Finding Home in Vienna

Brittney Sedgwick
August 26, 2019
Sunflower and Apple

Home is far, yet it is here. I wrote in my last post about making home where I am, about settling in, and about not being homesick. I reflect on that now as I listen to a playlist made for me by a loved one, titled, “Music too Miss YOU 2.” I must say, I miss them, “to.” 

A few days ago, I received the keys to what will be my Viennese home for the next four months. There are six of us in the apartment with three bedrooms, a bathroom (which is separate from the sink and shower), and a kitchen. It is on the same block as Hofer, a grocery store, as well as the practice rooms. This is perfect since our refrigerator is quite small for six people, and also because we are all musicians!

My bedroom has two large windows leading out to a rooftop. Across the way, I can see balconies with lights and plants. There is a 3’x3’ picture of Vienna on the wall across from me, hanging above my roommate’s bed. It is a vibrant view of Vienna from the top of Stephan’s dome, a cathedral in the center of the city’s first district. 

On each of our pillows, we were greeted with traditional Austrian chocolates called Mozartkugel. There is a surplus of tea in the drawer of my nightstand, local, organic honey in the cupboard, and always water in the kettle. Two of us have cooked and shared dinners from scratch. Three of us have already gotten sick and then better. We have each tried Sachertorte, a famous Austrian chocolate cake (which lives up to the hype), and we have all had moments of awe in front of intricate architecture. 

Despite all of this--the food, the beauty, having an Austrian phone number and address--there are still moments of homesickness. Every now and then, silly things catch my eye and remind me of home. On Thursday, it was a cheese curl on the side of the road being eaten by a colony of ants. It seemed quite out of character for Vienna, both because it was junk food, and because it was in the street. Those are rarities here, but (unfortunate) elements of commonplace in my home of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On Saturday, the reminder came from a puppy, a chocolate labrador, gazing up to me at the bus stop. I have a black lab at home, as well as a cat. The other moment was this:

On the bus, I offered my seat to an older woman, asking, “Wollen Sie sitzen?" She smiled and accepted. 

After thanking me several times, she began a conversation. “Du wohnst in Wien?” She asked if I live in Vienna. 

Ja,” (Yes) I said. “Für vier Monate.” (For four months). “Ich komme aus den USA.”

“Ah!” she said. “Do you speak English?”

“I do,” I said. 

“Would it be easier to continue in English?” she asked. 

Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen,” I responded, saying that I speak a bit of German, eager to practice my language skills. 

We continued our conversation in German by sharing bits of ourselves. I spoke about my musical studies, and she told me that music has been an important part of her life as well, just never as a career path. She is a psychotherapist, though not in the classical sense. She talked about holistic approaches to wellbeing and switched from speaking in German to English when explaining technical parts of her focus. It was quite sweet.  

When we approached her bus stop, she wished me a beautiful day, a “schönen Tag,” and I did the same. We waved to each other through the window as the bus pulled away.

It was special to communicate with someone from Vienna, in the language most primarily spoken here, and feel the ways in which I can integrate into this way of being. 

Seemingly unconnected, a few days later, my apartment mates and I were walking home from an evening out in Vienna’s first district. We laughed in hushed tones since it was passed the city-wide noise curfew. Cigarette ash sparked and floated from quiet balconies, disintegrating softly in the atmosphere. It seemed to be the closest thing to shooting stars in this area of light pollution. My roommate and I ducked, as if it would keep us safe from the luminescent specks. When we were almost all the way home, I found a sunflower laying on the cobblestones. 

Now, the sunflower is in a glass of water on our kitchen’s window ledge. In the smallest of ways, it is reminiscent of my flower-filled home. 

Home is far, yet it is here.

Here are a few songs on the playlist “Music too Miss YOU 2” 

"So Far Away" - Carole King

"I Will" - The Beatles

"Inside Out" - Spoon

"True Love Waits" - Radiohead

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Brittney Sedgwick

<p><span style="color:#333333">I am Brittney Sedgwick, a rising junior studying Music Performance at Gettysburg College. I sing classical music: art song, opera, chamber music, and more. Before attending Gettysburg, I spent four years studying creative writing. I love reading poetry, drinking tea, going for sunset walks, and stargazing. </span></p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
Gettysburg College
Philadelphia, PA
Music Performance
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