UNCG – It was getting hot back then…

14 Aug

10 years ago in August 2002, something wonderful happened: UNCG, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Up until that point I had been living a fairly sheltered life in the beautiful old city of Speyer in the heart of Germany’s finest wine region. I was a blonde 21 year old student of English & American Studies and I was about to embark on a 5 months study abroad programme at UNCG in North Carolina. Little did I know that these 5 months would turn into 10 and that their effect on my future life would be so profound. I had been to the US many times before and I had seen enough campus based college comedies in my life to know exactly what to expect. There would be hundreds of hunky Baseball, American Football and Basketball players and me, the sophisticated yet fun-loving European, the ONLY European, who would dazzle them all with her humour, esprit and flat tummy.

What I had not expected was the fact that I was not the only foreign student and that Greensboro did not even have a Baseball pitch, never mind a team. Less than 24 hours after my arrival, I found myself in our local Campus Bar reassuringly called Group Therapy and amongst people from South America, Australia, the UK, France, Italy, Sweden and Canada. Not a single American in sight. And although I had considered my English skills as perfectly fine, I was completely dumbfounded and literally turned speechless by the conversations I was suddenly in the middle of. It was all sex and alcohol, and alcohol and sex. Damn you Shakespeare and Melville I thought. Not much use to me now, are thou?!

And although that night had me speechless, it also had me intrigued. I was right in the middle of  a global gathering of 20 somethings who all turned out to be mighty fine and fun people. I quickly made friends with most of them and what followed from that night were months of careless, frivolous and pretty drunken times. I completely lost myself in the spirit of the moment and I was fully aware of it happening. And I was happy. I knew it back then and even 10 years later I have to say that these months were the happiest of my life. Everything suddenly clicked into place and I would have happily sold what was left of my soul to remain in this state of utter bliss and carefreeness.

What had the biggest impact on me was the feeling of being part of ‘The World’. There was one particular moment during one of many Road Trips, when 5 girls from 4 different continents were singing along to the same song, that had me almost explode with joy. We had all grown up thousands of miles from each other, but we were together in this tiny car sharing said moment in complete unity. Suddenly the world became such a small place with a huge smile on its face and I knew that I would never want to go back to the small life I was living beforehand.

Over those 10 months I also learned a great deal and very much expanded my horizon: From 1000 ways to drink Tequila, to 1000 ways to say ‘I am drunk’ (English really is a wonderful language!); from the concepts of ‘Grinding’ to ‘Snowballing’ and ‘Teabagging’ (don’t look it up….and if you do, rest assured that I was only introduced to those activities in theory. Nobody dared to actually expose me to these things in real life!). I found out that Karaoke would be my new favourite hobby and that mixing and drinking Vodka and Baileys in a 500ml cup is not such a good idea. I had parties in elevators. I found out that I could easily down a pitcher of beer but found it much harder to down a bottle of red wine through a beer bong (what a surprise). I discovered the American Seaside (oh joy!) and the genius concept that is IHOP (International House of Pancakes). I got burnt more severely than ever before and nearly froze to death during Halloween. I also had my heart broken and nearly committed murder that night. I took part in the first memorial service of 9/11. I watched the invasion of Iraq on American TV. I was bullied for being German (for fun and for real). I went to my first (and last) foam party where I also danced in a cage as part of a HipHop music video. I had some of the dodgiest moments of my life in Texas. I discovered country music and bowling. I managed to watch hours of endless Hockey Games without a slither of an idea what it was all about. I went on a fake Valentines Date, including fake proposal and everything. Oh and I did not give a damn / toss / monkey’s ass about studying and still managed to get a GPA that got me onto the Dean’s List!!!

My body is literally tingling from all these fine memories and whenever I hear certain songs from that time, I still choke up. If I had one wish, I would turn back the time and would go back to the moment when I first set foot to I-House, to live those months again. It sometimes pains me that I can not go back to that moment, the bitter curse of sweet memories. There are some things I would do differently a second time around, of course. And there are still some lose ends, which will probably always stay lose. But I count myself very lucky to have had this time, to have met all these people and to still have some of them in my life now.

I would be a very different person if it had not been for this year at UNCG. With a much healthier liver for sure, but with a much less fun-loving and curious mind.

And for this I am forever grateful.

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