Titi, Outbound to Austria

So yesterday marks exactly 30 days until I go back home! It's incredible how much time flies by and it goes so quickly! I the last 3 months, I've switched host families (FOR THE LAST TIME!!!!!), see multiple live concerts, and show my family the city and country that I've been living in!

For Easter, my older sister, who is living in Berlin, came to visit me! Her family was coming to a town near mine in Austria to visit some family and told her that she could spend some time with me, which was also really fun! My little 6-year old host sister absolutely loved her and to this day will ask me to send her some voice notes over WhatsApp.. We went to Vienna and Salzburg and we also went Easter egg hunting together! It was something we hadn't done in a long time and we were able to experience it again in a new country with a new family and with a new tradition.

From the 10th-17th of March most all the exchange students attended ski week. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ski because the week prior to ski week, I had a bad accident that tore a ligament in my knee and caused a tear in my meniscus. After hearing this, the man that is in charge of ALL exchange students in Austria wrote me an e-mail saying that I was not allowed to go on the Ski Week. Thank God, I had a LONG talk with him, Walter Weidenholzer (who YOU, outbounds to Austria, will be dealing with) and I pleaded him to let me go. On top of that, I had already paid so I politely told him that the least he could do is allow me to spend some time with all the other exchange students. To everyone's astonishment, he agreed and let me go!

My 3rd host mom, Carmen, is the youngest host mom I've had out of all 4. She felt to me more like a sister than a mom. We would frequently joke around about how she was teaching me to be the perfect house wife or perfect farmer's wife with all the foods she would teach me to make! Or we would do things like watch "The Bachelor" (Which we still do by getting together on Wednesdays and watch it), or she would ask me my opinion when she was doing some shopping! She would often invite to her "Girls' Night" with her friends!

On March 23, my host mom and her 2 best freinds invited me to go to a live jazz concert! I LOVE jazz but I was contemplating not going for a reason that I honestly can't remember. I decided to accept the invitation and it was one of the most fun nights I had here on my exchange! We then went to Oma und Opa's house (grandma and granpa's house) where we ended up laughing and talking all night and sleeping in the same bed (because her husband had fallen asleep with my little host-sister in the bed where she was supposed to sleep)! She was so cool!! Just like a big sister!

On the 13th of April, the coordinator for all American exchange students in Austria, Rudi Gruber, (the COOLEST Rotarian EVER), because we live only a couples houses apart, he invited me with his wife to go see an orchestra concert in Vienna! It was a cello concert with a cello soloist, and since I play the cello, he thought of me! Turns out, Sol Gabetta, one of the most famous cellists in the world, was the soloist in the concert! I almost flipped!! But before getting to Vienna, we stopped for a couple hours in Salzburg because his wife had a class reunion! Rudi and I went to eat some lunch in the city and then walked up to the fort overlooking all of Salzburg city! (See picture of Rudi and I up in the fort below!)

On the 20th of April, my parents flew in to visit!! I picked my parents and my little sister up from the airport in Vienna and then we picked up our ex-exchange student from the train station (Hauptbahnhof) who was also coming to visit and spend time with the family. We stayed a couple days in the capital and I excitedly showed them around! It was incredible to me that the moment had finally arrived; the moment we had spoken of for so long! The moment I would be able to show them that I could ask for dirrections or order something in German, talk to the natives in their own language and have them understand everything i'm saying! The moment had come where I could tell them that it was all worth it. Everything they had done to help me get here was all worth it.

We walked; we got lost; we ate some good food; we ate some bad food; we laughed; we cried; we cried laughing... We had the best time!

They were able to meet 3 out of my 4 families!! With my last two host families, we went to each house and they prepared meals for us! With my second family, my host parents invited my real parents to go to a wine tasting in the city that only happens twice a year! They had already met quite a few people in town and when they got to the wine tasting, they said they felt like celebrities! EVERYBODY knew who they were! They told me that they had the most fun and that they HAD NOT expected ANYTHING like that! We then all went out to eat together and we all talked for a while!

***********My parents brought some gifts like: Simply Southern shirts and caps for the girls and Hollister shirts for the guys! For my little 6 year old host sister, they got her an outfit with a really cute design and some tassels (see pic below)!!***********

Last night, I babysat my little host sister, and as usual, when putting her to bed, I would climb into her bed and read her a book in German. Last night, after I read her the whole book, she asked me if I could just lay there with her a little while longer because she knew it was the last time we would be together. She feel asleep hugging me. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the blessing to experience! Thankfully though, I'll be seeing her soon!

Having said all of this, I cannot believe that in exactly one month, this chapter of my life will be over. In these last 9 1/2 months have been the months most challenging, most interesting, and definetely most rewarding of my life. Living on your own, in a different country, you learn about yourself and getting through difficult situations on your own; you learn about standing up for yourself and you learn to appreciate all the little details and moments that come your way.

Till next time,

Bis später alligator:)

Valentina

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