Sabrina, outbound to Austria

Seeing the new outbound class of 2016/2017 is surreal. It feels like I was just there. Then, I blinked my eyes and was starting my year in Austria and blinked again and it had been five months.

With December, came the Christmas season, which is pretty important in Austria. It all starts when the streets of Mariahilfer Straße and Stephansplatz (two main shopping streets at the center) are decorated with massive chandlers made of christmas lights that are strung down the street. As the month progresses, the city is filled with Christmas Markets. Walking around the city feels like Disney World has taken over the streets. Little huts with festive knick-knacks, Christmas lights strung everywhere, and scents of and punch fill the air. You are living a fairytale, which, to some extent, you are, because Walt Disney gained his inspiration from Vienna.

“Are you going home for the holidays?” was a question I kept getting asked. Accordingly, every time I said no, I got a look of pity and apology. I had to try to explain that the point of the exchange was to immerse yourself fully in a new culture and traditions. With that being said, many students warned that Christmas time was hard. For me, it wasn't hard, it just did not feel like Christmas. The day came and went without feeling much “Christmas spirit.” Talking to other exchange students, i’ve found that this feeling is felt by many and pretty normal.

This is why I would like to point out that exchange is not a vacation. So many times when preparing for my trip, I was told things like, “you have a whole year off that’s great” and “you get to vacation in Europe for a whole year and do nothing, I’m so jealous!” Yet, I cannot tell you how wrong these assumptions are. Exchange is not a vacation, you cannot just go home whenever you’re tired, feeling sad, or even when it’s the holiday season, you have to stay. Before coming, you knew the consequence and probably did not think much of it, but once you're here, it really hits you. So, before you leave, spend time with your family and friend, you’re going to miss them more than you think.

Overall, i’m feeling good in Austria. Yet, I did not follow the traditional emotional diagram shown at outbound camp. At first, we were suppose to be at a high, taking pictures of everything, so entrained with the new world, I was not. I actually, really did not like Austria. I was not homesick, I just did not like it. Then, you were suppose to go down and get homesick. Instead, when everyone was getting homesick, I began to like Austria more. Now I am pretty steady and haven't experienced any downs. So when you go on exchange realize that maybe you may experience the typical emotional diagram, but, if you don’t, that’s ok too, everyone is different!

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