Well the holidays are over and it’s a clean slate for me in 2019. There are so many things to reflect on in 2018, where do I start? I remember when I was on Winter break last year, I spent so much time trying to figure out which classes I could take here in Germany. I remember the first day of the Spring 2018 semester and how much I was looking forward to it. I remember struggling with my classes and going to office hours and tutoring several times per week. I also remember the self-inflicted pain of applying to 23 scholarships so that I would have a chance at study abroad. Finals week was a nerve-wrecking but strangely smooth week that wiped away so much stress it was hard not to burst out with joy. I spent the rest of the summer working as much as I could and saved my money as I prepared for my flight to Germany. There was so much that happened once I got here in Tübingen. From my late Summer arrival, to language preparatory course, to my family’s arrival, to the Wintersemester, to Thanksgiving, and through the holidays, there is much to cover. Let’s take it from the top.
I spend Winter vacation mapping out my courses that I would take in Germany, in my second semester. I sorted through course catalogs, websites, translating everything that I could into something that I could take for academic credit. I narrowed down my search to one fitting school, Hochschule Ulm, and I decided that this would be my school in my second semester. Hochschule Ulm offers everything that I need in this semester: Dynamics and Strength of Materials. These are junior-level mechanical engineering courses that I need to proceed with my degree. After many hours of getting these courses approved by department chairs, I finally had my academic plan set in stone, with the strokes of many pens.
The first day of the Spring semester was great. I immediately knew which classes I loved and which not so much. I enjoyed Statics (civil engineering class focusing on forces and equilibrium), Intro to Design and Automation (programming and manufacturing course), and Logic Design Fundamentals (logic/digital circuit class). I remembered how much I enjoyed studying German in German II and I’m glad that I took it as a refresher course. My least favorite course was most definitely Embedded Systems Development, which uses low-level programming for embedded systems. We program in C and Assembly Language which can both be very powerful, but boring. I’m so glad I am done with that class, however I still need to take Digital Systems Design which expands on Embedded Systems, so I’m not out of the woods yet! Thankfully there was a tutoring session for this class and you bet I went to every meeting!
I would classify myself as definitely lower class, and I don’t mean that in a negative light. I am working hard to achieve the American dream and I am making some serious progress! Having said that, we don’t have any extra money to be embarking on a journey like study abroad. So, I applied to every scholarship that I could get my hands on. In total, there were 23 scholarships that I applied to, as well as another 5 since I’ve been in Germany. These scholarships took several hours to write, revise, and package together. I won the scholarships that counted the most, like the FEA (smiling) and a couple others. My hard work paid off and I’m so glad that these organizations saw the potential in me.
Finals were intimidating but ended up going incredibly well. I won’t go through all courses, but I received a 98% on my Statics final and in Embedded Systems Development I received a C+ grade. I ended up with a 3.5 GPA and I left that semester feeling happy as could be. Also, during finals week, my mother and step-father visited us in Chico. Chico is in Northern California and my mom lives in Ventura in Southern California. It was great to see them and welcome them to Chico for the first time. We went camping up in Redding (2 hours north of Chico) at a place called Whiskeytown. We borrowed some kayaks from my good friend Eric and cruised the lake, barbequed yummy foods, and drank some well-earned cold beer. Unfortunately, it started raining on our second day and we spend the rest of the trip trying to stay dry and warm. I am thankful that we had a chance to visit Whiskeytown before it burned down last year in the terrible fires that plagued California. There will always be good memories there.
Ezra goes to the Chico State preschool. After I took my finals, I ran into his class on the lawn next to the library. I had his teacher take a quick photo, then hit the gym. Oma picked up him this day and the next day we went camping.
Photos from Whiskeytown lake and camping grounds
The rest of the summer I spent working hard at Trader Joe’s, saving money, and getting my apartment into a storage unit. I sent my wife and kids to my dad’s, also in Ventura, while I packed up the apartment by myself. I did have some help from my good friend, Eric, mentioned before. Can you tell he’s one of my closest and best friends?? We’re both from Ventura but live in Chico and study at Chico State. Some would say that I followed him to Chico, and that wouldn’t be totally inaccurate. Eric helped me move my bed, dressers, and other heavy stuff into storage. The rest I did by my little Nissan Sentra. It was bittersweet leaving Chico. I said goodbye to my coworkers at our annual party, and that very night I swept and mopped my apartment and left for Ventura. I dropped off the keys at the apartment office at midnight and drove away, with Chico in the rear view. This was the beginning of my journey to Germany.
Freshly cleaned apartment in Chico, CA. This was our first home together as a family.
I met my wife in Ventura, took a train to Texas, then a few days later, a flight to Germany. My family stayed in Texas for 6 weeks with Grandma while I completed a language course and prepared our apartment. Days went by slowly but eventually it was time for them to join me and see their new home. My family flew into Stuttgart and I went to pick them up. This was the first time for all of them out of the country. I was so stoked to receive them and introduce them to their new life. We would go on to adapt to life in Germany, become members of society, and thrive in this new environment.
The famous Neckarbrücke. This is the first picture you’ll see when you google “Tübingen”
Tübinger Weihnachtsmarkt. Dec. 16th, 2018
Ezra on the Neckarbrücke. His first impression of Germany and first time out of the United States.
Meeting the family at the Suttgart Airport, Sept. 22nd, 2018
2018 wasn’t just another chapter in the McKinney family’s yearbook. It was a plot twist, a game changer; a new beginning. This was the year that dream of 13 years came true, the year that my wife got to see the world and travel, the year that my son Ezra went to school in another country and is learning a second language, and the year that young Asher began his very own daycare, in Germany. We all get something out of this year. The best thing is that we get it together as a family. That’s really bitchin.
Family photo on the Neckarbrücke, Tübingen. Dec 16th, 2018. My 31st birthday.