Hallo and willkommen (welcome) to my IES blog! My name is Alli Jones and I am a junior music education major at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. In a few short days, I will depart from DFW to embark on the greatest adventure of my life: a semester abroad in Vienna, Austria (did you catch my pun in the post title?) I am the first student from TCU to ever attend the IES Vienna- Music program. In the TCU School of Music, I am an anomaly- music majors do not typically leave to study abroad for an entire semester. And yet, here I am, putting my regularly scheduled curriculum practically on hold so that I can pursue another dream, one that I could not give up on. I alternate between thinking that I have made the best decision ever and thinking that I have lost my mind. I am mostly excited, though. Well, excited and scared.
Last Friday night, I hosted my going-away party. Specifically, it was an Austrian Fiesta, a farewell to my beloved Tex-Mex and queso. I had a great time reuniting with school friends I haven't seen all summer and saying goodbye to other friends as well. People always ask you the same questions before you leave for study abroad:
- Are you ready?
- Are you nervous?
- What are you most looking forward to?
I am going to address each of these questions because I feel that my answers cover a variety of pre-departure topics and will also allow me to discuss my hopes and goals for my semester abroad. Here we go!
1. Am I ready?
Ha. I wish I could say that I am 100% set and ready to go, but that is far from the truth, at least physically. I finally pulled my suitcases out of my closet today. I put them on my bed, put the overflowing laundry basket full of things I would like to take next to them, and proceeded to lay on my bed and watch YouTube videos about packing. Ultimately, I determined that I definitely need some compression bags, so I placed an order on Amazon and continued procrastinating. You probably don’t want packing advice from me- I am a notorious over packer! Packing for a semester is one of the greatest challenges I will likely ever face…
While I have a long way to go packing-wise, I would consider myself mentally ready- I am eager to finally be in Vienna and start living my new, exciting life. It still feels surreal that I will actually be there next week, attending orientation, moving into my apartment, and meeting all my peers. I have been anticipating going abroad since it first became a serious possibility during my freshman year. Now that it’s almost here, I can’t wait to dive in! I am not ready to say goodbye to my family and friends and be away from home for four months, but I know that once I embrace life in Austria, I will come to consider Vienna and the people there as an extension of home. Also, thank goodness for technology and Wi-Fi! Facetime will be a saving grace, I am sure.
2. Am I nervous?
Oh, boy. Of course I’m nervous! I am a planner by nature, so much so that I bought an expensive paper planner this year that I intend to color code and sticker to my heart’s content. I like to know all the answers to all my questions, but you simply cannot know everything about studying abroad until you get there! I have so many unanswered questions and little fears in the back of my mind that can get the best of me emotionally if I don’t rationalize and remember the bigger picture. Do I know how big my apartment is going to be or how many bathrooms we will be dividing our six roommates into? No, but I will know soon, and it will work out. Will the students from other universities be cliquey and exclude me? Will I find people to travel and hang out with? Certainly anyone studying abroad is open to making new friends and getting outside of their peer groups. I can’t control how others approach being social amongst our program group, but I can make sure that I am friendly and inclusive of others, and this, too, will work out.
It is so easy to be consumed by doubts and overwhelmed with nerves when approaching a situation in which so much is unknown or unfamiliar, but you can’t allow those little things to distract you. I have faith that I will have a positive and enriching experience this semester. Mindset is powerful, so I choose to keep mine optimistic.
3. What am I most looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to new experiences, new places, and new faces. One of the biggest factors that drove me to pursue studying abroad was feeling like I needed the chance to get outside of my locale and my monotonous routine. A big part of me longed to go away for college, to attend a university in a different part of the country from where I have spent most my life. Many factors led to my decision to attend TCU, which was/is my dream school, but is only 35 minutes from my house. I love Fort Worth, TCU, and my peers, but I need to expand my horizons. Luckily, part of TCU’s mission is to educate students globally and the faculty promotes taking advantage of study abroad programs. I am grateful for the opportunity to get out of my “bubble” and adapt to a different culture and lifestyle than I am accustomed to.
Life has thrown open many doors to me in the past couple years, and the path I have followed them through led me directly to Vienna’s doorstep. I fully intend to take advantage of every opportunity on this journey- to try every pastry, to drink many, many cups of coffee, to visit as many other cities/countries as possible, to make numerous new lifelong friendships, to become as fluent in German as time and experience allows, and to truly make Vienna my home while I am there. This dream is finally coming true.
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