Back Home; “Real Life?”

Isaac Alter
July 24, 2014

I suspect my return home from Vienna has been a slightly unusual one.  After a travel day that lasted over 24 hours (during which I watched an embarrassing number of movies), I came back to my house for the first time in over six months. The next day, I saw a musical. For the following three days, I worked 7 hour days as a coach for a volleyball camp at my elementary school, and, finally, on Thursday, I departed for 10 days for my sixth year at Northern California Flute Camp, from which I returned this weekend.

It was rather odd because I was immediately thrown into full-speed “American” life as soon as I returned home, and then escaped to flute camp–which is difficult to explain but is very isolated from the “real world” in more ways than one–and now am back home with very little planned for the remaining weeks of the summer.  So I’ve had sort of a weird juggling act of going full-throttle and being relaxed, all while adapting to several different settings. However, one thing that I certainly have not lacked is time to reflect on my amazing weeks in Vienna.

Of course, this will be very cliché, but I learned more than I can even put into words while abroad.  Two things, however, really stick out in my mind and I think will continue to affect me for the rest of my life.  Firstly, I learned about home.  How quickly and easily we can make someplace our home, no matter how foreign it may be to us.  I arrived in Vienna speaking not a word of German and knowing hardly anything about the city; I got lost in the airport, for heaven’s sake.  Within less than a week, though, I had already adapted to the workings of the city and already felt more at home than I ever thought I would.  By the end of my time in Austria, I could pass–for a short time, at least–as a native German speaker.  And for me, that meant a lot; being able to be seen as non-tourist is a huge gauge of how well I’ve adapted to a place. I know that I’ll consider Vienna as one of my homes for a very long time to come.

And secondly, I learned a lot about people.  I learned about how different and alike not just Viennese, but also the students in my program, could be in relation to me.  I came to understand the kind of person that I take for granted in my hometown, at Harvard, and in America in general, and continued to develop my burgeoning interest in learning as much as I can about the people around me.  I’ve become more conscious of this interest in the past few months, and I treasure it, and want to thank Vienna for helping me to discover and fine-tune it.

So, farewell for now, Vienna.  Thanks for the memories, thanks for the music, thanks for giving me a new home. I’ll miss you and hope that I’ll see you again in the not-so-distant future.  Auf Wiedersehen, Wien.

The view from the top of Vienna’s most famous cathedral, taken on one of my last days in the city.

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Isaac Alter

<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);">My name is Isaac Alter, and I&#39;m a rising junior at Harvard College, studying stem cell biology with a double minor in art history and music. Outside the classroom, I work both as an admissions tour guide and as a research associate in a stem cell lab, I am a music director for the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, and I am a flutist and board member for the River Charles Ensemble, a conductorless chamber orchestra. I&#39;m beyond thrilled to be taking a journey to Vienna this summer, to pursue and explore music--one of my great passions--in what has been the center of classical music for centuries. In my free time, I love taking spontaneous trips to New York, cooking, and exploring nooks and crannies of Harvard&#39;s vast campus. My career plans at this point are wildly up in the air, but I hope that my experience with music this summer will help me on that front.</span></p>

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