Sam, Outbound to Austria

Hey there. I'm in my 4th month of exchange right now. I can't believe it. November has flown by so fast, and next weekend already is the first weekend of December.

Today is Thanksgiving back home, so I thought I'd talk about what I'm thankful for in my life right now.

Obviously I'm thankful to be on this exchange. This experience has truly changed my life, and by no means would I be the person I am today without it. I have learned how to pick myself up when there's no one else there to help me, I've learned how to live spontaneously, and I've also learned that sometimes you just need to call your mom and cry, because no matter how old you get, there's nothing wrong with that.

I've learned to stop being embarrassed and insecure, if people really like you, they wont care how straight your hair is or how perfect your skin looks. They'll love you for you.

I've learned a lot about love these last few months as well. Here I've been lucky enough to meet some of the most important people I've ever had in my life. I don't know what I'd do without the other exchange students here. Don't get me wrong, I have fantastic school friends and I love them too, but all the exchange students, we're like a family. We are a family.

My friends have taught me so much about love. They are the most selfless, hilarious, wonderful friends I've ever had, and god I'm so thankful. No one is ever left behind with this group; You can't afford something? They'll figure out together how to cover you. Need someone to spill your thoughts and feelings too? They're lining up to be there for you. We are all so comfortable with each other, like we've known each other for years not months.

Also concerning love, I've learned that when you can't find love in other people, you need to be able to find it within yourself. For me, this means appreciating small things as if they were the best gifts in the world. Yesterday for example, the sun shined for the first time for a long time. I love Austria, but the fall to winter transition weather has been very cold, grey, and rainy. Anyways, yesterday there was sun. I was in school, and I just sat their and looked out the window, watching how the sun shone into the room, and I felt so warm inside. I'd never thought I'd appreciate something so simple as the sun like that, but I did, and I found that love within myself.

Off the topic of giving thanks, Christmas markets are starting. There are a few in Linz, but so far I've only been to the big one in the Hauptplatz because it opened first. It really feels like magic with all of the lights and people and warm food. I'm kind of broke right now, but I can't wait until I get my December stipend to buy small gifts for my family and friends, and try the yummy food there.

I've also taken up some new hobbies. I really missed singing since I do musical theatre at home, and so I talked to my host dad and we were able to get me voice lessons. I'm so excited, my teacher is lovely, and even better she speaks no English, so we're forced to speak German.

I also started knitting! Call me Grandma, but I actually really like it. My best school friend and my best Rotary friend wanted me to try it, so I gave into the peer pressure. I'm kind of messy because I've never done it before, but hopefully with time I'll get better.

Lastly, I'm becoming a debutante. It's really exciting and all of my school friends are too, so we're doing it together. On December 9th there's a huge ball where we'll dance in white dresses, and I'm super excited.

So yeah everything is good. I'm addicted to European sweets, but that's not new. I'm happy. In all honesty, I'm not as jumping for joy as I was the last few months, maybe it's because I'm missing the holidays season, but I'm very content, and that's more than enough that I could ask for.

I thought I'd include some photos. They're not of anything in particular, but just things and people that make me happy and I'm thankful for. Enjoy.

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