on myself when I’m trying to strengthen a weak point in my game. Yea I may not get the first, second, third or heck even eighth rep perfect, but when those good reps finally reveal themselves I need to acknowledge them and feel some sort of satisfaction. Whether or not a certain movement feels foreign the first time I do it, soon my body will naturally react to the constant training it’s been put through…that’s the beauty of sports. Patience is key and in a fast-paced, momentum-based sport like volleyball having a short-term memory of your mistakes is important.
Learning the Language
Just a few weeks ago myself and a few other girls who play for the club who needed to learn German were asked to take classes three times a week. So far my German has definitely gotten better and I’m able to pick up a few things here and there when my coaches or teammates speak. However, I’m definitely lucky to be on a team where everyone speaks English, because I know that’s not always the case. Yes there are a few translation issues from time to time but it’s actually funny. As my teammates keep helping me practice my German, I help them with their English (which is so much better than my German lol) and I’ve even been able to brush up on my Spanish. Learning a new language can be both exciting and daunting when trying to communicate, but when you finally start to understand and pick up a few things it feels great!
WOW that was an overload of information. It honestly took me forever to write this post because attempting to sum up everything that’s been going on here was harder than I thought…But I think I skimmed the surface! Overall, coming from home and becoming a foreigner in this case has continued to give me a better understanding of people in general and it’s helped me grow as an individual by opening my eyes and mind to how other’s live. I’m excited to see what the rest of my time here in Germany will hold 🙂