Titi Olano

 Austria

Hometown: Davie, Florida
School: Western High School
Sponsor District : District 6990
Sponsor Club: Miramar Pembroke Pines, Florida
Host District: 1910
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Ried im Innkreis


My Bio


Hallo, my name is Valentina and I am very fortunate to say that I will be spending a year of my life in beautiful Austria. Currently, I live with my mom and dad, Karen and Juan, and my two sisters; Valeria, the eldest, and Victoria, the youngest. We all are fluent in English, Spanish and French. I am so grateful to my parents for instilling in us that the more languages one knows, the more doors open. I have seen the benefits of becoming an exchange student through my exchange sister, Veronika. I believe she has been an incredible example of what an exchange student should be. To add on, I know that my past experiences have prepared me for this massive undertaking. A move from sunny Florida to mountainous Tennessee required me to adapt quickly. On a more personal level, some things I know will contribute to a more unique experience in my year abroad is my love for music and art. I delight in singing for others as well as playing the cello. Taking photos of the places and people around me is a hobby I love. Some other things I enjoy are roller-blading, bike-riding, horseback riding, skiing, and playing tennis. I can't wait to be able to do this with my future host family. I am very excited to take on this adventure and am hopeful to meet great people and learn of new cultures and traditions. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible for me and until next time; auf wiedersehen.

First family trip to Attersee

First family trip to Attersee

My host family picking me up at the airport

My host family picking me up at the airport

Die Schloss Hellbrunn (We came here for my 16th birthday because, coincidentally, they filmed the song "I am 16 going on 17" from Sound of Music in the gazebo in the park that belongs to this villa)

Die Schloss Hellbrunn (We came here for my 16th birthday because, coincidentally, they filmed the song "I am 16 going on 17" from Sound of Music in the gazebo in the park that belongs to this villa)

View of Attersee from a restaurant on the mountain

View of Attersee from a restaurant on the mountain

All the exchange students in Austria (at language camp, 52 students)

All the exchange students in Austria (at language camp, 52 students)

The Tuesday morning market in my town center

The Tuesday morning market in my town center

Hiking near Attersee (reminded me of Sound of Music)

Hiking near Attersee (reminded me of Sound of Music)

With my best friends halfway up the hike.

With my best friends halfway up the hike.

All the oldies and newbies at Planner-Alm.

All the oldies and newbies at Planner-Alm.

The world's biggest (working) organ. It is also one of the oldest. The organist of the church was buried directly under the organ in the church basement where they also buried all the other priests and organists of the church. (Monestary, St.Pölten).

The world's biggest (working) organ. It is also one of the oldest. The organist of the church was buried directly under the organ in the church basement where they also buried all the other priests and organists of the church. (Monestary, St.Pölten).

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!! (BORG Ried) That is my principal, my Geman teacher, and my dance teacher. You will meet her at Language Camp! She's very sweet.

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!! (BORG Ried) That is my principal, my Geman teacher, and my dance teacher. You will meet her at Language Camp! She's very sweet.

The Rotary Planner-Alm trip. The total hike up and down the mountain was about 5 hours. The view at the top was worth it even though it was a little cloudy.

The Rotary Planner-Alm trip. The total hike up and down the mountain was about 5 hours. The view at the top was worth it even though it was a little cloudy.

An outing to Linz. This view is on a bridge over the Danube River/Die Donau.

An outing to Linz. This view is on a bridge over the Danube River/Die Donau.

My host parents took me to the biggest ice caves in the world! (Eisriesenwelt) This is the view from the entrance of the cave. They gave us oil candles to light the way in the cave.

My host parents took me to the biggest ice caves in the world! (Eisriesenwelt) This is the view from the entrance of the cave. They gave us oil candles to light the way in the cave.

My Austrian Dirndl

My Austrian Dirndl

Journals: Titi-Austria Blog 2017-18

  • Titi, Outbound to Austria

    Click HERE to read more about Titi and all her blogs

    Dear readers,

    Since my last journal entry, a lot has happened. I'm sitting here in class, trying to understand what the teachers and students are saying. I've always been that student in class that worries if she gets anything lower than an A so, coming into a new class setting, with a new language, as the new girl, I was so scared of what would happen if I didn't do my homework or didn't pay attention or didn't take the exams; I didn't know what the teachers were expecting of me or what I should be doing. However, sitting here, I can honestly tell you that the way the head mistress explained it was so clear: "You did not come here for the schooling. You have come here to engage with new people, new ways of life, new cultures." This year, you do not need to stress about when your homework was due, or whether you have a test or not.

    Besides, your peers, the teachers; they are all really impressed that you're willing to even sit down and pay attention to what they have to say (even though they know you aren't understanding a third of what they are saying). It's impressive; to put yourself in a situation like that; to go through the fear of starting a new life in a different country where you don't know the language. It is an experience that is so important to learn; especially early on, surrounded by people who want to know more about you.

    *****TIP #1: LISTEN. When you're in class, listen. Or at least pretend to listen because your teachers will like you so much more if they see that you're actually trying to learn. It earns you respect. You'll be surprised how many words you can actually pick up.

    Now, of all my classes, I really try to understand and pay attention in Music, English, German, Gym, French, Choir, Singing, and Religion because I know I can handle them. Also, it is very probable your English teacher will ask you to answer some questions or help them out. However, I am taking online classes but it's honestly a decision you have to make. Take into consideration how much time you think you will have on your hands and how diligent you really are. There is no shame in not graduating on time. If that is one factor holding you back, take it from me, this year is well worth it. Who cares if you graduate a year late?.. You get to live AN ENTIRE YEAR ABROAD!

    This exchange is a definite challenge. It is a process. It is slow and at times painful (emotionally, mentally, sometimes physically -believe me, hiking is NOT ANYTHING like what it looked like in sound of music.. You SWEAT. A LOT. And your muscles feel like they might give in at any moment. You walk like you have noodles for legs while an Austrian 5 year old passes you by). Don't feel discouraged if there are other exchange students that speak German better or more fluently. Remember that there is always someone that is better than them too.

    *****TIP #2: Speak to your friends IN GERMAN. Your exchange friends; your school friends; your parents' friends'. SPEAK AS MUCH GERMAN AS YOU CAN. When you do this, your friends will kinda take a step back and realize.. "hmmm, this exchange student ACTUALLY WANTS to learn German."

    As dumb as you may feel, because, believe me, I feel really REALLY dumb sometimes, do it. You don't sound as bad as you think you do. If you want to get to a state where you can tell jokes fluently in German or speak to your friends without them turning their heads like puppies trying to understand what you're attempting to say, YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE. And starting somewhat kindergarten-ish is where we all start.

    It is so vital in this year that you take this seriously and completely submerge yourself into the German language. German TV; German music; German traditions... because if thats not the reason you are doing your exchange, I'd reconsider your decision.

    As annoying as this may sound, the best way to learn german is by SPEAKING it. Whenever I would watch videos on how to learn German quickly (which I have learned the hard way is NOT an overnight process), the point people most emphasized was actually SPEAKING GERMAN.

    *****TIP #3: Even if you're sentences are as simple as "Was machen wir?" "What are we doing?", your friends will respond to you in German and WANT to include you in their plans because they won't be thinking "Man, this is going to be AWKWARD.. I don't speak good english, she doesn't speak great german... lets just avoid that and NOT invite her."

    *****TIP #4: DON'T BE AFRAID OR EMBARRASSED TO ASK QUESTIONS! This is how you will get better. Ask your friends after you've said something in German: "Did that make sense" or "Is that how you would say it?"

    *****TIP #5: Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. That is one of the most important pieces of advice my mom ever taught me. Whenever someone speaks to me in German, and I ask them to repeat it, they will usually say it slower or break it down, and even though it sounds perfect to me and I'm like "FINALLYYYYYY!" a lot of other students will find it hilarious! Or when I use a word incorrectly like if I were saying "When I AM four..." they think thats really funny too.Laugh with your classmates when they laugh about the way you speak or the words you use because they'll be like "Heyyy, she's cool! We can joke around with her.." instead of "Oooooooh, maybe we shouldn't have said that..".

    When they laugh, I laugh. Even when I don't understand what they're saying, I'll laugh because someone else's laugh makes me laugh.. Theres A LOT of laughing.

    *****TIP #6: Say YES to everything you're offered. Believe me, in my first month here, I can honestly tell you I've gone to more places than some people go to in a lifetime.. Restaurants, towns, castles, villas, mountains... The places I've been blessed enough to visit have shown me that, oh my gosh, there is so much of the world that we don't see. So many cultures we don't know of. That reminded me of how important this opportunity is.

    You will be blessed enough to see places you can't even begin to imagine; places you thought would have stayed in the past; crumbled away; places you thought never have existed; places that look like they've been plucked out of a universal set from the Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast movies...

    *****TIP #7: Try to indulge yourself as much as you can in the culture. Just a couple days ago, I got an Austrian made Dirndl! Surprisingly, a lot of the youth use them in festivals like Volksfest and Oktoberfest.

    *****TIP #8: Listen to German and/or Austrian music. My favorites so far have been Julian Le Play and Cro. Cro is EXTREMELY popular here and for good reason.

    Start listening to your host countries music! If you tell an Austrian that you love music, the music they refer to is CLASSICAL MUSIC. They will ask you who your favorite composers are and they wouldn't mind you dropping a couple Austrian names into the conversation.

    All of this is a learning process. I'm sorry if my journals are long. I just really appreciated it when I got to hear oldies (past exchange students) share their experiences and give us tips. I'll share some of my experiences in a different journal entry!

    Till next time,

    Bis später alligator:)

    Valentina

  • Titi, Outbound to Austria

    Click HERE to read more about Titi and all her blogs

    To start:

    I can't believe how blessed I am to be writing about being ABROAD. I knew this moment would come, but I didn't really KNOW; it never really sank in.

    A piece of advice I would give you: breathe in when you give your parents the last hug before you go through TSA because it's the last memory you'll take with you of them. Also, pre-write your family members birthday cards. I forgot to do this but it's a really nice surprise because it takes 3-4 weeks for postcards or just cards in general to get back to your family...

    Here are my tips and my experiences so far-

    *****TIP #1: DON'T BE NERVOUS to the point where you're scared to meet your family for the first time. Be a good nervous; remember that they're nervous too. You're not the only one.

    Today marks 22 days since I arrived here in Austria. I live in a smaller town called Ried Im Innkreis. It is located in Upper Austria and it's 1 hour away from Linz, 1 hour away from Salzburg, and 2 1/2 hours from Vienna.

    *****TIP #2: Learn all the 9 states in Austria. They'll really enjoy that.

    These past 22 days have been the most eye opening. From small differences like the different breakfasts to the big differences like the constant German, these last 3 weeks have been filled with excitement and unexpected surprises. One of the best pieces of advice my dad gave me was "Do everything there that you won't be able to do here." So when my host family offered me dance classes, my answer was "HECK YES!!". Hiking; YES. Walk around town; YES. Orchestra concert; YES.

    *****TIP #3: Be ready to walk A LOT.. In your city, at language camp...

    Language Camp:

    Language camp was so much fun! You meet a lot of new people. Try and get to know them. Believe me, you'll want to get to know everyone and they want to get to know you too; just take the first step. I can honestly say that i've met my best friends at language camp. With some people you just click and with others, well, they grow on you. Friendships take patience... Give it time. Also, don't lose communication. I'm not the best with communicating but be the person who texts "What's up" or "What are you up to". That's something these past three weeks have taught me.

    **PAY ATTENTION IN CLASS. YOU'RE BEING GIVEN 2 WEEKS OF EXPENSIVE, INTENSIVE GERMAN CLASSES AND THEY REALLY HELP. I came with 6 months of German but after language camp, I feel like I don't have to think as hard as before. Words tend to flow more..

    *****TIP #4: People forming into groups is inevitable so don't dread it but don't confine yourself to two or three friends.

    *****TIP #5: Don't complain too much. That's something language camp taught me. No one likes to hear someone who's like "Thank God it rained because I REALLY didn't want to do that..."

    I am so thankful to God and my parents for giving me this incredible opportunity. I think it still hasn't hit me that I am away for a whole year but I also have a feeling that this year will go by sooooo quickly.. I feel really blessed to have a host family that treats me as one of their own. My advice to you is pray every day for your family and don't get discouraged if they don't seem loving because it might be that they're nervous and don't know your comfort zone or your boundaries or don't know what to say. God knows the desires of your heart and whatever you ask in faith, you will receive.

    Till next time,

    Bis später alligator:)

    Valentina

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