Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Andere Länder, Andere Viren?

So, I missed two days of work last week because, for the second time in three weeks, I had a really bad cold. It wasn't a relapse; it was definitely a different cold-- I was healthy for two weeks inbetween, and the symptoms were different. Last time it turned it a sinus infection; this time my ears hurt so bad that I had to borrow my roommate's hair drier to relieve the pain.*

Both times I went to the doctor, and he prescribed a bunch of herbal stuff to treat the symptoms. Too bad that it takes a day and a half to kick in. Plus, I can't keep missing work like this. The school has been very understanding about it so far, but I don't like disappointing the kids. Plus, I just don't having a sore throat/stuffy nose/fever/earache/disgusting cough so much of the time!

What I need to do is find out WHY I'm getting sick so often. I didn't have this problem in college, or last year-- and I was working at a school then, too, so I don't think that's the major culprit.

It has occurred to me that different garden-variety cold viruses might be prevalent in Europe than in North America, and that my immune system might just not be used to the German strains. (Question to readers living abroad: Do you guys also find that you get sick more where you're currently living than you did in the country you grew up in?)

Other ideas:

-Climate: German winters are cool and damp; Michigan winters are BITTER COLD and any humidity in the air immediately falls as snow.

-Public Transportation: I didn't use it much in college, and last year I only took the bus to town about once a week, and it was mostly empty. Here, I ride to Hamm and back on crowded commuter trains three days a week, and occasionally take the bus in Münster.

-School: The school I work at this year has roughly five times as many pupils as my former school, so I come in contact with a larger group of people.

: My doctor is running blood tests, because I 'look very pale.' But I've always been rather pale, and I haven't always gotten sick like this... Still, it is a possibility, especially since I'm vegetarian, though I do try to eat plenty of legumes and spinach, which are high-iron foods.

Change of topic: Within the past week, I've been notified of admission to both UC Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin-Madison! Unfortunately neither program can tell me much about financial aid until March, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed (and squeezing my thumbs). Hopefully things will work out there and with Penn State, too, and then I'll have several different graduate programs to choose from. :)

*You let the hot air blow into your ears. It helps. Really.


Blogger Anne said...

I haven't had any trouble with getting sick more often and I work in two large scools and ride buses and u-bahns every day. But perhaps it's just all the fresh mountain air down here. Congrats on the grad schools and I hope you feel better!

9:35 PM  
Blogger christina said...

I've lived here for a long time and I haven't noticed that much difference in how often I get sick. It used to happen a lot when my kids were little and bringing home all the bugs from kindergarten, but gradually got better and I hadn't been sick for ages. However over Christmas I DID get sick several times in a row, and as you say, it was a different thing each time with a recovery in between. Seems like there were a few nasties going around and a lot of people I know had something or other.

Good to hear that you're getting things checked out. Do you have any immune system issues? I have autoimmune thyroid disease and that comprimises my immune system when my medication dosage is out of whack.

Get well soon!

10:30 PM  
Blogger Ada said...

Hmmm... So, it appears that the problem ISN'T regional differences in viruses. Perhaps it's just me.

For the record, the blood tests came back and I don't have anemia, but I DO have an upper respiratory infection. Now I'm on an antibiotic. Hopefully that will knock it out.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I have anemia and I caught the upper respiratory infection from your blog. :(

9:17 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I've applied for a Fulbright teaching assistantship in Germany (and also one in Austria) for this fall...I am so glad I came across your blog. I've browsed the archives, which are wonderfully educational, especially the part about applying for a second year of teaching, which is an option I would like to have. Did you request a change of location, or is that where they placed you? It sounds like your first town (village) was the kind of assignment I'm dreading. I studied in Heidelberg last year and I would love to live in a similar town...but the prospect of an east German Dorf makes me cringe. I was also really interested to see that you're applying to grad schools while you're still in Germany, which is what I'm planning on doing. How is that process working out? Were you able to visit any of the prospective schools, or will you just go sight unseen? Thanks so much for your posts...I will continue to read through the archives!

5:59 AM  
Blogger Ada said...

Hi Katie--

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond to your comment-- I've been insanely busy with grad school stuff and haven't even looked at my blog for several weeks now.

If you request a second year as a TA, you get to request your top 3 Bundesländer again, and I simply picked a different list. But if you're at a school you really like, you might actually be able to stay there, too.

Yes, my previous assignment was basically the School from Hell, but I'm at a REALLY good school this year. Don't worry; in my experience 98% of TAs end up somewhere they can live with and are treated decently by their schools. And if you aren't , you CAN request a change of location mid-year. It is difficult to get into a university town, though, because pretty much everyone asks for them. But if you're in a densely-populated Bundesland (like NRW) you might be able to live in a university town anyway and commute to work. That's what I do now.

As for grad school, I'll be visiting one of the programs later this week...

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Ada, I've noticed I do get sick more often, but have been here 7 years now. I chalk it up now to having a few (...ok, alot) more grey hairs than I did in the States.... Get well soon.

1:04 PM  
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9:24 AM  
Anonymous DaB. said...

spinach, which are high-iron foods.

That's a modern myth, which is wrong. It's very public in germany. See Wikipedia for this.

P.S:There is spam above this entry.

6:00 PM  

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