Auf Wiedersehen, Wien

Selina Donahue
May 20, 2016

Life is about to get weird.


I don’t think “surreal” is the best word to describe how I’m feeling, although I suppose it’s the closest I’ll get to explaining it so simply. This morning I took my German final, and turned in my Austrian cell phone. Friends and I got gelato from Zanoni & Zanoni and leisurely strolled down Kärtnerstraße one last time.  I gazed up at St. Stephen’s Cathedral like I had so many times before, and it felt the same. My last view of the Wiener Staatsoper, a building I passed everyday to and from class, was obscured and over the shoulder. An insignificant glance that may have been the last time I ever see that building. I wanted my eyes to absorb things in fantastic detail and intense colors, but today felt like any other day, and perhaps that’s for the better. Perhaps it’s more authentic that way. We went to an IES Abroad Barbeque where many of us said our final goodbyes, to our classmates, to our friends. People exclaimed, “If you’re ever in [insert the city or town of your choice], my couch is always free for you to stay on!” Now I’m at home, having just cleared out my fridge and eaten a tiny dinner of leftovers, reflecting on my entire semester here.

I decided to look back at the first ever blog post I made, before I got to Vienna and was still scared of “unknown independence.” Let’s look at my fears – being on an airplane alone (not as terrifying as it sounds), feeling as though the world is against me (if you are anywhere and look confused enough, someone will help you don’t worry), being alone all semester (found people I really clicked with, people I think will seriously be my friends for life).

Did my luggage fall out of the plane during takeoff? Why no, it didn’t! It was lost once, on my way back from Venice, but that was a problem quickly solved that now I know how to handle if it ever happens again (and considering that I will be taking three planes home, it most definitely could happen).  Leaving my family was hard, but if anything I’ve become a pro at emailing my parents any inner turmoils, or Facetiming my sisters when I need the support only two big sisters can provide. The time apart did make me independent, I can even semi-successfully buy my own groceries and cook for myself now! And the crying in public thing did happen… But only because of German (who knew!).

I came to Vienna not really knowing what to expect. I wasn’t that familiar with the city, or the country even. It seemed like everyone I spoke to wanted to go to Paris, London, Barcelona, and these same people were perplexed at my choice. Why did I choose Vienna? But I think, why not choose Vienna? It has so many sides to it; the bustling city, the intricate history, the new hipster cafés and art and thrift stores… Travel around Austria and you will be in the mountains one day, the woods the next, suburbia and ruined castles and skyscraping cathedrals all packed into one schnitzel-shaped country. I had no idea what I would get, and I’m so glad I took the risk, the one that scared me and intimidated me to the point that I almost didn’t try to travel at all.

My advice for a study abroad student is simple: Be open to change. Go to a café (one old, one new) twice a week if you can. Be a tourist. Speak German when you can. When you go to Billa, don’t be intimidated by the unsmiling employees. Shoot them a Grüß Gott and they’ll eventually come around. Get outside as often as you can. Don’t sit at home all the time (unless you need a mental health day; totally understandable). Go to the museums. As many as you can, they have enough for any and all types of people. Go to a ball and dance even if you feel silly or think you look stupid. Don’t think you’re stupid if you mess up your German, or feel like you’re “too American” sometimes. You’re learning and growing and adapting. Don’t take anything too seriously. Make friendships, and if you lose some too just accept them and move on. You’re in Vienna goodness sake, the time is all yours and it’s about time you’re greedy with it.

The hour is late, which is my queue to finish up packing so I can relax with my friends one last time. Tonight I will prost to Vienna, tomorrow I will cheers to Maryland.

Oh, and that list I made at the end of my first blog post? The one where I explained what I was excited to experience?

I did it all. 

Selina Donahue

<p>Selina is a Junior Studio Art Major at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She enjoys long walks in the halls of art museums, eating too many cupcakes, and absorbing the world around her to feed as inspiration for all her creative endeavors. Her specialties lie in taking too many pictures and expressing joy over the little things. Selina is excited to share the beauty she sees all over Vienna during her stay with all who hop on over to her little blog!</p>

2016 Spring
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Catholic University of America
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