Emily York

Austria

Hometown: Alpharetta, Georgia
School: Johns Creek High School
Sponsor District : District 6900
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Johns Creek, Georgia
Host District: 1910
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Perchtoldsdorf



My Bio


Grüß Gott! My name is Emily and I excited to be studying in Austria for the 2019-2020 school year! I am currently in my third year at Johns Creek High School, in Johns Creek, GA, where I have lived my whole life. I live at home with my parents and dog, and have two older siblings. My sister attends college in Alabama, and my brother is in the National Guard. I enjoy playing sports, so you can usually find me on the softball field, basketball court, or lacrosse field after school. Sports are a huge part of my life and I am interested to see how I will continue that next year in Austria. When I’m not competing, I volunteer within the school and community through Beta Club, National Spanish Honor Society, National Math Honor Society, and NHS. I spend some of my free time studying other languages, and even founded the school’s German club! I am very fortunate to have traveled a bit as I have grown up which has influenced me greatly. My travels have helped me gain a global outlook and realize that the world is so much bigger than we know. I hope to continue learning these lessons during my Rotary Youth Exchange year. I am so excited to continue to grow my global knowledge and experience the joys and challenges that exchange will bring. Tschüss!

Lunch with my counselor and his wife

Lunch with my counselor and his wife

My favorite view of Salzburg

My favorite view of Salzburg

At the Berlin Wall!

At the Berlin Wall!

Stop 1 on City Tour- Prague!

Stop 1 on City Tour- Prague!

Stop 2- Dresden!

Stop 2- Dresden!

Climbed up the side of a mountain in Liechtenstein for this epic view of the castle and Alps!

Climbed up the side of a mountain in Liechtenstein for this epic view of the castle and Alps!

Dressed up for the ball, but at the Christmas markets!

Dressed up for the ball, but at the Christmas markets!

Really REALLY happy to be in Italy :)

Really REALLY happy to be in Italy :)

Egg, Vorarlberg

Egg, Vorarlberg

Burg Mödling- one of the nice, sunny days

Burg Mödling- one of the nice, sunny days

Skiing in Spital am Semmering

Skiing in Spital am Semmering

With my extended family in Teror, Gran Canaria, Spain

With my extended family in Teror, Gran Canaria, Spain

Linz with Evan

Linz with Evan

Elmayer Kränzchen Ball in the Hofburg

Elmayer Kränzchen Ball in the Hofburg

Hiking in Semmering with my best friends

Hiking in Semmering with my best friends

At the Schönbrunn Christmas market with my friend Will from America

At the Schönbrunn Christmas market with my friend Will from America

Journals: Emily-Austria Blog 2019-20

  • Emily, Outbound to Austria

    Hello again from Vienna! Yesterday marked four months of me being in Austria, and the past few months have presented me with many new opportunities and challenges that I never once thought I would have.

    I finally met my Rotary Club on the 11th of November. It was an interesting experience, much different from my Rotary Club in Georgia. My counselor picked me up and gave me a brief overview of the club, and I arrived at a restaurant to the club with only male members. It was slightly uncomfortable at first, but I introduced myself to each one of them, and everyone was so welcoming, so it ended up being fine. I didn’t get to listen to the meeting but rather sat aside with my counselor and YEO to discuss the year so far and how I’m doing. I then got to present about myself and my exchange so far, which was nerve-wracking, but well-enjoyed by the club. There were many interesting questions that I got to answer, all in German!

    I arrived in Austria with a solid base of German, and still have only spoken German with my host family. This has been difficult all year because of my limited skills. There is quite a disconnection between us because I cannot completely express myself, and don’t have many words to say. They wish I would talk more, I wish I could talk more, but it seems a bit too far to speak any English in efforts of building a better relationship. Nonetheless, they are still a loving family that cares deeply about me, and I am so thankful for that.

    I speak a mix of German and English at school because my classmates love to practice their English. Language skills are constantly improving on exchange, but not always steadily. You will feel like you haven’t learned anything in weeks, but suddenly notice a huge improvement a few days later. My best advice for studying your language before leaving is to sit down and study vocabulary and learn grammar through reading newspapers and listening to shows in your host language. For vocabulary, it is helpful to use a list of the 300 (100, 500, 1000) most common words. This prevents you from first learning words that you won’t use commonly. For me specifically, my grammar wasn’t great three months ago, but from immersion, I have picked up on the German cases and different word order. Just today, I noticed that my classmates only spoke German with me, and they invited me to go to the Christmas markets with them, it took three and a half months of school, but I finally made a big step in having local friends!

    Homesickness has recently become a reality for me. The first proper homesickness that I felt was on Thanksgiving. I thought I would be fine because the holidays were never too big of a deal for me, but I woke up and my heart just ached a bit knowing that I wouldn’t feel the togetherness of my family not only for that day, but for many months until I return to Georgia. I celebrated the way my host family does annually, by going to a restaurant and watching American football. I thought this would be a great reminder of home, but when I walked in, a skyline of Atlanta was on the screen, and I didn’t know I would ever miss the city. I went home that night and made a list of things that I am thankful for here while listening to country music, and felt much better later. As the holiday season has progressed, I have felt a bit more down, but realized it’s because of the amount of time that I’ve been here, not the holiday season. After so much time, you begin to settle into a routine and life feels normal. Personally, this feeling of normal often gets to me because there’s only so much time left and I want to make the most of every day.

    Part of this normal life is taking part in local activities. I go swimming a couple of times a week for exercise, and it has been good to be back in the pool, also good exercise considering it is so cold outside. I also joined a ballroom dance class, and have that every Tuesday night. I went to my first ball of the season and it was a truly amazing experience. I went with four other exchange students, we took photos at the Christmas market, had a nice dinner, then went to the ball for 6 (SIX!!) hours until 4 in the morning. We took public transport around in our ball attire, definitely got some funny stares, but had an amazing night attending a traditional Viennese ball.

    In the past couple of months, there have been three more trips with Rotary and all the other exchange students, and I have gotten to travel a bit more as well.

    The first was a four-day trip to Vienna, so not as special for me because I am lucky enough to live here, but it was great to show other students around my city. We saw The Sound of Music at the opera, had a tour around the city, went in the palace, had a ballroom dancing class at Elmayer, and went through city hall. I got to do so many of the more touristy things in Vienna that I hadn’t previously done, and maybe wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise.

    The second was City Tour, a four-day trip between Prague, Dresden, and Berlin. We were really lucky to have great weather for the entire trip, relatively warm and sunny the entire time. I took the train from Vienna to Linz, where we met the other exchange students and got on the bus to Prague. After a few hours, we arrived in Prague where we had a walking tour and a little bit of free time before heading to Dresden. Prague is a beautiful city, very similar to Vienna, and I am so glad I got to see a little bit of it. The next stop was Dresden, a smaller city in Germany, but quite interesting because a lot of it was destroyed in the war. We got to see all the sights, walked around the Neustadt (new city), then had a picnic along the river. We drove to Berlin in the evening and had some free time after dinner. The next day, we had a bus tour of Berlin, and then the afternoon free. Berlin is such a cool city because around every corner there is a piece of history. It is a rather large city, so I hope to be able to go back and explore more of it.

    The third was last weekend where we met in Salzburg. This trip was a bit different from the others as we had a German test, some other organizational things, the inbounds to Croatia were there, and it was the last weekend with our oldies. I found the German test to be quite difficult, but I did very well on it, thanks to the amazing language preparation by RYE Florida and District 6900. It was sad to say goodbye to our oldies, but it’s a good thing as it made us all realize how fast time passes, and to take advantage of the next 6-7 months of our exchanges.

    I had a long weekend in mid-November and took advantage of that time to visit some friends in Vorarlberg, the region of Austria on the other side of the country. After 11 hours on the overnight train, I arrived and got to explore the city. It was cool to explore on my own for a bit before meeting up with friends in the evening. The dialect of German is very different over there, so it was fun to see these differences talking with the host family that I was staying with. We went to Feldkirch, which is a small, adorable town nestled in the Alps and had a coffee, then decided to catch the bus 40 minutes to Liechtenstein! It really is a micronation with little to do, but we climbed up to the castle, got a good view, then headed back to Bregenz for the night. On Sunday, we met with a different group to go ice skating. Later, we went and celebrated the birthday of another exchange student by making macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies. Baking here is different because the ingredients are not the same as what I’m used to. Brown sugar isn't really a thing, you use vanilla powder instead of extract, and chocolate chips don’t really exist either. We improvised and made some of the best cookies I’ve ever had. We grated six large blocks of cheese, boiled a kilogram of pasta, and ended up with a delicious, American meal. After a day of pure fun and togetherness, I dreaded going home, but I reluctantly boarded the night train back to Vienna after one of the best weekends of my exchange so far.

    I then thought my travels were slowing down for a bit until I got a text asking if I wanted to go to Venice for the weekend, say yes to everything, right? I met with another student and his host family in Graz on Friday afternoon to begin our weekend trip. We drove four hours across the Alps and arrived in Mestre, Italy, about 30 minutes from Venice, on Friday evening. We were staying with the host grandparents of my friend who only speak Italian. It was so cool to connect with them by speaking German through the host parents to Italian and back. Visiting Venice was an absolute dream, and even better because it was the low season for tourists. Even though there were still some crowds, we got to see the major sights and wander the streets along the canals relatively easily. I also had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. The grandparents cooked both nights, fresh seafood, fresh pasta, bread, polenta, vegetables, and so much more.

    These trips are amazing not only because I get to see more of Europe, but also because they bring people together. One of the main goals of my exchange is to create lasting relationships with people from around the world, and I think I have been rather successful so far in doing so. I am so thankful to have these trips because I otherwise would not have had.

    I would like to conclude this journal entry with a big congratulations to all the students that have just been selected to go on exchange next year. You have just made one of the best decisions of your life. I have had the best months of my life so far, with many highs and lows included. Start studying your language now, it helped me so so much, and you won’t regret learning more of it rather than less. Once again, congratulations, and until next time,

    Emily

    Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs

  • Emily, Outbound to Austria

    Servus! Another month has passed here in Austria, and I have started settling into a more “normal” life. My school started at the beginning of September, and it has been interesting.

    Academically, school is not too difficult for me. I recognize the topics in Chemistry, Math, Geography, Spanish, and Physics, and English is also quite easy for me. I understand close to nothing in History, Psychology, and German, so I study language in those classes, or translate words from the lessons. That has definitely been the best use of my time when I don’t understand, because it helps me pick up more of the language.

    My hours for school are quite favorable. On Monday and Wednesday, I start school at 9 am, and end at 1 pm. On Wednesday, I start at 8 am, and end at 3:30 pm with a 1 hour break, and On Thursday and Friday, I start at 8 am and end at 2 pm. This leaves me plenty of time to meet up with friends after school during the week which has been very nice.

    The difficult part at school has been the social aspect. In Georgia, I would always look forward to going to school to be able to see my friends, but I don’t really have any school friends here (yet!). I heard it would be challenging to befriend locals, and that has definitely proved to be true, but I will keep trying! I never really got the “new exchange student popularity,” but was rather just a normal new student. The main difference that I have noticed between Austrian school and American school is that I remain with the same class all the time, and the teachers move from room to room. It is also different having different classes each day rather than the same 6. I like these differences, they will hopefully allow me to get close with this smaller group of classmates and it is nice to have some variety in my daily schedule.

    We had another Rotary trip halfway through September for a weekend. It was hiking weekend, so all the exchange students met up in Villach, in southern Austria and we took a bus to Bad Kleinkirchheim where we stayed at for the weekend. The train ride was about 4 hours from Vienna, but the scenery was beautiful and all the Vienna area students traveled together which makes it even better. This was the first time that all the oldies and newbies had met up, so it was great to get to know some new people. The hike was also absolutely beautiful! It was 12 kilometers up the mountain, across the ridge, then back down. We hiked up into the clouds and it got cold, but once the sun came out it was quite warm. In the evening we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Bad Kleinkirchheim with a gala dinner. I got to wear my dirndl and we had a lovely dinner. There were a few speeches, but I doubt any of the exchange students understood anything through the quick speaking but also the different dialect.

    Since then I have done many other cool things. I took a day trip to visit another student who was in the hospital after a climbing accident. It was good to see her once again before she returned home to recover, and I got to visit Salzburg again. The weather is beautiful this time of year, making it an impeccable day. I went to Burgenland with my friends and their host families and we went for a walk around some fields. The weather was beautiful again and it was great to be together. On Friday, September the 27th, I participated in the climate strike in Vienna. It was great to see so many young people taking action for global issues that they are passionate about, and it gives s strong sense of hope for positive change in the future. Other than that, I have spent a good majority of my free time with other exchange students.

    This month has definitely been more difficult than the last. I have found that it is best to keep myself busy, rather than staying home alone giving myself time to think. I met up with an old neighbor that grew up in the same area as me, and he helped me gain a new outlook on some of the cultural differences found here in Austria. I know that it will be very good to have someone who has a longer-term experience here that can help me through tough situations that I encounter. Despite it being frowned upon, I meet with other exchange students many days per week. I believe this has had a positive impact on me, because similar experiences make it easier for us to bond, and we provide a strong support system for each other. I have also looked into new activities that I can take part in that might open new opportunities for finding local friends. I’ve started running more, and hope to do a race in the spring. It has been a good way for me to get out of the house, not spend money, and get some exercise to work off all the good food I’ve been eating. I also plan on doing ballroom dancing classes, ball season starts in late November and I have heard they are lovely in Vienna. I also reached out to the local lacrosse team to see if I could join them for the rest of the year. I guess we will see how much I get involved with in the next few months!

    Bis Später,

    Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs


    Emily

  • Emily, Outbound to Austria

    Hi everyone! I have been in Austria for over 3 weeks now and have had a great time so far. I figured I should start with some background information on my exchange, so here we go:

    I am staying in Vienna, the capital of Austria, in the 23rd district. I live here with my host parents and my host sister, Vanessa. I also have two host brothers, Marvin is currently on his exchange in Vail, Colorado, and Timmy lives with his girlfriend, Celine. There is also a dog named Happy! I chose Austria for many reasons. I wanted to learn German, I love the nature, and I like to ski, and Austria offers all of those opportunities. My dad also lived in Vienna for a while after college, so that also influenced me.

    I left Atlanta on August 8th and had very conflicting emotions, I was very excited to start this adventure, but it was really hard to leave my family and friends. I arrived in Vienna on August 9th and was greeted by the entire family at the airport. The first day was really a blur because I was so tired from not sleeping for 40 hours...

    Saturday

    My second day here was my birthday and I was surprised with a great breakfast. We later went to Schönbrunn, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. It was very beautiful and is close to my house, so I can go there as often as I’d like. I had my first schnitzel that day and we played some card games. In the evening, I was surprised with a bunch of people, Sachertorte and some gifts. We had a barbecue that night and it was great.

    Sunday

    On Sunday, I met up with some oldies (exchange students from Australia and New Zealand that stay from January- December) and they showed me around the city. It was my first time going into the Innere Stadt and it was absolutely breathtaking. It reminded me why I was here. That was also my first time using the public transportation system, I had no issues at all, I just followed the colored lines until I got to my station. When I got home, I described my day to my host mom, only using German.

    Monday

    Monday we worked on logistical things like my phone, bank account, and visa, but only accomplished getting my SIM card. In the evening, I thought we were heading to the Rotary meeting, but we went to a restaurant in the city and did trivia night. I was pretty much clueless about everything, except I recognized the translation of Royals by Lorde and helped with the question :)

    Tuesday

    Tuesday was pretty cool too, we went to Hans Zimmer, he is a classical composer and lots of his music is in movies like The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Inception. The concert was in Burgenland and there was a great view of Neusiedler See, the biggest lake in Austria, from the venue.

    Wednesday

    On Wednesday, I met up with oldies again and we went shopping. I saw some new parts of Vienna and we met up with a Rotex for dinner. Everyone has given me so many tips to make my year the best ever and it has been super helpful.

    Thursday

    On Thursday, my host mom took me on a tour around the city and I again saw many new things. The highlights were definitely the Hundertwasserhaus and the amazing view from Kahlenberg. This city is beautiful and I am so grateful to have been placed here.

    Friday

    I woke up early on Friday to take care of my visa. We drove to the office, waited in a bunch of lines, and were done after about 2-3 hours. In the afternoon I met up with other students from the US and Canada. We walked around and talked about everything.

    Saturday

    On Saturday, I spent most of the day relaxing and getting ready for a cultural event that night. Most people wear Lederhosen and Dirndls, so I wanted to fit in. My host mom asked her friends if they had one I could borrow and they did! I met up with other students and some Rotex and we had a great time.

    Language Camp

    On Sunday, I left for Salzburg for two weeks of language camp. I met with many of the Vienna students at the train station and we headed off to Salzburg. I sat on the train with Maya, Serena, and Daniel and we all bonded super well, we spent most of our time with each other. It is good that my closest friends are from Vienna, because we will be able to spend lots of time together outside of Rotary events. The first night was interesting because we were not very sure of what we had to do, so we took it as free time, and had a great time meeting all the other 40 students from around the world. The days usually followed a consistent schedule. We had breakfast at 8 AM which was Semmel (bread), meat, cheese, vegetables, Müsli, yogurt and coffee. They brought in some fruit after about 5 days for us and that was delicious. We had class from 9 AM-12 PM, lunch from 12:15 PM-1PM, and afternoon class from 1PM-3PM, usually. We had free time from 3PM-6PM and 7PM-10PM, with dinner from 6PM-7PM. The schedule was sometimes changed with shortened class to go swimming if the weather was nice. In our free time, we went into Salzburg, walked along the river, played cards, swam in the river, and simply enjoyed each other’s company.

    On Sunday, we took a special trip to Hallstatt for the day. The town is very small, but beautiful. We got our first glimpse and it was breathtaking. Later, we took the cable car up the mountain and went on a tour of the salt mines. The tour was in both English and German, so it was cool to see what I understood first in German before it was told in English. After the tour, we went back into the time and had time to explore on our own. We wandered the streets and found a great view of the church and lake. I had a good time talking with new people on the bus ride home, and we stopped for Schnitzel for dinner. I’d say it was a pretty great day.

    Our trips into Salzburg were also a good time. We saw the gardens, castle, went shopping, and both times had Asian food for dinner. The city was the most beautiful in the sunlight, the colors of the buildings were so vibrant and the views were even better. We also ran into some oldies while we were there, which is always cool!

    Yesterday (Saturday, August 31st) was the end of language camp, and Maya’s host parents drove us back to Vienna. Although I loved being in nature in Puch with everyone, I was filled with so much joy to be back in Vienna. It was great to be home, and even better to know that this is home and feels that way. Today I went for a walk at Schneeberg with my host mom. It was relatively chaotic when we arrived because she accidentally locked the keys in the car. Luckily, help came about 30 minutes later and all was fine.

    The most difficult thing for me has been the language. I arrived with a strong base of knowledge, but my host family will only speak German with me. I know this is going to be very helpful for me, but I struggle to follow conversations. Big meals with people are the most difficult with more than one person talking, I do my best to answer properly, but I am still limited to pretty basic German. Nevertheless, I am proud that I have been able to succeed in responding to questions, order my meals at restaurants in German, ask for directions, and anything else when I am out.

    Today is the first day of September, crazy to think of how one month ago, I was anticipating this grand experience, and now it is my real life. I have been known among my friends to say, “guys, this is our country” when there is a beautiful view or when we are having a lot of fun. As cheesy as it sounds, I am still in awe that I live here and get to experience so many amazing things surrounded by even better people.

    These journals were the most helpful thing for me when I was deciding to go on exchange, so I will do my best to make time monthly and give updates here. To future outbounds: follow your dreams. If you’ve always wanted to go on exchange, apply! Rotary is an amazing organization and will help you reach success. I am so thankful for this opportunity and am looking forward to all the other amazing adventures I will get to go on this year.

    Until next time,

    Emily

    Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs

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