Maggie, Outbound to Austria

I have been in Austria for 100 days and its unglaublich (unbelievable)! As I am recounting all I’ve done for this blog, I am in shock of how many things I’ve done since being here. Looking at the next 100 days, it seems like such a long time, but my first 100 have gone by in a flash. I wanted to give whoever’s reading this a glimpse at my regular life. Because while it’s easy to just write about all the adventures I’ve been on, its my everyday life that has really defined my exchange thus far. And of course, I’ll write about the cool things I’ve done at the end.

An average Day in the Exchange Life of Maggie Frantz

So in my host family's household, breakfast is at 6:00 am sharp every weekday. At first, I was a little dismayed by this (I am used to rolling out of bed at 8:30, grabbing a smoothie to go, and leaving for school by 8:50 to get there before 9:20, when school starts.) but, I’ve grown accustomed to this routine and I really enjoy it…ok maybe I don’t really enjoy it, but I’m trying to. Breakfast is the time in our day where we can talk over plans, schedule, etc. We eat fruit, yogurt, granola and bread with jam and butter. At 7:00-ish, I leave for school. Some days after school I stay in the city and meet with friends, or do some shopping, and some days I go straight home for lunch. Once I’m home, I relax for a little bit, and then I straighten up my room or empty the dishwasher. I then work on homework or do some reading. Once my host parents come home, I spend all my time in the kitchen talking with them about the day, and helping my host mom with dinner. We all sit down to eat around 7:00. The rest of the evening is spent talking, reading, relaxing, etc. A new thing that's been added to my routine is that sometimes I read a children’s book out loud with my host mom. She asked if I wanted to start doing that to help with my pronunciation. It’s been so helpful. Evenings are my favorite time of day. I really enjoy spending time with my family and talking about the day. It’s also a great time to ask them about German. German is such a fascinating language, and sometimes we’ll have hour long discussions on different topics. Last month, we spent several nights discussing the differences between “Ich liebe dich” and “Ich habe dich lieb”. These are two different ways to say “I love you.” Essentially one means “I am really fond of you” and the other means “ I’m in love with you”, but it’s actually a lot more complex than that! Every person I’ve asked about it has said something different. I usually go to bed around 9:30. And then I wake up the next morning and repeat!

An Average Weekend in the Exchange Life of Maggie Frantz

So, my weekends here are a lot busier than they were at home, but I like it that way! On Saturday morning we have Lange Schlafen (Sleeping In) which means breakfast starts at 8:30-9:00 am. Then after that, my host mom goes grocery shopping. I usually go with her, and honestly it’s one of my favorite routines of exchange. I love seeing the different foods there and every week is a lesson from my host mom on the importance of buying organic produce. After we go grocery shopping we usually have some sort of plan for the day. One weekend its going to a Rotary sponsored Children’s Marionette Opera, and the next weekend its hosting family friends for the afternoon. Whatever we’re doing, I usually love it! On Saturday night, we typically watch a movie together. My favorite was “Im Weissen Rössl am Wolfgangsee”. Its a famous Austrian musical-comedy that I am determined to learn all the songs from. On Sunday we usually make an Ausflug. An Ausflug is Day Trip. We’ve gone on hikes, been to National parks, visited beautiful lakes, etc. I’ve really enjoyed all the new things I’ve experienced and new people I’ve met from the activities I’ve done on the weekends. On Sunday evenings, I’m usually doing homework, as I have German tutoring every Monday morning. 

School and Extracurriculars

So I go to a school called “Sacré Coeur” Privat Gymnasium. It is a private, catholic school in the inner city. I’m in the high school there, but it’s a grades K-12 school. It’s part of a group of “Sacred Heart” schools all over the world. I go there with my 12 year old sister. To get there I take the tram to my local train station, and then I take the S-Bahn (city train) into the inner city. I take 14 different subjects: Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Religion, History, Geography, Music, Art, P.E., Spanish, English, German, and Latin. School starts everyday at 8:00 am. Most days I get out at 1:40, but on Mondays I have a 4 hour break, and then return to school at 5:00 for two hours of P.E, and on Thursday I have a one hour break, and then get out of school at 3:25 after my chemistry lesson. There are 8 grades of Gymnasium in Austria. I am in the 6E class, which is a bilingual German-English class. Unlike American school, I spend the whole day with the same class in the same classroom. My class is made up of kids who are originally from Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, and of course, Austria (however they group in Austria). The age group is 15 and 16 year olds… I am 18. I couldn't be placed with kids my age, as there was no room in the older classes. At first, it was pretty hard for me to be in such a young class. I felt really out of place and disappointed with my situation. But I’m really grateful to be in the class I’m in now. I have really grown to love them and can honestly say that I have some really good friends! They’re really sweet, hilarious, and make sure I’m not completely lost. Some of them even took me to get a library card and showed me the book section for german learners. My class may be young (and a bit immature at times), but they’re also really fun and friendly. They’ve made me feel so welcome. My teachers have also been really helpful. My english teacher understood how I felt about being in such a young class, and offered to take me with her to her older classes. It’s a win-win for both! She gets a native speaker to help her, and I get to meet more kids my age… and skip some math and latin lessons. As of right now, my main focus after school is dancing. I am opening a Ball in January, which means I have to learn how to waltz! On Wednesdays, I go to Elmayer Dance School. It is the oldest and most traditional waltzing school in Vienna. All the kids from my class in school go. Additionally, my host mom arranged for me to have a few private lessons, so that I can learn the Linkswaltz (left Waltz) which is needed for the Opening Ceremony. Starting next week, I will also have my lessons with the other students opening the ball to learn the choreography.

The Best city in the World

I am in Vienna. It is the capital of Austria and the most beautiful and elegant city I've ever laid eyes on! Every corner is filled with history. I love the imperial palaces, the coffee shops, and beautiful, diverse architecture. I live in Floridsdorf, Vienna. It is over the Danube river and is kind of on the edge of Vienna. Floridsdorf is the 5th largest growing area in Austria. It’s very diverse part of Vienna and has people from all classes, backgrounds, etc. Floridsdorf is…very interesting. In the words of my host mom, “Floridsdorf is the place where you can wear pajamas on the street and no one will look at you twice.” (It should be noted that while this doesn't sound extreme to most Americans, when I told my school friends that kids wear pajamas to school during exam week, they couldn't believe it.) On my street, there is a store called “Pferdfleisch” which literally means horse meat. Apparently traditional goulash is made with it. Whenever I ask my mom about the “interesting aspects” of Floridsdorf she simply replies, “Because that’s just Floridsdorf, Maggie.” One thing I love about this area, though, is that it really only has locals. My family took me to a Gasthaus down the street from our apartment for dinner one time, and my mom was pointing out the customers, the waitress, and the menu. She was trying to explain to me the genuine nature of this place, and couldn't find the exact words. She simply smiled and ended with “This truly is Vienna, Maggie. You won’t find any tourists here. This is where we live.”

The Cool Stuff I’ve Done 

In September I had a hiking weekend with all the exchange students. It was a chance to check in with everyone now that school had started, as well as to meet our oldies (The exchange students who have beee here since January/February and leave this January.) I met my people. Two girls from Australia and a girl from New Zealand. They are the loveliest, most intelligent, interesting girls I’ve met and I am so heartbroken that they leave me in only two months. On the weekend we had a 6 hour hike and an evening walk complete with torches and Punsch (basically cider). In October we met again for Vienna Weekend. It was no huge thrill for me, as I live here, but seeing all my buds again was so great (and much needed). On Friday we saw an Operetta in the Volksoper (It was a 11/10!!) and on Saturday we toured around the city and went to Schönbrunn Palace. On the last weekend of October, I had another Rotary Trip. We went to Prague, Dresden, and Berlin. It was so cool! In each city we had a guided tour and then free time to explore the city. In Prague, I met up with my fellow OB from Florida and best pal Ryan Jones. It was so comforting to see a face from home. In Dresden my friends and I went to “The Old Masters Gallery” in Zwinger Palace where we saw beautiful and well know paintings such as “Sistine Madonna" by Raphael. In Berlin my friends and I visited the Jewish Museum. Two days after the Rotary City Tour, my family and I drove to Northern Italy and stayed for four days. It was a trip filled with beautiful churches, quality time with my host family, and delicious food of course! I had the best Tortellini in my life. While all these trips have been wonderful, I've found my more local experiences the coolest. Last month I went to a traditional dance fest with my host family. We were all decked out in Tracht (Traditional Austrian clothing) and danced traditional dances such as Polkas and Waltzes. I spent the night dancing with my host dad, little brother, and a few locals who asked me to dance. It was so cool! We’re going to another on December 21st and I am beyond thrilled. I’ve also really loved going to the Opera. Last month I saw Strauss’s “Elektra” with my host mom, and this past week I saw a Ballet called “Sylvia” with my host sister. The two productions could not have been more different in the themes, costumes, and music. Both were absolutely wonderful! Another cool opportunity I had, was celebrating my school’s 150th Anniversary. We had a celebratory mass in St. Stephan’s Cathedral or “Stephansdom”. This was really special and a big deal, as Stephansdom is the most famous church in Austria and age the heart of the city. It was such a great day to celebrate my school and spend time with my classmates outside of the classroom.

Advice for the Future OBs

In these upcoming weeks, you will find out your host countries. What an exciting time! The few weeks between finding out I got exchange and then finding out which country I’d be spending my year in felt like an eternity. Well, it came eventually, and then soon enough I was in Austria. Time has flown by! It feels like just yesterday that I was going through the application process. So please, for all the other exchange students regretting not learning more of their language beforehand, the second you find out your country, make a language plan and stick to it! Also hug your parents and dog and siblings as much as you can. You might be joking now that you're ready for that 10 month break already (okay maybe that was just me), but there are some days on your exchange when you feel like you'd sell your kidney for just one hug from your mom. Also please eat some Chick-Fil-A on behalf of all the current outbounds!!

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Thats all for now. Until my next journal, Tschüss!