The lights dimmed and the conductor took his place on the podium. As the overture rang out, my goose bumps rose. It was my third time seeing Mozart’s Zauberflöte, but the beginning notes always give me chills.
Madison and I started our Christmas morning off slowly here in Austria with some favorite Christmas movies and breakfast. We expected to visit Schloss Schönbrunn early in the day but were greeted not with sunshine but instead with heavy rain. Of course, this weather warranted us staying in our pajamas and lounging around at the apartment. We lucked out with a fantastic AirBNB booking and even greater hosts. They gifted us with stockings and have been beyond welcoming. After too much gingerbread and a lot of television time, we decided to make our way to the opera. A bit of bargaining with the scalpers out front and we took our places before the 19.00 curtain. The art of opera is one that will never cease to amaze me. A visit to the Vienna State Opera—what a wonderful gift this Christmas.
With talk of gifts and Christmas music playing through my speakers, I feel stuck in an interesting limbo. I can’t really express how surreal it has been to celebrate the holiday in a stranger’s home, in a foreign country, in the company of one of my closest friends. I think we’ve both been experiencing some bouts of confusion. It’s incredibly disorienting to experience such new conditions this time of year.
After a FaceTime session with the family, my suspicions became fact as I realized how much I am missing out on some incredible holiday traditions. Old traditions are meeting new as my family and my brother’s fiancée’s begin to meld. I look forward to the future holidays I will spend in their company, but for now, I am counting my blessings. Through this experience, I have felt alone, I have felt clueless, but most of all, I have felt alive. I am thankful for the adventure that my exchange has provided me but most of all for the constant reminder that a world exists outside of my own. Today, I realized that everyone is leading their own life and I count myself lucky for the many people who have indelibly touched mine.
Here’s to the generosity of my hosts, to the friends I’ve known forever and the friends yet to be made. Here’s hoping that I cross paths with many of you sooner rather than later, but until then, I am sending my love from my kitchen in Wien.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hallo! I am Haley Wilhelm, a Junior at Scripps College from the Midwest. I enjoy reading, writing, traveling, and most of all, eating! I can't wait to explore all that Freiburg has to offer, as well as many other European cities during my academic year abroad.</span></p>