If you ignore the fact that “working 14 hour days” is practically in my job description, living (working) in Europe for four months was the coolest and most priceless experiences I’ve had so far in my career. So what did I really gain out of all of this (besides 10 pounds from pretzels and beer cheese)?
- A crazy global network: Working for a global company is super cool. Our young professional lunch crew was basically a mini delegation of the United Nations…Italy, Germany, France, Spain, India…and don’t get me started on passport stamps. If I’m ever in Sydney, Australia…I quite literally know a guy.
- The opportunity to see the world for (mostly) free: The Eiffel Tower. Shopping on Avenue Champs de Elysses. Arc de Triomphe. Brandenburg gate. Memorial of Murdered Jews. Berlin Wall. Checkpoint Charlie. Places I had only seen on TV…were now just steps away! The most memorable weekend was when a couple of my Sistafriends and my Aunt Patti came to visit and we took part in one of Germany’s coolest traditions: the Christmas market. There are great pictures of us drinking gluhwein (hot wine) and singing along to a quite soulful German rendition of Go Tell It On The Mountain. Sometimes it’s not “where ya at, but who you wit.”
- A chance to show off a bit of my world: Cultural exchange is truly that; breaking stereotypes and pushing boundaries. Because Berlin is such a melting pot, I never felt the need to fit into a box, as I sometimes do unintentionally in America. Why…because there is no box, everywhere else in the world, an American is an American. One night, I invited my colleagues out on the town with some of my friends that were visiting. We had already decided that we were going to a Black Club (this is actually the proper term for a music venue that plays American hip hop music), and they were all in. An American, an Italian, and a Spaniard walk into a bar…and the rest is history! If anyone asks, I put the entire country on Future.
- The realization that the world is bigger than my bubble. Y’all, there’s literally a whole entire world out there that you’ve got to see! Take the United States, and imagine that every state spoke an entirely different language with completely different cultural traditions = that’s Europe. Better yet, if Texas were Europe, it would be 8 countries! Speaking a second language is invaluable (stop what you’re doing, and go download DuoLingo like, now). While I only knew enough German to get around, there were so many occasions where I was able to use Spanish to communicate. Unexpected, yes, but definitely worth it.
- A reinvention of self. I learned A LOT about myself while abroad. I’m naturally an introvert, so eating dinner alone in a restaurant is cool with me (and also got me into some super exclusive restaurants at peak hours). When I did want human interaction, I made a lot of friends by learning how to flex my style a bit. If I detected a hint of English or Spanish or my favorite, an American accent, I wouldn’t hesitate to introduce myself or interject with a funny anecdote. You can meet the most interesting people in the world in hotel restaurants!
- Resiliency: This was my greatest lesson over those few months. The work was HARD, and when added to being so far from home, you can imagine the stress and pressure I felt. I would have never lasted 4 months without my faith, my friends, and my family, who despite the time differences, would check in on me, send me inspiration, and listen to me cry, vent, and practice my German insults.
My new motto is, if you can make it abroad, you can make it any hood. And if my Dad asks, I’m in NYC…at least until tomorrow.
Your Sista Friend,
A’Rie Gatlin was born and raised in the greatest state in the union, where she received her BBA in Accounting in 2013 from Southern Methodist University. She now lives out of a suitcase in whichever city her company has her in this month, where she provides internal audit and consulting services to smart people who make and sell jet engines and other complicated metal things. When she’s not working, she’s doing laundry for free at her parent’s house, reading up on black history, race, and gender, road tripping, cooking (read, eating and testing out kitchen appliances), and making her friends listen to her unintentional attempts at standup comedy.