Sam, Outbound to Austria

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Wow. I cannot believe I've been in Austria for almost a month now. This has probably been one of the best months of my life, I can't even believe that my exchange has finally become a reality.

I spent my first week with my host family, then the next two weeks at a Sprachkurs (language course) with all of the other inbounds, and now I am back with my host family.

The first week was awesome, we spent the first two days touring around Linz (Austria's 3rd largest city, where I will be living). We went to museums, walked around the beautiful architecture, and had the best ice cream ever. The next day, we went to Attersee, a town on a beautiful lake, where Gustav Klimt did a lot of his work. It was absolutely beautiful here, the lakes are crystal blue. We went swimming in the lake, and then had dinner at an Italian restaurant, where I had the best serving of Pesto Pasta I've ever had in my life. The end of the week was spent in Wörthersee, a village near Klagenfurt where my host family has a nice home over looking the water. The view of the lake is surrounded by mountains that mark as the borders to both Italy and Slovenia. Here we swam, and hiked a small mountain where there is a viewing tower on top. After climbing the viewing tower and taking in the amazing view, there was a slide all the way to the bottom, which I got to go down twice! It overall was a great week.

On that Sunday, we drove to Almünster, a town in Upper Austria closer to Linz than Wörthersee, where the Sprachkurs would be held.

The language course was a blast! I got a chance to get closer with all of the other Inbounds here in the Austrian multidistrict, and improved my German drastically. Before, I could barely make out what my host family said in German and we spoke only English. Now, I am able to understand a substantial amount. Though I'm not so great at speaking yet, it's nice to have a better grip of what's going on when listening to people speak.

On the weekend between the first and second weeks of the language course, we took a trip to Hallstatt. It was so crazy going there, because when you look up Austria online, typically the first photos you see are that of Hallstatt, so it was crazy actually being there. We went inside the top of a mountain to take a tour of the Salt Mines, which was insanely cool. There were also slides inside the mountain that during the tour we got to go down. After wards,we were free to tour Hallstatt, so a few friends and I went for lunch where I had my first Schnitzel. It was so so good. Then we headed back to Almünster, where we continued the Sprachkurs.

The course really improved my non-existent German. I have a really good foundation now, and I will continue to build it up, as I'm going to be taking another German course when school starts.

The one negative to the language course, was that it got me addicted to European chocolate. We were given freizeit (free time) every day after classes, which most of the exchange students used to go to the Kebap restaurant, the lake, or in my case, the grocery store to stock up on chocolate. My favorite is a kind called "Schoko-Bananen" which are moist banana marshmallows coated in semi-sweet chocolate. They are absolutely to die for!

The breaks were also really nice to just enjoy the scenery and nature of Almünster. It was so wonderful, there was one day that was very rainy and grey, and during the freizeit a couple of friends and I walked down to the lake. It was so picturesque- the fog hanging over the mountains and water, it was a dream.

Currently I am back in Wörthersee with my host family for the week for vacation, and next week we will go back to Linz. This past Sunday we went down to the tourist area of the lake, and did tube-skiing. It was like water-skiing, except that connected the boat were durable inflatable tubes. It was crazy, because you skipped on the water after the boat, and if you skipped on too big of a wave you got thrown out of the tube whether you liked it or not. Today, we are going to a pasta making factory where we will see the pasta being made before we eat it for dinner...yum! Tomorrow we will go to Italy for the day, which I am ecstatic about, since, well, it's Italy!

This month has truly been a blast. I know everything will calm down when school starts, but for now I'm enjoying it!