The new year is upon us, and so too is my flight to Vienna, Austria. I've never been one to care about New Year's—I'm always in the same place, with the same people, doing the same thing. But this year is going to be different—very different. I will be studying music in Vienna for the spring 2016 semester, and I have never been more excited (and scared) for anything in my whole life. Vienna: Europe's cultural capital, the home to some of the greatest musicians, artists, and thinkers who ever lived! And I'm going to be there!
As excited as I am, I must admit that I'm nervous. Because I attend college in my hometown, I've never been away from home, and my family, for more than a few days at a time. I can't quite wrap my head around what it will be like to not see my parents, the only people I can count on talking to every day, for more than four months. Of course, there's Skype, Facebook, and other feats of modern technology that will close the distance between continents, but they are not as comforting as a face-to-face conversation. The upcoming semester is, at this point, a period of "unknowns," and I am a person who needs complete control over everything in my life in order to feel stable. Will I make any friends? I don't know. Will I like the city? Probably, but I don't know. Will I adjust to living on my own? I sure hope so, but still, I don't know. And I don't like not knowing.
What I can count on are the things I plan to do and see in Vienna. I've got a list of goals for my semester abroad that, even if I accomplish nothing beyond this list, will mark my time as a success. It's my Viennese Bucket List, if you will:
- Hold a conversation with a native German speaker. A basic fact about me is that I'm not exactly skilled at talking to people. I get really anxious in social situations, and I sometimes stumble over my words, say weird things, or just stop talking all together—and in those conversations, I'm speaking my native language. There is something strangely empowering about German, though; maybe it's just the strong consonants, but I often feel more confident speaking it than English. If I can talk to a native German speaker with relative fluency, then I can talk to anyone.
- Perform in a concert. I'm a pianist, and I'll be part of IES Abroad's music program while in Vienna. I love performing—all the careful prepartion, the anticipatory excitement, and the joy of sharing music—but I have few opportunities to do so at my small home school. I hope to perform for an audience at least once in the same city Chopin did! Along that line...
- Attend as many performances as possible. Just as much as I want to play for an audience, I want to be the audience. I can only imagine the sheer number of concerts that will take place while I'm in Vienna, and I intend to see as many of them as my schedule and wallet will allow. Orchestra, opera, theater, dance—you name it, I will be there.
- Learn to waltz. A little secret of mine is that I've always wanted to learn to waltz (it's a secret because I lack all sense of bodily coordination). Waltzing is so elegant and graceful, yet seemingly effortless; it always reminds me of childhood fairytales. I figure there will be no better time to learn than when I live in the City of Waltzes.
- Eat great food and visit the coffee houses. I'm quite the foodie, so this one speaks for itself.
- Be independent. Despite my passion for music and the arts, this is the main reason I chose to study abroad. After years of struggling with anxiety and depression, I've worked hard to get to a state where living alone in a foreign country is a real possibility. I want to prove to myself that I can function well without the comforts of my family nearby, and that I can do things 100% on my own.
Fortunately, I feel more prepared than ever to accomplish all of these goals. Although I am nervous right now, I see so much potential for self improvement and lifetime memories. The first few weeks might be difficult, and it might take me some time to adjust, but this experience can only benefit me, I'm sure of this. It's time to start counting down the days!
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<p>Kelsie is a junior at Skidmore College, double majoring English and music. Her academic interests include creative nonfiction, piano performance, German language, and feminist theory. When she isn't in class or at the library, Kelsie spends her time playing piano, writing personal essays, knitting, or just curling up with a good book and a few cats. While studying in Vienna, Kelsie hopes to improve her German and piano skills, as well as immerse herself in Viennese culture.</p>