Everyone knows the feeling that surrounds those late weeks in August. Suddenly the carefree days of summer have past, and the return to back to school is on every student and parent’s mind. For as long as I can remember, the days of preparing for back to school are characterized by a nervous excitement. Who doesn’t remember the thrill of picking out a first day of school outfit and the smell of fresh school supplies? No matter my age, despite the variance in expectations of different “first days,” the general theme has always been the same. That changed for the first time in my life last summer. I was about to embark on my study abroad journey. My final destination was Salzburg, Austria for two semesters. Needless to say my annual “nervous excitement” was off the charts.
In preparing to study abroad for a year, I had traded in the typical freshly sharpened pencils for my passport. The intensity of finding the perfect outfit for the first day of school was multiplied to assembling dozens of appropriate outfits for life in Europe while keeping the weight of my luggage under 50 pounds. Neatly organized binders and folders were replaced with boarding passes and itineraries that I attempted to memorize before my departure. When I finally boarded my plane to London, I knew that even though I was not in a classroom, it was the first day of my global education.
Despite the fact that I had never travelled overseas before, AIFS made the transition especially easy with the London stopover. Not only was I was treated to my first tastes of life overseas in London, but the three days in that city would set the tone for the next month. Getting acquainted with the other students in the program, visiting countless museums, tasting delicious foods, and walking for hours until all of our feet ached were typical of adjusting to life abroad. While I learned so much in my two semesters of living in Salzburg, looking back some of the most important lessons, about the world and myself, were made in those crucial first days!
After the London stopover, I arrived safely in Salzburg and began to settle into my homestay. I immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of the small, picturesque city that would capture my heart in the months to come. Studying abroad with AIFS made the transition as easy as possible. Our on-site Resident Director, Ingrid, and the rest of the office worked so hard to ensure that we would adjust comfortably. During our orientation they provided so much useful information and facilitated cultural programs where we immersed ourselves in the culture of Salzburg (pastry tasting!) as well as bonding with the other students in the program. In Salzburg we also participated in an intensive German language orientation. After a week of cultural lessons we started our lessons in the classroom. The squeaks of chairs and ruffle of notebooks brought back the old, familiar feeling of being back at school. And it was in these moments, where everything felt both familiar and foreign, that I knew I had made one of the best decisions of my life to study abroad in Salzburg.