Bye, bye, Nashville – hopefully not for long!
In her third and final letter from Nashville, Madeline Thomas has to say good-bye to her American university, at least for the time being.
Feb 14, 2020
After five months, my semester abroad at Vanderbilt University in Nashville ended just before Christmas. In addition to the stress of submitting my term papers, I also had to pack up my life for the past few months. I sent two large packages – mostly filled with books – to Germany.
Normally, December is my favorite month – but unfortunately not last year. Before Christmas, I spent almost two weeks non-stop in the library. In contrast to studying at Freie Universität, where the assigned papers are written during the semester break, I had to hand in all my term papers in Nashville before the end of the semester. For me, that meant three papers of 15 to 20 pages each.
Even though I was really happy to have turned in everything before the holidays, it was quite stressful to write so many pages in such a short time. But I see all of this as training: The semester demanded a lot from me, but I still decided to apply for various English PhD programs in the United States.
I spent my last days in Nashville with friends. At the end of November, I experienced my first “Friendsgiving”: We spent the day eating – especially the Thanksgiving classics: turkey, apple pie, and mac and cheese. Playing board games like Taboo or Clue is part of the holiday tradition! I also went on a trip to Radnor Lake and spent a few evenings in our local bar, the Red Door Saloon. At the university I heard a lecture by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I oohed and ahhed over the extravagant Christmas decorations in Nashville.
Before I left for Germany, I went to New York for a few days. There I visited a fellow student from Nashville who showed me around the city – with all its facets. We were in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and visited the exhibition opening of the artists Kent Monkman / Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. We ate a lot of soul food in Queens and Harlem, took a walk through Central Park, and of course, visited the Brooklyn Bridge.
I already miss some things from the USA because although I often complained about the hot temperatures, I wish them back right now. The Berlin winter is a little too wet, cold, and gray for me. I also miss the American friendliness – because even though many call it superficial, a pleasant phrase is sometimes nicer than the Berliner Schnauze, a very outspoken and often abrupt way of communicating.
Most of all, I miss the community. Since the PhD programs admit only eight to ten graduate students at a time, and almost all of the PhD students moved to Nashville just for the program, they generally spend a lot of time together, even outside of class.
One thing I no longer miss, is the poor public transportation network in Nashville. On the other hand, I am now more relaxed about the delays of the BVG in Berlin. While there, I missed not being able to walk to a store for groceries and meeting friends in a bar around the corner!
Even though I often longed for Berlin while I was gone, and Vanderbilt demands a lot from its students, I am still a little sad not to be in Nashville any more. I will definitely remember the intensive exchange of ideas in small working groups as well as the many interesting events and guest lectures. And who knows, maybe I’ll go back later this year and experience it all over again!
If you have an opportunity to do a semester abroad, I can highly recommend it. It meant exhausting but also inspiring times that I absolutely would not want to miss!