It has been nearly one month since I left Vienna, and I have to admit that I'm glad to be back home. I always have reveled in the comfort of familiarity, even if it sometimes slips into mundanity. Upstate New York is certainly no Vienna, but I know I appreciate it now more than ever after being away for so long. Going from a city of nearly two million to a town of about thirty thousand, I feel like I can breathe again--there are no subways, no tourist crowds, no street vendors trying to sell me stuff. These things are fine by themselves and for some people, just not for me, and that's okay. If I gained anything during my time abroad, it's a better understanding of what I want and don't want for my future. This isn't to say that I don't miss Vienna, because I do quite a bit (there are not nearly enough concerts here!), and I definitely plan on visiting again someday.
Considering that I started my blog with a "Viennese Bucket List" of everything I wanted to accomplish abroad, I think I'll end with a list of the most memorable things I experienced. Alas, not everything on my original list got checked off—there wasn't a whole lot of time for dance lessons in my schedule—but I still saw, heard, and did some pretty cool things:
- Taught at a Viennese high school. Through IES Abroad's internship seminar, I had the awesome opportunity to help teach English and music at a local high school. Not only was this an excellent experience to put on my résumé, especially because I want to be a teacher, but it was a chance to exercise my teaching skills while also learning about a different culture and educational system. My internship is easily what I am most proud of from the semester.
- Met the President of Austria. Rather, I was in the same room as him for about an hour (and I do have photo evidence!). The teacher I interned with happened to be taking her class to a speech for students the President was giving, and she invited the interns along. It was one of those totally random, yet unforgettable experiences that I'll tell everyone I ever meet.
- Hung out with my favorite composers. Or in their homes and at their graves, anyway. I visited a few of Beethoven's apartments, Mozart's house, and Schubert's home, as well as Vienna's Central Cemetery that now houses their bodies, among many others. Perhaps the most surreal experience of my life was standing mere feet away from some of the greatest musicians who have ever lived—I've studied their music for years, and there they actually were. I was also in the same room as Beethoven's piano, and believe me, I have never wanted to touch anything so badly.
- Went to all the concerts. Seriously, I attended more concerts in four months than in all of my first twenty years. No matter the venue or the program, every concert was truly incredible. I was able to hear some of my favorite works live for the first time, such as Mozart's Requiem, and I was exposed to some music I'd never heard before. My hometown may be quite artsy, but it's nothing compared to Vienna's creative culture.
- Had conversations in German. They weren't very fluent or sophisticated, I admit; they were mostly me acting like I knew what I was saying. But, I can say that I spoke German, and now I feel so much more comfortable talking to people in English. And, finally...
- Ate amazing food. I'm not ashamed to say that I slackened my vegetarianism (looking at you, Käsekrainer) and consumed an unhealthy amount of chocolate. I really miss European chocolate.
It's weird to think that I am officially closing my semester abroad, in that there is no more work to do aside from checking my grades. But, I'm starting to think that the journey is never really over; I've caught myself comparing cultures, thinking in German, and planning my future trips abroad. Even better, I have noticed my self-confidence growing every day, and I attribute that largely to my living alone abroad successfully. I may have initially questioned the influence study abroad could have on a student, but now that I've been through the whole process, I can look back with perspective, and I'm beginning to understand.
Thank you to all the people who made my time in Vienna possible, from my family and school to everyone at IES Abroad. I am so grateful for the experience I had, and I know I will treasure my memories for decades to come.
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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>