The Bittersweets: Pre-homesickness, bucket lists and all things study abroad

Bridget Gervais
December 19, 2019

Bittersweet is what it is, or a mixture of sweet and salty as a chocolate covered pretzel (I am a bit of a food addict). As I finish the fall semester of my Junior year at Drake University and as I look forward to traveling to Austria, I would describe my emotions as bittersweet or a mixture of sweet and salty. Both happy and sad emotions are all morphed together into a pretty little package that your will open on Christmas Eve (or around it).

I have been looking forward to studying abroad since my Junior year of High School, when I passed into fourth year German and decided to become a Music major. I have been so excited to travel abroad, that I have literally contemplated every weekend travel destination I will go to, as well as constantly browsing the IES website of blogs and courses in order to live my dreams through the experiences of other students. I am excited to study Horn with a teacher in Vienna and use the German language that I have been learning since High School.

Lately, as my departure date is gradually getting closer, I am filled with bittersweet memories and thoughts of what I will be missing over the next four months. I will be missing the 4-7 year olds that I have been teaching music to for the past year and a half. I will be postponing teaching piano to an eager nine year old that is receiving a keyboard for Christmas. Many of my friends will be performing at their Junior rectials, which I will either miss or have to view via live-streaming sources at 2 in the morning because of the time difference. While one of my friends get's married and while my boyfriend of two-and-a-half years turns twenty-one the day before I return home, I will be living my dream of performing abroad. It is bittersweet leaving the friends, family and students that I work with on a daily basis, yet it is rewarding. I am filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment for having worked toward this moment of my life.

I don't regret my decisions to study abroad, afterall, I have been looking forward to this moment for at least four years. It is a type of pre-homesickness, where I realize everything I will miss, before I actually get homesick. I believe this homesickness is helping me prepare for life. It will be my first time "really" living on my own away from my parents. Unlike college dorms, which were in the town where my family and friends live and the summer I spent working at a summer camp, I still had friends and my boyfriend that were within a fifteen minute drive, this is the first time that I will be away from anything familiar. I think it will help me mature as a person and learn to build relationships.

I am not going to continue this blog with talk about my packing for my travels, mostly because I haven't started and packing, for me, is a burden. I never have cared enough about the way I look to buy nice clothing. I typically have just worn t-shirts that I have aquired from numerous activities that I have been involved in such as honor bands and church camp volunteering. Being encouraged to buy nice clothes that make me look put together, has both brought out a part of me that I didn't know existed, but also has also put a minor burden of self-esteem on me for not having enough clothes that fit the European standard. I guess I don't know fully how to "fit" the "European style". One of my biggest fears going abroad is speaking German and being replied to in English, only because I look and dress American.

Lastly, I would like to share a brief bucket list of things I plan to do and see while abroad.

  1. Attend a concert for a solo Horn player: I have bought rather inexpensive tickets for a concert in Salzburg, the week after German intensive finals. The concert is a joint solo concert by Horn player Radek Baborák, Giulia Semenzato, a soprano and the Mozarteum Orchestra. The concert is part of a two week festival in honor of Mozart, therefore all works that are performed are by Mozart.
  2. Travel to Budapest, Berlin, Munich and other nearby cities: My goals are to practice my German and explore the music and history within each city. What better way to do so than travel? Also, I am hoping to visit my friend from Hungary, whom I met at the summer camp that I worked at, and the German exchange student that lived with my family during my senior year of High School.
  3. Order and drink coffee and wine in German: Vienna is known for its wine and it's cafe culture. Plus what better way to practice German, than ordering food?
  4. Make an ethnic dish with my host family: I really enjoy cooking and would love to learn to cook some of the Viennese delicacies. Plus, it would help me connect with my host family.
  5. Attend concerts and play in an ensemble (hopefully with natives): I kind of grouped these together, but what better place to play and listen to music, than the City of Music itself. At my home university, I am required to attend fifteen concerts per semester. Even going abroad, I am required to submit programs for concerts to the university. Recently, I came to a hard realization that concerts cost money in Vienna, and not just like the five dollar cover charge from the jazz clubs that I like to go to. Tickets for a concert cost anywhere from $25 to $125, because concerts are seen as a far more formal endeavor than they are seen in the United States. The musical scene is especially informal within smaller towns such as Des Moines. I have heard many other students have been able to pay for standing room tickets, but I will have to find that out when I arrive. In terms of playing, I hope to participate in both the Performance Workshop course, offered by IES, and a join a community orchestra, if possible (Viennese semesters don't line up with American semesters, therefore I don't know if it is possible).

Thanks for viewing my blog and stay tuned for updates about my many adventures. 

Bridget Gervais

<p>I am Bridget Gervais and I am a Junior studying Music Education at Drake University. When I am not studying or practicing my French Horn, I enjoy reading, going on runs, cooking/trying new recipes, exploring and, of course, playing Christmas music on the Piano.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Drake University
Des Moines, IA
Music Education
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