There are events in our lives that we cannot forget. There is one that I always remember because it has transformed my life.
In 1994, my German language teacher announced that the Goethe-Institut was organizing an essay competition “Germany’s monuments in my country”. I remember I was so excited to take part in the competition! Firstly, to test my writing and researching skills and secondly, I wanted to win a prize, any prize (I think they offered video players, bikes, stereos, etc.). In 1994, we did not have much, it was time after the Perestroika, so any prize for me was a huge motivation.
I worked hard on my essay without any assistance. I travelled around Latvia to collect data and take pictures. Finally, I sent my essay in German to Berlin – a simple school workbook with photos. Some weeks later I received a letter that I got das Spitzenpreis !!! I was invited to Berlin to receive the Goethe-Institut diploma followed by all-inclusive 3-week intensive German language course in Frankfurt-am-Main.
I felt immediately both excited and worried! Excited because it was my first ever trip to EUROPA! Moreover, the first time alone! And I was supposed to represent my country Latvia! Worried because I was afraid if people would understand me and if I would understand them (German was my second foreign language after English). I was also anxious about my capacity to succeed, to make friends, to be respected … In other words, the Spitzenpreis brought an unexpected emotional turmoil to my ordinary life.
I flew to Berlin and participated in the award ceremony. I was proud and impressed. Surprisingly, I quickly made connections with winners from other European countries. We all enjoyed some tourist excursions organized for us around Berlin. I was amazed by the parks, museums and street art of the capital of Germany. I still remember the emotional visit of the Bernauer Strasse where the Berlin Wall once stood. That moment I felt myself in the heart of the “modern history”.
The next day, we took a bus towards Frankfurt-am-Main for three weeks intensive German language course. On the way, I saw wonderful natural landscape, beautiful villages and highly developed transport network.
My Goethe-Institut language course was intensive, interesting and well-organized. It was packed with cultural discoveries and humor. On the weekends, we visited the neighboring cities and memorials. For me, it was a stunning experience, eye-opening and life-changing.
I was impressed with Germany – it was different and so advanced. Logically, it was very hard to return home. Not only was it painful to say goodbye to my new friends but also to leave the “European dream”. Thanks to this short experience, I was overcome my erroneous belief I had that there is ‘us and them’. As Europeans, we all have same common values – same universal human values.
My first trip to Germany has shifted my life’s trajectory and my personality. That essay competition and those three weeks in Frankfurt-am-Main have forever transformed me. I began to think ‘big’ and decided to make Europe my primary center of interest. I chose to study international relations and later European politics. I also worked for a Delegation of the European Union and a European Agency. At the moment, I am teaching children and adults “We talk Europe” multilingual program about Europe and the European Union… in #France.