Travelers | Jordan Beck Wagner
We love reading Jordan Beck Wagner’s blog, Wayfaring with Wagner–so we were so excited when she agreed to chat with us about life in Europe + her travels. Read on, friends!
Moin! (that’s northern German for “Hello!”). My name is Jordan Beck Wagner and I am the writer, dreamer, and photographer behind the travel blog “Wayfaring With Wagner.” I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. but consider Traverse City – the pinky finger of Michigan – my hometown. My German boyfriend and I currently live in Hamburg, Germany where I work for a digital advertising agency. However, I completed my undergraduate studies in political science and German, and have the desire to eventually run for political office.
When I’m not writing or editing photos, you can find me eating one of my four favorite foods – chocolate, ice cream, beer, or coffee. I’m always up for a new adventure and procrastinate actual work by trying to find the cheapest train or plane tickets to a new European destination.
How did you first move to Europe? What cities have you lived in?
I was fortunate enough to attend Washington University in St. Louis for undergrad. During my time there, I had the opportunity to intern in the House of Lords and live in London one summer. Six months after that experience, I boarded a plane to Tübingen, Germany for a study abroad and returned to university that next year as “the most traveled study abroad student ever,” according to my German professor.
After having a quarter-life crisis with my impending graduation, I stumbled upon a graduate program in American Studies and Political Science at Universität Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany. Not only are German universities free, but I got the opportunity to live in a fairy tale town centrally located to most European countries. I moved there in September 2013 and graduated in March 2015.
Still not ready to move back to the United States (and slightly addicted to learning), I decided to enroll in business school at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland). Between the start of this program (September 2015) and my graduation in Heidelberg (March 2015), I pursued two internships in the Political and Economic sections of the U.S. Embassies in Zagreb (Croatia) and Sofia (Bulgaria). I actually focused on Central and Eastern Europe politics during my undergraduate studies and wrote my master’s thesis at the University of Edinburgh on Bulgaria’s start-up scene after the collapse of communism. It was wonderful to be able to combine my love of travel, politics, and business into learning and real-life experiences.
During my studies in Heidelberg, I met a German man and we kept in contact during my subsequent internships and schooling. I decided to move to Hamburg, Germany full time once I graduated from the University in Edinburgh to be with him and got really lucky securing a job!
What was the hardest part about moving abroad? Do you have advice for others looking to take the jump and move to a foreign country?
I definitely had it a bit easier moving to Hamburg, Germany because I had previously lived in Germany twice before. I also speak the language (somewhat!) and had the added bonus of getting a visa much easier than most Americans because I have a degree from a German university. It was still a stressful process when applying for the visa but I was lucky to be awarded a three-year visa with the option of permanent residency in two years.
The hardest part about moving abroad is leaving familiarity. Simple tasks such as finding the correct food translation or being able to bake my favorite desserts takes on a whole new level of frustration! It’s the daily tasks that I take for granted in the USA that tend to take the longest here in Germany. I’m so lucky that my boyfriend, being a native German, is able to answer my endless amount of questions!
Being away from my family is definitely difficult, especially during the holidays. I’ve found the Thanksgiving and the 4th of July are the hardest holidays because they’re not celebrated in Germany. Holidays that are shared (Christmas and Easter) tend to be a lot easier because Germans are also celebrating them!
I have a few pieces of advice for people wanting to move abroad. Number 1 – research the visa!!! Don’t assume that just because you’re American, it will be granted to you. Germany is known for having “easier” visas for Americans but I’ve still seen plenty of Americans rejected. Second, I always stock up on American baking products (vanilla extract, lemon extract, chocolate chips, etc.) as well as American toiletries (hair spray, tampons, makeup, etc) whenever I’m home. Specific brands are really hard to find abroad!
What has been your favorite trip you’ve taken during your time in Europe? Why?
Ohhh…this is a hard question and almost impossible to answer! The first trip that pops into my head is a week-long vacation I took to Normandy, France in summer 2014. My parents were engaged in a small town in Normandy called Honfleur. The city and region have always played a special role in my life. I rented an Airbnb in an old manor/casino right on the ocean with a friend and we spent our days relaxing, eating great food, exploring hidden villages, soaking up the culture, and immersing ourselves in all the history. I constantly talk to my boyfriend about replicating this vacation one day.
I also loved a lot of my trips through Central and Eastern Europe because those regions are really under explored by Americans. One of my favorite spots is the island of Hvar in Croatia. This magical island is filled with lavender, wine, beaches, quaint villages, historic fortresses, and vibrant towns. I would love to spend an entire summer just living on this island and adopting their relaxing way of life.
Tell us about a special moment from your travels.
Once again, this is really difficult to answer but I couldn’t finish this interview without talking about my family’s seven-week trip through Europe in 2012 while I was studying in Tübingen, Germany. My parents, grandmother, three sisters, and a brother decided to visit me in Europe. It’s hard to accurate describe the trip but just imagine eight people in a huge VW van. Besides me and my grandmother, everyone in my family is six feet tall (or taller!). We stuck out like a sore thumb through both our family size and our heights.
While two weeks were spent traveling from NYC to Southampton, England and back on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, my family managed to visit close to 15 countries in five weeks. We had some of our funniest moments and best conversations during this vacation, and it is definitely an adventure my family won’t ever forget!
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