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...
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Click HERE to read more about Emily and all her blogs