Okay, "author" might be a bit of a stretch. But as of November 17, 2011, I have an official publication listed on the Humboldt University in Berlin's website. It's a review of two books, Youth at War and Schreiben im Krieg, Schreiben vom Krieg ("Writings in War, Writings from War") commissioned by one of my professors at the University of Tübingen.

The books deal primarily with primary source interpretation from the First and Second World Wars, so the material in them was helpful for my Fulbright research project. Writing the review was a challenging experience but ultimately very rewarding. I learned a lot about academic culture and of course quite a bit about my own field of Modern European History. The number of edits and rewrites was humbling, but once I got it "just right," the feeling was incredible!

If you'd like to read the review (don't worry--it's in English), here's the link: http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2011-4-120.pdf

 
 
I'm leaving Germany with mixed feelings. I'm so excited to go home and see my family, but going home also means that this experience is over. How did the time fly by so fast?

This year has been incredible, and to be honest, I wouldn't have expected anything less. I've learned countless things--big and small--in the ten months I've spent in Tübingen. In fact, how about I count some of those things for you now? I've learned how to read Sütterlinschrift, how to navigate a city by bike, how to bake a layer cake, how to give a lecture, and how to file insurance claims.  I've learned to always pack an umbrella, to check and then double check plane and train times, and to be more environmentally aware. I've honed my prioritization skills, developed skills as a researcher and writer, and greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding of the German language. (Sadly, my dancing skills have not improved, though not for lack of trying on my part.)

But one of my favorite parts of living in a new place is realizing how many things I have yet to learn. For example, I have yet to wholly comprehend German adjective endings, I still cannot open a bottle of beer using either a lighter or another bottle, and the local Swabian dialect continues to present a bit of a challenge. Of those three challenges, the second one is the most embarrassing in social situations.

Reflection on my time here is indeed in order. However, instead of attempting to capture all of my emotions and thoughts in words alone, I'm going to steal my friend Meredith's idea for a 'final' blog post and give you this reflection in pictures.

September 9, 2010: I discover that my new home, Tübingen, strongly resembles a fairytale wonderland. I decide that life here will probably be magical.
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September 10, 2010: My aunt and uncle take me on a much-needed trip to IKEA, and then proceed to put all of my furniture together while I go to the bakery and buy them pretzels.
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September 13, 2010: I am reminded for the first of many times of why I love living in Europe.
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September 18, 2010: I try something new, with a mild degree of success and a disproportionately large sense of accomplishment.
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September 19, 2010: I make the first of many castle journeys. (Schloss Sigmaringen)
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September 27, 2010: I experience my first (and hopefully last) Munich Oktoberfest.
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September 30, 2010: I reunite with great friends in my beloved city of Regensburg.
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October 14, 2010: One of my oldest friends and a fellow Fulbrighter visits me in Tübingen to take a break from a rocky beginning (but ultimately awesome experience) in the North.
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October 23, 2010: My new friends and I make our first trip to the Besenwirtschaft, which will become a weekly (biweekly?) occurrence for the few months it opens its doors to guests.
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October 29, 2010: The first Pastry Day.
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November 7, 2010: I make the first of many trips down to the Bodensee to visit my aunt and uncle, whose hospitality and generosity are truly unmatched.
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November 21, 2010: My friends and I celebrate our first Thanksgiving away from our families.
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November 26, 2010: Another trip to Regensburg makes the Thanksgiving-induced homesickness easier to bear.
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December 1, 2010: The winter weather and week-long Chocolate Festival transform Tübingen into a life size snow globe.
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December 9, 2010: A birthday trip to Salzburg and Vienna with two high school friends and fellow Fulbrighters is the perfect antidote to the freezing weather and a welcome break from the day to day transcribing of 200+ letters.
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February 2, 2011: I bake the first of several birthday cakes for friends. This one is Dark Chocolate Pear Cake and was made for Lauren Howe's 23rd birthday.
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February 7, 2011: Fulbright holds a Winter Ball in Heidelberg and I get to see my friend Stefana, a Fulbright research grantee in Munich, again.
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February 12, 2011: I travel to Ulm to visit my great aunt and uncle for a day.
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February 14, 2011: Reason #463 of Why I Love Living in Europe . . . Day trip to the Swiss Alps.
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February 19, 2011: My friend Kaelan from high school comes to visit and we hike to the castle ruins of Hohenneuffen.
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February 26, 2011: The Regensburgers make the trek to Tübingen for a weekend visit.
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March 5, 2011: The list of castles I've visited gets even longer . . . My college friend Gabby and I hike to Schloss Hohenzollern, and even manage to climb the wrong mountain while doing so.
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March 10, 2011: Gabby and I take trip to the Bodensee for a few days so I can acquaint her with German hospitality (and my uncle's Käsespätzle!).
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March 18, 2011: My family (minus Will) visits me in Tübingen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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March 23, 2011: I attend the Fulbright Conference in Berlin and enjoy a traditional Berliner delicacy--Currywurst.
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April 1, 2011: I enjoy some beach time and warm weather in Barcelona, Spain.
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April 12, 2011: My brother Will comes to visit!
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April 15, 2011: Continuing my exploration of day trips from Tübingen, I go on a hike with friends to the waterfall in Bad Urach.
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April 29, 2011: Spontaneity rules! I go on a week-long adventure to Sardinia, booking my ticket just two days in advance.
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May 8, 2011: I sample traditional British scones with clotted cream on a quick weekend trip to London to visit my brother and a few friends.
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May 23, 2011: Jeremy comes to visit! We hop around from city to city for the five days he has off from work . . . Munich, Regensburg (pictured), Meersburg/Bodensee, and Tübingen.
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June 1, 2011: In yet another episode of "Kaci has visitors in Tübingen," my grandmother comes for ten days and we have a wonderful time discussing her past, reading the letters, and of course taking a relaxing spa vacation for a few days in the Black Forest.
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June 10, 2011: Though I would never consider myself a 'car person,' the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart convinces me that I do, in fact, have a 'dream car.' Sigh.
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June 19, 2011: I take a trip to the small town of Münsingen for a party hosted by Lauren's boyfriend, his identical twin brother (cha-ching?!) and some of their friends.
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June 28, 2011: I make my final trip to Regensburg for Bürgerfest and to bid my friends farewell.
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So it's official. In two weeks I will be back on American soil, probably dying of heat exhaustion in the lovely weather that is St. Louis in August. That means that I still have one or two more "Final Countdown" pictures to post, so stay tuned for that!

Through the pictures and writing in this post, it's easy to see that I've traveled all over,  learned valuable life lessons, and overall had quite the Fulbright experience. But one of the biggest reasons that this year in Tübingen has been so special is the relationships I've made with people here, both Americans and Germans. In my experience, living abroad can cause "friendships of convenience" with other Americans to come into being, in which I become friends with someone I wouldn't necessarily be close with in the States because we have a shared connection of being foreigners and are searching for some familiarity in our new surroundings. But the Americans I have met here are people I share a genuine connection with, and I truly believe these friendships will stand the test of time (and distance). The Germans I've met in Tübingen have been extremely welcoming, and I have had the pleasure of babysitting for what has to be one of the kindest families on this planet.

Beyond all of that, I've gotten to strengthen existing relationships through another year in Germany, especially with my family members over here and with my grandmother. My project has brought me closer to understanding not just my own family's history, but also the complex layers of German history during the Second World War. That understanding is what I ultimately sought from this experience, but as my ten months here draw to a close, I don't feel a sense of completeness. Yes, I'm turning in my final report to Fulbright and wrapping up almost a year's worth of research into a paper, but when I think of everything I could still do with what I've learned and everything I have yet to learn, I'm overwhelmed. And at the same time, I'm motivated. This is more than just a story that should be told. It's my story, and I want to keep telling it.

Lately, everyone has been asking me what my next step in life is. I hate to sound cliche, but I've been asking myself the same question. There are many directions my life could take once this chapter is over, and I'm as interested as you are (okay, I'm even more interested than you are) in what's to come. I'd like to get back in touch with my Chinese ability--hopefully Mandarin is still hanging out in my head somewhere waiting for me to rediscover it--so perhaps a job in business or teaching is in my future. (Ideas? Anyone? Bueller?) Or maybe grad school is the right path for me, and some day I'll be teaching college students about German history and writing lengthy academic books about it. Hey, it could happen! For now, I'm trying to remind myself to take things one day at a time and not to get too dispirited by the current state of the job market. Something will work out. And if it doesn't, you can expect a new batch of blog posts from China next year, where I'm fairly certain I can find a job doing something.

No matter what, I'll keep you posted.
 
 
Last Sunday I took a seven hour train to Berlin for the Fubright Mid-Year Conference. This year the theme was "the future of transatlantic relations." Our days were full of seminars and panel discussions with topics like "Life after Fulbright," "European Dimensions," and "The Value of Networks." The keynote speaker at the opening ceremony was the former U.S. Ambassador to Germany John Kornblum (whose kids went to Vanderbilt, incidently, so I'd heard him speak on our campus before). If you're not sure who he is, he's the guy who wrote President Reagan's famous speech with the line, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" We also got to attend an incredible performance put on by the current Fulbright grantees in the area of music. Those performers were truly masters of their arts.

Wednesday night was the farewell party, held in one of the more famous and popular clubs in Berlin (Die Kulturbrauerei). The music was great, and the best part about it was that everyone actually danced! We may have been a group of 350 academic nerds, but we sure did know how to party. In fact, I think the Fulbright Commission will be revising its free beer and wine policy after this year . . . The director actually made a comment during one of the seminars that we were the "thirstiest" group of Fulbrighters in history.

Stefana and me, posing with the Berlin Bear before the farewell party:
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While most meals were spent at the Humboldt Restaurant in the Park Inn, where we all enjoyed complimentary (and incredible!) breakfasts and dinners, I did have a few occasions to sample some local Berlin cuisine. One of those delicacies is "currywurst." It is basically a grilled sausage, sliced into pieces and doused in a ketchup sauce flavored with curry powder. If that description doesn't convince you, maybe this will:
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On Thursday, the conference ended and most people headed back to their respective cities all over Germany and Europe. Over the course of just a few days, I had met the most interesting people--a girl studying food culture, body image, and HIV/AIDS in Sicily, for instance, or one in Norway doing climate change research during the week and hiking to fjörds every other weekend. I took lots of notes, ranging in topic from the shift in the context of the relationship between the United States and Europe over the past fifteen years to what the deputy mayor of Berlin, Ingeborg Junge-Reyer, had to say about the topic of collective German guilt. In fact, I'd like to share with you what she said about that topic, which is one that I find particularly interesting:

"Our past obligates us to openness and tolerance. It is not guilt over the past that is important, but the matter of taking responsibility for the future that should define this generation of Germans."

Amen, sister.

Thursday afternoon, my friends Dan, Gwen, and Christoph drove up to Berlin and met Lauren and me there. I hadn't had much time during the conference to do any sightseeing, but I knew I would get the chance once they arrived. Dan has spent a total of almost a year living in Berlin, so he knew the city inside and out and was an excellent tour guide. Our first order of business was to grab a few Berliner Pilsners and head to Mauerpark, which is a park that has pieces of the wall lining one side of it, and a big open market on Sundays along the other.

Against the Berlin Wall in Mauerpark:
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We did a lot of typical tourist things, like visiting the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial, as well as the Jewish Museum . . .
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But we also went to a few places that I had never been before, like Tacheles, which is a huge abandoned building filled with graffiti 'art' but that also has an actual art gallery on its top floor, and the East Side Gallery, which is a chunk of the Berlin Wall about a kilometer long that has been painted over by professional artists (and repainted over, in some cases, by less professional 'artists').

One of my favorite sections of the East Side Gallery:
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Despite a bad bout of the stomach flu that hit me on Thursday night (and prevented me from having a Döner Kebap in Little Istanbul, which I am still upset about), my time in Berlin was awesome. For someone as excited about modern history as I am, it doesn't get much better than that city.

And tomorrow, I'm taking off for another one of Europe's most fascinating places: Barcelona! Adios, chilly weather and sausages . . . Hola sunshine and paella!
 
 
At orientation in September, a representative from the German Fulbright Alumni Association came to talk to us about the events that we would get to participate in during our year in Germany. While all of them sounded exciting (Summer sailing trip on Lake Constance? I think so.), all of the ladies in the room suddenly perked up when they mentioned the Winter Ball, held every year in a castle somewhere in Germany. Well people, I'm here to tell you that anyone expecting a ball in a castle (including yours truly), would have been slightly disappointed by the decadent old town hall it was held in instead, but only slightly. The delicious three course meal, the interesting mix of old and young people, and the breathtaking view of the river from the ballroom more than made up for the lack of medieval flair. There was even a midnight snack of goulasch and french bread offered during a pause in the dancing, which I just found funny. It was certainly the first time I'd ever considered goulasch as a "midnight snack," that's for sure.

But the ball itself wasn't the only thing I got to do while in Heidelberg. Friday night there was a get-together at traditional German restaurant on the river, where I met some new people and was once again blown away by the fascinating things that Fulbright people are studying, researching, and doing in the classroom. The fact that I had the same conversation with countless people over the course of the weekend ("So where are you living in Germany?" "Are you a researcher or a teaching assistant?" "What's your project?" "Where did you do your undergrad?") didn't even matter, because the answers were always so unique. 

After spending a brutal hour and a half on Saturday morning realizing that the "Member Assembly" did not apply to me at all, I left the meeting with some other Americans who had made the same mistake and set off to explore Heidelberg. A German Fulbrighter living in Heidelberg showed my new friend Jill and me around the city, taking us to the Philosopher's Pathway up a mountainside for a lovely view of the city and by a traditional chocolatier to pick up some of the city's signature candies. Yum. 

Saturday afternoon I got my hair done, which did not end up being what I had hoped but rather what I had expected. My hair reacts to curlers with an "I WILL CRUSH YOU!" attitude, and within twenty minutes of my leaving the hair salon, after insisting on an up-do and being denied one by the hair dresser who claimed that "no one has ever complained that their curls fell out after using this process," my lovely ringlet curls had indeed become beach waves loaded with massive amounts of hairspray. Oh, well. 

Sunday morning I headed to the Fulbright brunch and then a tour of the castle, which was stunning. All together, the weekend was fabulous and it has made me even more excited for our week-long conference in Berlin, which is coming up at the end of March!

With Jill in front of the Old Bridge and the Heidelberg Brass Monkey:
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The view of the castle from the main street in the Altstadt:
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At the hair salon, loving the curls but feeling a healthy dose of skepticism toward them:
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And finally, at the Winter Ball!
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Admiring some ruins along the castle tour:
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As many of you know, I spent the past month or so obsessing about the latest challenge in my new and important life as a Fulbright scholar: The Dreaded Lecture. I had to give a 20-40 minute presentation on the findings of my project so far to a room full of very accomplished professors and PhD candidates in the Department of Modern History here. As you might imagine, I was a little bit nervous. And that, my dear friends, is an understatement of epic proportions. You see, I did not actually study history. Ever. I don't know much about methodology, and my understanding of the intricate complexity that is the European past is often a bit on the fuzzy side. So a part of me felt like an impostor, standing in front of a class full of intelligent people under the grand title of "Fulbright Scholar," and presuming that I might be able to teach them anything that they didn't already know.

But to make a long story short, the presentation went better than I could have possibly imagined in my wildest (nerdiest) dreams. After the lecture, and over drinks with my professors, I learned that they will be putting me in contact with the National Archive in Ulm to help with my upcoming research, and that they are interested in having me write an article for the newspaper. Whether or not that actually comes to pass (my family is a bit sensitive about that idea, which I completely understand), I am flattered that they asked. 

And so, without further ado! You can read my lecture, in its entirety, HERE.