For the past month now, I have been slowly gathering my thoughts to write my first “official” Fulbright-related post of this blog, but something more important recently occurred that is causing that blog post to be postponed til further notice: the 2014 FIFA World Cup. On Sunday the 13th of July 2014, Germany raised their 4th World Cup trophy into the air, in one of football’s most historic venues, the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. Some may be thinking, “Okay, Layla. We get it. You love the German National Team and are proud of their success. But why does an entry about die Mannschaft belong on a blog focused on your year as an ETA in Germany?” It has everything to do with it.
In the summer of 2002, I remember watching the World Cup as a 10 year old. It was the first time I ever watched the mega event and actually followed it from start to finish. Of course, I watched the US Men’s National Team with interest and first became familiar with the names Hejduk, Beasley, McBride, and Donovan, but that was it. I watched. I cheered when they scored, but only shrugged when they lost. Then I saw Germany play. Even as a 10 year old who had a few years of recreational soccer under her belt, I could tell this team was special. They had a specific style to them that defined themselves; passing the ball across and down the pitch with instinctive ease and effortlessness and passion that drove them even when they were nearing the end of a grueling 90 minute match. One player in particular inspired me follow and support this group of 23 men. His name is Miroslav Klose. Herr Klose is known for his celebratory flips in the air after scoring a crucial goal, and seeing this excitement was all my 10 year-old mind needed to become Germany’s newest fan. As the weeks went on and Germany continued to beat its opponents, they finally earned a spot in the finals against Brazil. They unfortunately lost 2-0, but my support for this team went onwards.
Fast-forward four years to April of 2006. I remember sitting in my home economics class, and we had just received our materials to start scheduling classes for freshman year of high school. One of the first topics of discussion was foreign languages. Spanish, Italian, French, or German. I quickly went through the options and chose German, despite its unpopularity among my classmates. When asked why I chose to German, I could never give them a straight answer. To accurately articulate the feeling I had while watching die Mannschaft play in 2002 or to explain my excitement for Germany to host the World Cup that upcoming summer was near impossible, so I normally gave a BS (yet true) response of “it seems interesting.”
To this day, I undoubtedly believe that choosing to take German as my foreign language in high school was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made in my life. I would not have expanded my horizons, majored in German at Ohio State, studied in Dresden, Germany, conducted undergraduate researched revolved around the 2006 and 2014 World Cups, received a Fulbright grant to teach in Germany, or embarked on this promising future if it were not for that decision I made as a 14 year old. And I owe this all to the German National Football Team, and for that, I am forever grateful. This team means so much to me, and to see them finally achieve the greatest honor there is in the sport makes me incredibly happy and proud. AND to be moving to Germany during such an exciting time in the country’s history makes me all the more pumped up to begin my year as an ETA!
I know this isn’t directly Fulbright related, but it seems extremely fitting for this blog and will hopefully get it started with a bit of pizazz and background on my relationship with this beautiful language and culture. 🙂