September 3, 2013
I arrived in Austria on August 8, which is my birthday. What an amazing birthday gift Rotary gave me! On August 11 I left for language camp where I stayed for two weeks and got an intro into the German language. School does not start until September 9 so I still had summer vacation after I got back. My host family and I went to Vienna for a few days were we went sight seeing and shopping.
The town that I live in is called Zell am See. The population is about 9,368 which isn’t that much different than Atlantic Beach which has around 12,000 people. My first host family is truly amazing. They are so nice and funny. I have my host parents and 2 host siblings. A brother who is 13 and a sister who is 16. We have to change shoes as soon as we get into a house or school. You either have house slippers or wear socks. Every morning we have fruit, bread and homemade jam for breakfast. The bread here is delicious. Nothing can compare to it back in Florida. Lunch is usually the big meal of the day with spaghetti, meat or potato dishes and salad. Dinner is cold cuts and bread or soup. In Austria you keep your fork in your left hand and the knife in your right hand as well as both arms on the table at all times. You use your fork to cut most foods and only the knife when needed. The ice cream here is delicious! Its so creamy and there is ice cream shops on almost every corner. The toilet was so confusing at first. I was not sure what button to press at first since there are two to the flush the toilet but after the first couple times I learned.
German language is hard to learn. But thankfully it is coming along. It can be so frustrating sometimes when everything is being said in German and you can pick out words here and there but it still does not make any sense to you. But I always remember that soon I will understand these conversations and I will be able to reply in longer sentences and have a larger input because soon I will also be speaking German.
I am reaching my one month mark here in Austria and I have already fallen in love with Austria so much. It feels like I have just arrived here while at the same time it feels like I have been here so much longer. Its crazy thinking that just a year ago I was applying to become an exchange student and now I am here in Austria as an exchange student!
October 16, 2013
It has been two months here in Austria. The days are flying by and I find myself wishing that the days could be longer and for time to go slower.
I have already had so many amazing opportunists that I would never have been able to do in the U.S. I have stayed a weekend in Vienna, got lost in Salzburg, spent the night in a hostel, seen the first snow of the season, seen an opera in Vienna, went hiking in the freezing cold, ridden a train across the country, visited a castle in Kaprun, seen a bone house and so much more.
It’s funny how being in a new country all by yourself makes you realize what kind of person you really are. There is no way to describe the feeling you get when you realize how independent and confident you are coming. How you have this take on the world attitude because you know you can. Little moments of accomplishments make exchange worth it! The first time I ordered a coffee for myself and then food at a restaurant, switching trains successfully, having a small conversation with a friend and giving directions to a tourist because it made me realize that no longer am I tourist myself but I am at my second home.
Just one year ago I was a normal teenager going through the everyday routine of life in Florida. Today I am an exchange student not knowing what tomorrow will bring but knowing that whatever it brings I will be ready for it. One year ago I sent in my application to Rotary Youth Exchange and began preparing for an interview in front of Rotarian's who would decide if I was ready for a year abroad. One year ago I thought I was accepting of other cultures and today I realized just how closed minded I really was. While I accepted parts of cultures I did not accept the culture as a whole. Today I can truly say that I can now accept the culture as a whole. Their beliefs and customs, the food they eat and the way they dress. While I will not always see eye to eye on their customs, eat the same food they eat or even dress the way they dress I am willing to give it all a try and to accept it even if it is not the same as my culture.
In just a two weeks I leave on a trip to see Prague, Berlin and Dresden. I never thought I would have the opportunity to travel to these places! And right now I need to begin packing for my weekend in Vienna. So good luck to all you future Rotary Youth Exchangers on the interviews. Exchange is real and it is the most amazing opportunity in your life so go for it.