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Making Friends, Traveling Europe, and Learning German

September 8, 2017

Snapshot of one of many scenic afternoon walks in Vienna

I have been living in Vienna, Austria for exactly two weeks now! A jet-lagged and sleep deprived version of myself somehow made it through the 3-day orientation in Mariazell. Orientation felt like summer camp—complete with eating schedules, a dance lesson, and a camp fire. My favorite activity was the visit we made to the basilica. Learning about the history of the church and physically seeing people making the pilgrimage amplified the wondrous experience. The town itself and a nearby lake (pictured) were also great excursions. By the end of orientation, we were all more than ready to start our lives in Vienna.

The beautiful lake we visited at orientation.

Finding friends was natural—orientation created the right environment for friend groups to form. Talking to the other students, I realized that many of us have similar motivations for studying abroad. Whether it be wanderlust, the love of European culture or music, refuge from toxic relationships, or a combination of the three, we all came ready to begin anew. I am so fortunate to be studying with great, like-minded people.One of the biggest qualms most students (myself included) have when they study abroad is whether they’ll find people to travel with. One of the greatest and historically most important aspects of Vienna is its central location in Europe. Thankfully, I was not the only student that came here not only wanting to explore Vienna but other European cities as well. I spent last weekend with three of my friends in Budapest, Hungary! It was such a fun trip! The bus to Budapest only took three hours, making it a great weekend getaway. This was the first adventure where we were completely independent, out from underneath the wing of IES Abroad. None of us know Hungarian or had ever used HUFs before but we made it! (Tip: Be careful when converting into HUFs, the ATMs in Budapest were very tricky. I witnessed many travelers withdraw a lot more money than they had intended because of the machine.) We certainly weren’t the only ones travelling. There were many groups going a variety of places. There really is and was no need to worry about finding someone to travel with.

Budapest, Hungary

The intensive German period of this program is nearly over. I found myself getting frustrated that normal classes haven’t started but then realized what a monumental help the intensive German has been. Yesterday afternoon I went to a small coffee shop in my district. Very close to the University of Vienna, the coffee was fairly priced and did not have the pretentious milieu I have found in many Viennese shops. (I will give a more in-depth look Vienna Coffee culture in the coming weeks!) When I entered the shop, I was met with merely the barista and a young woman sipping a cappuccino and reading. I got my coffee, sat at a table, and began studying… And that is when the afternoon coffee and cake rush hit. The shop began to swarm with caffeine hungry adults, all comfortably speaking German. I listened to the room and found myself recognizing snippets of conversation. It was the greatest feeling being able to understand. There is certainly room for improvement but that’s what the next few months are for.

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