This post is part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT current and prospective students. Enjoy!
Sunday morning I got up early to bake Brötchen – not sweet bread, nor biscuits or croissants but good old-fashioned bread rolls covered in pumpkin seeds. I’d never made those myself but I was craving a traditional German breakfast so much that I braved the daunting yeast-based recipe and kneaded myself the best self-made Brötchen ever. I served them with home-made egg salad and thyme butter, supplemented by store-bought cold cuts, cheeses, jam, and Nutella. Add to that some orange juice, good friends and plenty of time and you’ve got yourself the best Sunday breakfast ever!
Brötchen seem to be my coping mechanism for occasional onslaughts of homesickness or a way of grounding myself in this city and culture. I’ve made friends in Austin, I go out and socialize, but sometimes I need to do things that feel utterly familiar. After a stressful week of interacting only in English, I’ll watch a cheesy German movie like I used to back home with my mom. Or I’ll go to a Stammtisch and indulge in German conversation (not so much German beer, something must have gone terribly wrong in my design plan and I do not like beer!).
Apparently, I’m not alone in needing a familiarity fix now and then. A friend who just moved to Kuala Lumpur admits to working at Starbucks for the familiar flavors, the ordering ritual and free wifi. Another American friend would frequent McDonald’s in Germany although she’d never set foot in a chain fast food restaurant at home. I’ve sighed at the familiar silly names of furniture at the Round Rock IKEA and have pilgrimaged there several times to buy almond pastry because it reminded me so much of family vacations in Sweden. Funnily enough, Walmart makes me want to travel to Mexico, because that’s where I used to shop when living in Guadalajara as a German teacher.
If you are studying abroad for six months or even a year, you want to experience and soak in as much of American culture as you can, and I encourage you to do so. Go to at least one football game wearing only burnt orange (or cheat with coral and salmon, because let’s face it, burnt orange isn’t everyone’s color), take in a music festival, a rodeo, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Howl at the moon at Barton Springs and watch the bats fly (bring a nose clip) on Congress Bridge. But if you’re here for the long haul, because you’re getting your MA or PhD at UT, you might need to take a break from Austin now and then. Hang out with other internationals, rejoice at finding that spice/dish/beverage from your country on the shelves at the supermarket (or, in my case, Haribo juicy goldbears), and pursue a hobby that makes you feel at home. I for one like salsa-dancing, because no matter where I am on this globe, the familiar moves and rhythms of the dance are a welcome constant.