Looking back: my trips in 2018

2018 was a year full of changes for me – and they did live up to the expectations! Last year, I finished my PhD (reason enough for it to get the best-year-ever award), moved in to a new beautiful apartment with my boyfriend, started working in the job I really wanted, and at the end even gave a TEDx talk! Hello, adult life! Looking back, it sounds like a perfect plot – but oh, did it have its up’s and down’s…

I’ve been so busy I haven’t posted here since last August (shame on me). But now I’m back, and I’d like to keep the tradition of summarizing the trips I did in the previous year (for the 4th time now!).

Previous posts on the same series:
My trips in 2017
My trips in 2016
My trips in 2015


In 2018, I didn’t manage to travel every month, which is usually my goal: you’ll notice February, May and November were left out. But the trips I had were very special and bring really nice memories. It was a year when my parents came to visit (my mom for the first time) and when I went back to the cities where I lived during my Master’s – precisely the same year I finished my PhD and closed the academic life cycle. Had it been a movie, it would have received the title “Back to the origins”. 😀

JANUARY: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) / Usedom (Germany)

I usually spend New Year’s in my hometown, Rio. This time, I had the company of a good friend of mine from the Master’s and PhD programs. And after getting back to the winter of Berlin, I had a day trip to Usedom, an island by the Baltic Sea, in northeastern Germany.

MARCH: Nennendorf / Western Germany

March took me once more to the Baltic Sea (Germans will take any opportunity to go to the coast, even in wintertime), on a nice and cozy weekend trip when a big group of friends rented a whole house just for us, in a village called Nennendorf.

And on the first long weekend of the year (Easter), a good friend and I headed to western Germany to visit Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Koblenz and Aachen. The highlight was Drachenburg Castle, whose main viewpoint was temporarily closed, but still we managed to sneak in to take beautiful photos like this one:

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Drachenburg Castle in Königswinter

APRIL: Greece

My birthday was turned into a long weekend together with Labor Day, when I visited sunny and warm Greece for the first time – being based in Athens and also doing day trips to Nafplio (a tip from a Greek friend of mine) and a whole-day boat tour to some of the nearby islands: Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

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Athens, Greece
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Nafplio, Greece

JUNE: Lisbon + Algarve (Portugal)

Having family and roots in Portugal, I always go back there. This time, I visited a dear, long-time friend from Rio who was living in Oeiras, very close to Lisbon, and some of my relatives, and then headed south to enjoy the beaches in Algarve (my second time there). All that in the midst of the World Cup. What an amazing, heart-filling week it was!

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Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Algarve

JULY: Göttingen (Germany)

A couple of dear friends of mine were celebrating their PhD graduation in Göttingen (where I did my Master’s and lived for almost 2 years) and I couldn’t miss it. A weekend of seeing old friends again, partying and going back to watching World Cup games in the same places where I had 4 years before.

AUGUST: Rackwitz (Germany) / Bordeaux (France)

A very sweet, countryside wedding of a couple of friends took us to a village called Rachwitz, near Leipzig, on a summer weekend.

Later the same month, I went back to Bordeaux, where I lived and studied for one semester during my Master’s, for the annual meeting of my Master’s program. As always, it was a week surrounded by dear colleagues (old and new), celebrations, sharing ideas and even a visit to Château de Montaigne with the mandatory wine tasting.

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Château de Montaigne, France

SEPTEMBER: Northern Portugal

My parents and godparents (who are very close to me) came to visit in Berlin – it was my mom’s first time in Germany! So naturally, my parents and I went to visit our family in northern Portugal, where I have been quite a few times. They gave us the full tour: Porto, Coimbra, Viseu, Aveiro… Portugal is one of those countries where it’s always great to be back.

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East Side Gallery, Berlin
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Costa Nova, Aveiro, Portugal

OCTOBER: Hamburg (Germany)

Six girls coming from three different cities in Germany managed to meet in Hamburg for a Bachelorette party weekend – which was a surprise for the bride-to-be, including the program we had planned: trampoline hall, paintball, brunch and of course, some nice cocktails.

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“The Chug Club”: very nice cocktail bar in Hamburg, Germany

DECEMBER: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

As usual, I headed to Rio for the final days of the year – and this was my boyfriend’s first time there! New Year’s was spent in white clothes, with a couple of dear friends who also came for the occasion, feet in the waters of Copacabana beach and heads up to the fireworks.

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New Year’s Eve at Copacabana Beach, Rio

Because 2018 had so many important milestones for me, it’s going to be hard to beat this year… But… give it your best shot, 2019! Hope everyone has some amazing trips this year!

6 years later… still in Europe!

Today it’s been 6 years since I moved to Europe, and 3 since I started a platform to share my thoughts on living abroad: this blog.

Six whole years. That’s 2 football world cups that I’ve experienced here. Or, in academic terms, that’s the full duration of a Master’s plus a PhD (so, trust me, a very long time).

My fellow colleagues from graduate school, with whom I’ve been sharing this European journey since day one, and I are finishing our doctorates this year. So, for us, this 6th Euroversary is the end of an era, the closing of a cycle.

I try to close my eyes and picture my 6-year-younger self arriving here. I remember being beyond excited, extremely grateful and surprisingly fearless. But did I think, back then, that I would still be living here after all this time? Or, better said, that I would still want to?

I did have an open-minded, “let’s-see-what-happens” attitude, but with a slight tendency of guessing that I would want to go back to my home country eventually, after my studies.

But my Master’s and PhD have gone by, and I’m still here. Fortunately, by choice. Even my most adventurous side from the past could not have predicted that my intentions at the present point in time would be so clear. I have defined that Berlin is the place I want to be at the moment.

I’ve had the opportunity to live in and visit different cities in Europe during the past 6 years, and I’ve found a home in Germany – specifically, its capital. It’s no news that Berlin is an exciting, affordable, everything-but-boring city that spoils the prospect of living anywhere else. And it has indeed won me over.

Does this mean that life here is nothing but blue skies and butterflies? No way. Do I sometimes feel like cursing a few Germans in Portuguese? Absolutely. But every location in the world has its disadvantages, so what matters in the end is that the pros outweigh the cons. And I can’t think of any reason to leave Berlin or of any other city where I would be happier living in.

At least for now. The saying “never say never” is just as valid today as it was 6 years ago. When I was growing up in Brazil, I had no idea I would one day build a whole new world (~Aladdin feelings~) for myself in Germany. So it’s pointless to pretend I have a clue about what the future will bring.

All I know is that, 6 years later, I’m still here – more grateful and pleased than ever.


Reflective posts of the same series:

2017 – 5 years in Europe

2016 – 4 years in Europe

2015 – 3 years in Europe

Looking back: my trips in 2017

2017 has been wonderful for me, both professionally and personally. And it was a year of many, maaany trips. Thinking about it, I’ve been to 13 countries only this year (yes, THIRTEEN!!), including 3 times in Italy and 4 countries for the first time: Uruguay, Argentina, Scotland and Ireland. It was more countries than months. Still, it was by far the most productive year of my PhD.

In 2015, I traveled every month of the year and in 2016, almost (only 1 month got away). This year was different: the vast majority of my trips was concentrated in the first semester, when most of the long weekends and spring/summer take place, but there were one or two trips per month. It was so much coming and going between January and August that I must confess that even I got a bit tired. 😀

JANUARY: Rio de Janeiro / Uruguay + Argentina

As always, I spent New Year’s in my beautiful city, Rio de Janeiro.
And, finding it absurd to have visited so many European countries but only Brazil in South America (and still, not even the whole country), I finally decided to change that. I traveled with my dad through Montevideo, Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacramento (in Uruguay) and, after crossing from one country to the other by ferry, Buenos Aires (in Argentina).

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Montevideo, Uruguay

FEBRUARY: Switzerland

My second time in Geneva and third in Switzerland, this time to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend, who even took me to eat lots of cheese and to visit CERN’s particle collision detector. I also visited Montreux, Vevey and Lausanne, which comprise French Switzerland, or Swiss Riviera. A gorgeous scenery with snow-covered mountain tops.

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French Switzerland

APRIL: Scotland / Ireland

Easter holiday exploring Scotland for the first time with a friend from the Master’s and a childhood friend from Rio who met us there. We visited Edinburgh and Glasgow and went on day trips to Loch Ness, the Highlands, Stirling, Loch Lomond and a whiskey distillery.

And I visited my 27th country, Ireland, on my 27th birthday, over the long weekend of Labor Day. I stayed with a friend from the Master’s who was an amazing hostess. I visited Dublin and went on trips to the Cliffs of Moher and Howth and the Galway Bay. Despite Scotland and Ireland’s  reputation of being quite rainy, those were beautiful and sunny spring days!

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

MAY: Alicante (Spain) / Turin + Cinque Terre + Pisa (Italy)

No time to catch a breath: the next day I arrived from Dublin I flew to Alicante for a conference for Neuroscience PhD students. The resort where it took place, by the beach, the presence of friends, and the hot and sunny weather made it seem as if it was purely a leisure trip.

At the end of May, I went to Italy with my best friend. He wanted to visit Turin (a Juventus fan!) and I, Cinque Terre: the 5 villages by the sea, with beautiful colorful houses on cliffs. So we did both! And even Pisa too, since it was so close by. Such stunning sights!! Amongst my trips in 2017, this one gets the award of best destination.

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Manarola (Cinque Terre), Italy

JUNE: Paris / Amsterdam

My third time in Paris, visiting a friend from Rio de Janeiro over the weekend, in the heat of summer (and how warm indeed!). We visited what was missing for both of us two to see around there: the Palace of Versailles.

I also spent a week in Amsterdam, where I was kindly hosted by a friend from the Master’s, to attend a fantastic BioBusiness course.

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Palace of Versailles

JULY: Göttingen (Germany) / Leuven (Belgium)

I went back to the German city where I lived during my Master’s, Göttingen, for a week of work, surrounded by friends. And later I headed to Leuven (my second time) for the wedding of a dear friend. What a special and wonderful weekend!

AUGUST: Kenilworth (England)

Another weekend to celebrate the wedding of another dear friend, this time in Kenilworth, England. There was a lot of love, a lot of sun, blue skies and caipirinha. It was truly amazing!

OCTOBER: Venice (Italy)

A super romantic trip with my boyfriend (our first trip together, and our first time in Venice!). I wrote a post about what to see over there beyond the main island: Burano, Murano, Torcello and Sant’Erasmo.

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Venice, Italy

DECEMBER: Rome / Rio de Janeiro

Heading from Berlin to Rio with a friend who was on the same flight, we had a 7-hour layover in Rome. Although it wasn’t our first time there, we went to the city center and walked around the streets covered in Christmas lights. It seems that Italy didn’t want to let go of me this year.

And 2017 ends where it began: in Rio de Janeiro. 🙂

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I can barely wait for 2018 and the trips that will come! Happy New Year everybody!!!


My trips in 2016

My trips in 2015

Answering the question “How do you manage to travel so much?”

The odd feeling of having two homes

Sometimes it’s as if I live in two parallel universes. The two worlds are extremely real, complex, mine, but very different.

One keeps my family, my oldest friends, my past, my memories, my base. The other one is my present, my daily life, my routine, my novelties, my most recent friends (not that recent anymore), my ‘right now’.

I have an address, a bank account and a phone number in each of my worlds. Material things that give us the impression that we’re anchored in a certain place.

When the two worlds happen to mix (not so often in my case), my brain short circuits. It’s as if characters from two separate clusters of a movie suddenly meet. It’s like watching the Jetsons in the Flintstones’ setting. What is my dad doing here in the Berlin subway? How come my childhood friend, who belongs to the ‘over there’ world, is on my same visual field as my friend from the Master’s, who belongs to the ‘over here’ world? It feels a bit like that movie, ‘Inception’.

Usually I’m the one who moves between the two worlds, but even then it’s confusing. When I go to Brazil, am I going home, or to my parents’ home? And when it’s time to leave, am I leaving home, or going home? I feel like the answer is: both.

For every departure, there is an arrival. It depends on the point of view.

When my flight or train arrives in Germany, back from a trip, I automatically get that feeling of ‘I’ve arrived home’. And when I’m traveling in another country where the language is not German, but I suddenly hear a group of tourists speaking German on the street, that sounds familiar… To me, it sounds like home. Weird, right?

I’ve lived in Brazil until I was 22 and now it’s been 5 years since I came to live in Europe. Considering as an adult someone who is over 18 years of age, I get to the surprising conclusion that I’ve already spent most of my adult life in Germany, and not in Brazil.

Moving to Europe was a big landmark in my life, a true turning point, for the reasons listed here. It was when the portal to a whole new dimension was opened. And now the sixth year of this era has begun.

I feel at home in Rio and in Berlin. I’m a proud inhabitant of two worlds, in a multidimensional life. I have homes in two cities, each one a world of its own.

Four years in Europe… But how long are 4 years?

airplane

I like symbolisms. The other day I was looking at my eraser (yes, the one I use to erase stuff when I write with a pencil), and I thought: ‘wow, my eraser is really old and tiny!’. I can barely hold it anymore when erasing something. And then I remembered that I purchased this same eraser right before I moved to Europe. I must have thought ‘I’m going to do a Master’s abroad, I need a decent eraser’. Four years later, it remains my loyal rubbery companion.

If you’ve always wondered what an eraser looks like after 4 years of use, it’s something like this:

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My eraser: before (for illustration purposes only) and after (real)

Besides symbolisms, I also like looking back and making comparisons. This helps me observe and analyze the trajectory of events from a wider perspective. Moving to Europe was a big ‘before and after’ landmark in my life. And the eraser purchased in this exact landmark enabled me (completely unintentionally) to observe how an object has changed since I came here.

Four years ago, I:
a) left my parents’ house
b) started living alone (and paying all my bills)
c) moved to Europe
d) got my Bachelor’s degree and started the Master’s

All at the same time. Sometimes people start paying their own bills but keep living with their parents; or leave home but stay in the same city; or even move to another country but to live with another person. I, apparently, went and ticked all theses boxes at once.

Today the blog has its 1st year anniversary. I decided to start it when I realized that soon it would be 3 years since I had moved to Europe and I had a lot to tell. And now, one more year has passed, making it my 4th Euro-versary.

But how long are four years?

Well, four years is the amount of time that it takes to wear out a brand-new eraser almost completely.

It’s the duration of a Bachelor’s program, or a PhD (at least in Brazil). It’s the amount of time between two Olympics, World Cups, presidential elections, leap years. When I arrived in Europe, the Olympic Games of London 2012 were finishing, and now the same is happening to the ones of Rio 2016. From now on, I won’t watch anymore any of the major regular world events for the first time since I came to Europe – they will now all be repeated. That’s how you realize that four years is quite a lot.

But at the same time, four years is nothing. They go by very fast.

I don’t know what the future holds, don’t know how many more anniversaries I will still have in Europe… All I know is that I’ve learned A LOT during these last 4 years, and I’m extremely grateful for everything I’ve lived here so far.

And as to my eraser, it is still working and being used on a daily basis.

“How do you manage to travel so much?”

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First of all, I must say I don’t think I travel so much. I surely don’t travel as much as I would like to. I’m not a full-time traveler – I’m just a free-time traveler (after all, I’m a PhD student). But still, I get this question often. I guess one could say I’ve managed to travel quite a bit in these last years, in parallel to my Master and PhD programs. (For a summary of my trips in 2015, click here).

So I decided to try to answer this question: how is it that I manage to travel as much as I do? After all, traveling requires two basic things: time and money. And students don’t have either of those. So how does this work?

My first answer to this is: PRIORITY.

In my leisure, work-free time, it is my priority to travel. It’s what I like to do the most whenever I have some extra time. Sure, I have other hobbies, like dancing, writing and learning foreign languages. But these I can do anytime, during regular weekdays after work. So when I have that extra free time, like weekends and bank holidays, I make sure to spend it the way I like best: visiting new places.

Some people prefer to spend their free time resting at home, or going hiking, or catching up on some reading, for example. And that’s completely fine – each person should do what makes them happy. Me? I like to use all of my free time traveling – if possible somewhere I haven’t been to before.

So one of the biggest reasons why I manage to travel so much is because I actually see it as a priority for my leisure time.

That being said, we are still left with two problems: little time and money.

Problem #1: TIME

“It’s easy for YOU to travel, because you live in Europe.”

Sure, living in Europe, like I do, makes it a lot easier to travel frequently. It is very practical to get around different countries here, for their proximity and the affordable options of flights, trains and buses. BUT… there is a catch. If you’re a foreigner living in Europe like me, you probably spend most of your vacation days going to your home country. Yes, that is great, and necessary for my inner sanity (again, priorities!), and I wouldn’t change it. But going home doesn’t really count as real traveling for me, because I grew up there, and it’s not exactly new.

I can take 30 days off from work per year, not counting weekends and bank holidays. I usually go to Brazil once a year, and spend about 20 of my vacation days there. This means that ⅔ of my holidays are used up just by going home. And when I eventually fly there twice a year (as I’ll be doing this year to attend a wedding), even less vacation time is left for me to visit new places – around 5 days a year only!

Bottomline: don’t be fooled – it may look easier for me to travel to new places because I live in Europe, but in reality I don’t really have so much time available for it.

So how do I deal with the problem of having such little time? I basically try to make the most of the little time that I do have.

“I can’t do [insert anything here] because I don’t have time”.

This is NOT TRUE. Everyone has time, even if a little. What varies from one person to the other is what they actually decide to do with that time. It’s not lack of time that stops you from doing something – it’s that you are not willing to spend the time you have doing that. (Maybe because it’s not your priority.)

Like I said, I usually have around only 5 to 10 workdays per year to use for my travel purposes, depending on whether I go to Brazil once or twice a year. However… the good news is that these are only workdays – there are still weekends and bank holidays that are not included in the count. So I really, REALLY, try to make the most of the bank holidays and long weekends that Germany provides me with. And, trust me, they are not frequent at all – at least not compared to Brazil.

What I do is: I plan in advance and accommodate different trips in the holidays that I know I will have throughout the year. The calendar is fixed and you can get that information way in advance, so use it to your advantage. You will most probably not find me in Berlin during a long weekend (unless there is something exceptional happening in town). For me, this would feel a bit like a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE Berlin and there is still so much I want to do and see here, but my logic is: I can spend time in the city where I live on any normal weekend. Long weekends? These are rare and precious, and should be spent wisely.

If you live in Brazil or North America or Australia, for example, it’s not that easy to go visit a different country for a long weekend. The distance is huge, and prices are not very welcoming. Living in Europe, I usually go on several short trips throughout the year. But if you don’t, maybe you can go on fewer trips a year, but for longer periods of time. Or instead of trips abroad, you can explore your own country. These are just different styles of traveling, but possible and enjoyable either way. Plus, in Brazil there are so many long weekends – sometimes 11 per year! – so make use of them.

Problem #2: MONEY

This problem is not so much of a problem as long as you’re OK with traveling on a low-budget. Low-cost airlines, low-cost hotels, buses, hostels, etc. At this moment of my life, I really don’t mind staying in a shared dormitory with a shared bathroom for a few nights. I don’t mind eating fast-food eventually, or using a kitchen to cook something easy. I also don’t mind flying on less comfortable airplanes inside Europe and taking hand-luggage only. Probably, in the future, I will want to set higher standards, according to my age and salary, but not for now. Because I know all that means saving A LOT.

Like a good Brazilian, I like to make sure that I pay the best prices. It’s not that I’m cheap when I’m traveling – I will gladly spend my money on a nice meal or an experience that I believe is worth it. But I don’t like to spend extra on things that can be avoided.

“Spend money on experiences, not things.”

The ultimate answer to everything: PLANNING

I ❤ planning. I am a strong believer that by planning in advance you can get the best cost/benefit ratio. And I think I know why I love to plan so much. I’m a very anxious person, and planning gives me some sort of feeling that I’m in control of my life and the future. Sure, this is not always true, and you can only plan certain things. But, fortunately, a trip is one of the things that you can actually plan to a good extent.

By planning in advance, you are able to fit one or more trips into the little free time you have per year, plus you save money. There you go: a solution to both our problems.

To summarize:

  • Find out what your priorities for your free time are. Figure out what you love to do the most. (Also, try new things. That’s the only way to really find out what you love to do.)
  • You do have some free time – use it wisely (on your priorities).
  • If traveling is a priority for your leisure time, plan in advance to optimize time and money.

“OK, planning a trip sounds very advantageous and easy in theory, but how do you actually do it?”

Check out the answer on my next post here:
How I plan my trips (with little time and money)

The phases of learning a foreign language

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Thinking about it, I’ve already spent over 16 years (around 60% of my life) learning 3 foreign languages. I’ve always studied languages in parallel to my main activity (school, university, work) and – due to lack of time – never in an intensive or full-time mode. And I feel that I go through different phases in the process of learning a new language. Nothing that is an absolute truth or scientifically proven just a conclusion based on personal observation. I’ll use the German language as an example, since it’s the one I’m currently learning.

Phase 1: The initial shock

The experimental phase. You just started learning the language. Everything is new. You still don’t know what exactly to expect, and it’s too early to have a verdict. At first sight, the language seems to be a lot more complicated than you imagined.
Frequent thoughts:

  • If in the first couple of German classes I learned that “excuse me” is ENTSCHULDIGUNG, imagine what is coming next!
  • Who said that German is similar to English?!
  • I wonder if I’ll ever be able to say with confidence that I speak this language…

Phase 2: The exponential progress

The initial scare is over. You’ve grown to accept that German has 4 cases, 3 genders, inverted tens and units digits, verbs at the end of sentences and super long words. It doesn’t surprise you anymore. You’ve got the hang of it. Every class you learn something new. You really feel that you’re improving each day, which gives you motivation to keep going. You can even have simple conversations and understand what others are saying – at least the topic.
Frequent thoughts:

  • Oh look, I was able to understand this Internet joke in German! That’s amazing!
  • Sure, I don’t know everything yet and I make many mistakes, but that’s to be expected, given the level which I’m in.
  • You know, German is actually not that hard.

Phase 3: The bipolarity: pride vs. frustration

You’ve been studying that language for some years and are now at an advanced level. All the grammar has already been taught, there are not many new topics, and everything is basically just revision and exercises. It’s not every day that you feel like you’ve learned something new, which can be frustrating. You’re able to communicate, you get around quite well, talk to everyone, but you’re not 100% confident yet. You make mistakes and often miss some vocabulary. You feel like you DO know the language, but not as much as you would like to. Self-demand and other people’s expectations are high, given the elapsed time. Sometimes, you think you know a lot and feel super comfortable with the language; other times, you feel that there is so much more that you don’t know yet and that it will still take quite a lot to achieve proficiency. If someone asks you if you speak German, the answer is: YES – but not exactly fluently. Your German friends compliment you on your language skills and this makes you proud. You try to remember that positive feeling to keep motivated.
Frequent thoughts:

  • Wow, I just debated a complicated topic in German… I didn’t know I was capable of all that.
  • Why did I make that stupid grammar mistake? I should know that by now.

Phase 4: At last, the effortless proficiency

Now you feel reassured. You can have conversations with any native speaker without a problem. You know difficult and specific terms. You live the language. The construction of sentences comes naturally, without having to think before speaking or writing. If you make a mistake, you realize it immediately and correct yourself. Usually you only realize you’re in this phase after having been there for a while.


When we place these phases in the famous “learning curve”, it looks like this:
phasesincurve

As to German, I’m currently in phase 3, dreaming of phase 4. Since I unfortunately don’t have all the time in the world to dedicate to studying the language, I try to find a balance between perfectionism and resignation. I have to constantly remind myself that I should always aim at improving, but without demanding too much from myself. The key is having constant exposure to the language. Slow and steady.