The number of people who never leave their hometowns must be about equal to those who just have to strike out and build their lives somewhere completely new, right? Well, never one to follow the crowd, these are two trends that I have well and truly bucked! How? Keep reading to learn the tale of how I ended up in the beautiful place I now call home…
Twinning and the School Exchange
My family moved around the UK a lot when I was a boy, and we eventually settled in Clevedon, near Bristol, when I was 7. Back then, the local secondary school had a partnership with two schools in Ettlingen, Clevedon’s German twin town, and our Modern Languages teachers used to arrange two trips to Ettlingen each year. There was a short youth hostelling trip in June, which served as a taster for the “proper” school exchange – an immersive, ten-day experience in which kids from Clevedon would stay with host families and learn about German language, life and culture – in the following February or March.
Of course, as a budding linguist with an ever-growing passion for the German language, every time I was allowed to take part, I was there! I came to Ettlingen five times between 1996 and 2001 and I even I volunteered some of my summer vacation from university and took part in the June 2003 youth hostelling trip as a group leader so I could return once more. I didn’t know it at the time, but this wasn’t the last time Ettlingen and I would cross paths and these trips were slowly forming me into the person I am today.
In 2007, when I had completed my triple-major BA in German, French and Italian and my first MA in European Studies, I applied for a job in Germany as a language assistant. As luck (or coincidence) would have it, I was seconded to a school in Karlsruhe, only 8km from Ettlingen. I was in this job for two years and, in 2008, I was permitted to split my time working at a second school in Karlsruhe and one of Clevedon’s twin schools in Ettlingen. This meant I could take part in the exchange again, this time from the German side! I think I must be the only person from Clevedon who has taken part in this exchange so often and experienced it from both sides!
I moved back to Clevedon in 2009 so I could undertake a teaching degree. After qualifying, I was permitted to take part in the 2011 and 2012 iterations of the exchange as a volunteer member of staff, just like in 2003. I was delighted to see my beloved Ettlingen again and these were fantastic experiences that I will treasure forever!
The Move to Ettlingen
I completed a second MA, this time in Translation Studies, and became a self-employed translator in 2014, specialising primarily in German to English translations. When I decided to move back to Germany in 2017, returning to Karlsruhe seemed like the most sensible option as I had kept in touch with friends and colleagues from my previous time there and still had some contacts.
There was only one issue, though – I had decided to bring AY Linguistic with me and continue freelancing, but self-employed professionals often find it harder to find flats in Germany. I needed somewhere to live, fast!
My search eventually led me to the only landlord I could find who was prepared to rent his property to a freelancer like me. I viewed the flat and fell in love with it immediately.
A Twist of Fate?
At this point, there would be no prizes for guessing where this apartment is, would there? It’s in Ettlingen, of course! Is this some wonderful twist of fate? Did the powers that be intend for me to end up here? Who knows? What I do know is this… today, 5 June 2019, is my second “Germanniversary” and I wouldn’t have it any other way!