You Can't Do That
As young nineteen-year-old, I decided to leave University and travel to Europe in pursuit of love. How romantic and how dumb right? As I started telling people, I was dropping out of University their reactions were many:
"What will you do over there?"
"What if he dumps you?"
"He probably has other women, all Europeans do."
"How will you pay for this?"
"Aren't your parents stopping you?"
"Do you know that if you marry a German when he turns forty, you'll have to get him a prostitute... all German women do this for their husbands." (hard to believe this one but it is true)
It didn't matter what anyone said; I was convinced and willing to do what was needed. I answered some of those questions and laughed at others, but the answers brought something new...
"You can't do that."
"That is impossible."
"Are you crazy Ali?"
A friend of my parents quizzed me, "How will you study; you don't speak German?" I replied quietly, "I'll learn." He fell silent and sighed. I understood he thought I was not only stupid but ruined.
The negative response was overwhelming, and I get it. I had never learned another language, in all seriousness I did not know what I was doing. Everyone was scared for me but I knew one thing... I wanted this, and I was willing to pay the price and no one could talk me out of it.
Six years later I was married, had a child, spoke fluent German and had my degree from a German University.
Yes, I did it, and even wrote my thesis in German. How did I do it? I wanted it; I was willing to pay the price ... work hard.
Moving to Europe wasn't romantic. My husband and I had to fight through a lot of our differences, financial problems (we had no money) and struggle to make it work.
I've never learned more or gained more confidence but romantic isn't the word I would use to describe that first year.
It wasn't dumb either. It was better than any school I had visited and I knew very rapidly I had made the smartest move of my life, not the dumbest.
As I left for Europe with my two suitcases and a bike in the fall of 1989 I felt unbelievable support from my parents. My Mom has a standard statement for this kind of decision, and I have used it often in life.
"Ask yourself what the worst thing that can happen is and if you can live with that, well then do it."
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife