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,

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Emily