Following a Fulbright Scholar: Intro

Hello all! Jeff here. I’m totally excited to introduce you to Kathryn. Kathryn, a brand new Fulbright scholar, is volunteering to write for Expat Yourself. She boards for Hamburg, Germany tomorrow. Somehow, she will make time to share with you all her whole journey and offer her perspective as a lone traveler and Fulbrighter.

Kathryn reached out to me 2 weeks ago with this line: “I’m a twenty-two year old Fulbrighter headed to Germany, hopefully indefinitely. I board my plane from Oklahoma to Hamburg in two weeks.” WOW!

Without further delay, here is Kathryn:

I asked Jeff if I could contribute to this blog because I feel that the ‘voice’ of young single expats isn’t heard much — and then spent a week and a half discovering exactly why that was. It’s three in the morning two days before I leave and this is the first moment of peace I’ve felt in weeks. Even still, a part of my brain is still cataloguing items to pack and unpack, services I still need to cancel (car insurance, Easy Pass account, etc.) and friends I haven’t said goodbye to.

I graduated from university in May with a job offer to teach English in Hamburg for one year. I had toyed with the idea of approaching this as a permanent move, but finally decided mid-June that I would like to (as they say) expat myself.

For me, the deciding factors were:

  1. I don’t have much close family. The most common question I’ve heard in these past few months is, “What do your parents think about you leaving?” While not a requirement for all expats, my loose family ties definitely made it easier to move overseas alone. I visited my sister on the other side of the country in July and I’ve agreed to visit every few years. Many young people don’t have the means to pop back for visits every year, so it’s important that family and friends have realistic expectations.
  2. There are available jobs in my field in my new location. While I’m not certified as an ESL teacher, I have enough experience that if my current position isn’t renewed for a second year, I should be able to land on my feet.
  3. I have support/I speak the local language. Both my employer and the online community of ESL teachers are generous with resources and advice. If I have to figure things out on my own, though, my German’s good enough to complete job applications.
  4. There are opportunities for advancement and self-improvement in my new location. While in Hamburg, I plan to become certified as an ESL instructor. It’s not a golden ticket, but it will make me a better candidate in a competitive job market. This is also not something I could do if I stayed at home. The closest program of the type I want is eight hours away — but in Hamburg, there’s one twenty minutes from my flat.
  5. I have a back-up plan. If everything goes sideways and I end up broke and unemployed at the end of my contract, my employer is paying for me to return next summer. I’d like nothing more than to flourish in Germany, but I’d like nothing less than to be a German hobo.

When giving up the safety nets that comes from years in one location, family, citizenship, language fluency — these practical things matter. Obviously this list ignores the most pressing reason, which is that I want to. At the end of the day, I would probably still go if some of these items were missing, but I don’t think I would be able to feel comfortable and calm, even at three in the morning two days before my flight.


Fulbrighter to Hamburg