It has been about two weeks since I arrived in Europe, and yet it seems like it’s been an eternity! Last week, the IES Abroad faculty swindled me, along with 141 other tired students, from the airport in Vienna to the remote and beautiful town of Mariazell in the Austrian mountains. We wasted no time in jumping right into our 4-day orientation. In between intense information sessions, German placement exams, and interviews for internships, we had the opportunity to get to know our peers and explore the wonders of the Styria region. We were also introduced to different elements of Austrian culture, my favorite being our first Viennese waltz lesson! Though I will not be in Vienna during the height of ball season (January-February), I am determined to attend at least one ball and try my hand (or feet?) at waltzing in its true and original setting!
The following Thursday, we departed from Mariazell and set out to our real destination: Vienna. Immediately, the temperature got 30 degrees hotter and the reality of spending an entire semester here got maybe 50% more real (this percentage has gone up throughout this week, but it still doesn’t feel like this is my life yet!) After some confusion with the vans that were taking us to our individual apartment residences, my roommates and I finally loaded up our things and arrived home. Our apartment, though not very spacious or fancy, is modern and charming. And it is ours. We may have only one bathroom for 6 girls and no true common living space, but the city, with its many parks, cafes, and outdoor eateries, is an extension of our home, and we will not remain in our apartment as often once we settle into our schedules and find our favorite places to hang out.
Moving in was not terribly eventful. We dropped off our luggage and pretty much headed straight to the ATM and grocery store because stores close earlier in Vienna than back in the states. After a fairly long and somewhat confusing time at the local Billa, we returned to the apartment and stocked up our kitchen. We contemplated making dinner in the apartment, but we were tired and also discovered that we have the tiniest pots in the world, so an easy spaghetti dinner was not an option. We went out instead. It was nice to walk our neighborhood for a bit and to find a nice area full of restaurants (and gelato shops) that we can frequent this semester. After dinner, we finally got to unpack our very full luggage and truly move into the apartment. For once in my life, all of my clothing actually fit into one closet (or wardrobe, in this case). The apartment is modestly decorated, but I brought my favorite pack-able décor from home: my postcard collection and little string lights. I always like making my space a little homier, and I hope to also get a fun throw blanket and extra pillows to personalize it even more. Oh, and I will be buying several little plants to place around the apartment. I can’t resist!
Besides the obvious struggle of the language barrier, there are some other little challenges during study abroad that you don’t necessarily consider you’ll face until you arrive. Something that seems so simple can turn out to be, well, not quite so simple. For example, in my case, such challenge was tracking down towels. My, what a journey that turned out to be. While some students may pack towels, so as not to have to worry about buying them in Europe, I was certainly not about to sacrifice space for valuable clothing and shoes to bring an item I would most definitely find easily in a large city. Wrong. I spent Friday evening running around the city (well, using the metro system) to look for towels at a grand total of 7 different stores. Oh, what joy filled my heart when I finally found a nice, fluffy (albeit, somewhat pricey) towel in that final store. Never have I missed Target more. By the way, furniture stores. That is where one finds towels here, apparently. Duh.
It's now the halfway point of the German intensive, a two-week period where all students take only German class for 3 hours a day. I feel much more proficient in the language than I was coming in because it had been a couple years since I last studied it. I am excited to see how well I will be able to speak and understand German by the end of the semester! When I am not in class, I have been using my free time in the afternoons and evenings to explore the city and experience as much of the local culture as possible. I have already gone swimming in the Danube, taken a bus tour of the city, had my first Wiener Melange (Viennese coffee), walked through the popular Naschmarkt, and visited the summer film festival. There is no shortage of great things to do here, and I am so glad that I don’t have to cram it all in over the span of a few days. I can spread things out and take my time; after all, I live here now, and if the Austrians know how to do anything, it’s take life slow. I am ready to embrace the Viennese habit of spending long hours in cafes or parks simply enjoying good food, excellent coffee (or wine), and the best company. There is no need to rush life, especially when you’re abroad. Tomorrow, I think I’ll have my first afternoon Apfelstrudel. Even in Austria, it’s the little things in life that can make or break a day. Here’s to more good days filled with strong coffee, cooler weather, and lots of delicious Viennese desserts.
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<p>Hey, y'all! I'm a cat-loving music education major from good ole Fort Worth, Texas. I sing Brahms and Mozart, but I listen to Taylor Swift, Hamilton, and much more! (My Spotify playlists says a lot about me!) I enjoy traveling because I get to meet new people, experience new places, and try new foods (okay- I'm mostly in it for the food). Follow along to see what kinds of adventures (and mishaps) I find myself involved in!</p>