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Reflecting on Three Months in Austria

by AIFS Study Abroad
Reflecting on Three Months in Austria | AIFS Study Abroad

AIFS offers several opportunities to study abroad at the University of Salzburg. These include semester, summer and academic year programs. Here, Megan N. from Providence College shares three journal entries from her study abroad experience in Salzburg, Austria:

December: Hallo from Salzburg!

It is now nearing Christmas time, and here in Salzburg, this means that the students who chose to only study for a quarter instead of a semester are heading home next week. I am extremely sad to see them go, for even though I have known them for only 3 months, the amount of time we have spent together has meant that we feel like old friends, and I will definitely miss them. It also makes me realize how glad I am to have chosen to stay here for an entire semester. I am not ready to leave yet. There are too many other places to explore, and the skiing season has only just started. (We received our first meaningful snowfall today: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!”)

Two weekends ago was the AIFS planned excursion to Vienna. What a blast. The only negative aspect I can think of was that it was too short. However, that is how it always feels because you could easily spend weeks in each of the cities and have plenty to explore. We had a city tour on Friday, on Saturday a tour of the Art History Museum, and on Sunday a tour of the Schönbrunn Palace and a wine tasting on our way back to Salzburg. The Art History Museum was amazing and wonderful since I am taking the Art History class offered I was able to enjoy in real life the paintings we have been studying in class. But the blue ribbon of the weekend is easily awarded to the wine tasting experience. The family that ran the small wine vineyard was amazingly accommodating and showed us the wine cellar where they keep the barrels and the bottles of wine, their vineyard, and then provided us with samples of their different wines as well as a bountiful lunch to compliment the wine.

This past weekend, I traveled to Galway, Ireland to visit a college friend that is studying there. It was an amazing weekend as well, and although I won’t bore you with details, I just like to keep you informed of how easy and wonderful it is to travel and suggest seeing as much as you can.

As for life here in Salzburg, in this journal entry I want to share with you my wonderful experience of singing for small Austrian children. Ingrid, our resident director, asked at the very beginning of the semester if anyone would be interested in singing to Austrian children. Although my voice is not one to be envied, I did want to get involved here in Salzburg and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see how Austrian family life differs from my experience at home. After our (myself and another girl on the trip) first hour of singing, I was extremely skeptical of the benefits of me spending my time in this way. The children were shy, much younger than I expected (from 1-5 years old) and I wasn’t sure how much English they were going to learn and how much fun I was going to have. However, yesterday from 4 – 5 o’clock was one of the most rewarding hours of my life. ‘Our kids’ sang every song along with us, joined us in all the actions, volunteered animals for the singing of Old MacDonald (in ENGLISH!!) and jumped at the chance of being able to sit on our laps for a picture that we wanted of them since Jill is a quarter student and will no longer be able to sing with us. My fears and doubts of being useless and the kids not learning anything vanished after seeing how much progress everyone has made with only one hour a week for 9 weeks!

If (or when) you do come here to Salzburg, make sure you do get involved, even if you have doubts at first. If (or when) you do come here to Salzburg, make sure you take every opportunity to travel (even if your checkbook is starting to dwindle like mine!).

January: Happy New Year!

I’m going back to school in the United States in two weeks!! I really cannot believe how fast the time went over here, and since half of our group is now gone, those of us left have already started to reminisce over the past 3 months. However, the most important thing is fitting everything into these short last two weeks.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Christmas was great. My mom, dad, and brother came to visit for about 10 days and we had a wonderful time. We spent a few days here in Salzburg at first and we spent many hours walking around the city while I showed them all of the wonderful sites and where I have been spending my time. Then we traveled to Venice for 2 days, then to Innsbruck to ski for a day, and then back here to Salzburg to enjoy a few cultural events. We saw Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Mozart performed at the Marionette Theatre and it was truly a wonderful experience and different way to view an opera. The next night we tasted a bit of Austrian culture by visiting the local brewery and beer hall, Augustiner-Bräu. For their last night here in Europe we attended a Mozart Dinner Concert and enjoyed music and good company while we ate. Best of all, my parents and brother discovered one of the best aspects of studying abroad – meeting people from different countries. We sat with two very nice couples from Greece and spent the whole meal talking to them about the differences and similarities in our culture in broken English and exaggerated hand gestures and facial expressions!

Unfortunately, they had to leave New Year’s Day, but the 3 of us girls left spent the night here in Salzburg. We enjoyed the craziness of the streets (they shut down the main bridge so everyone congregates there and in the streets) and of course the beautiful fireworks.

January 3 was the beginning of my last big travel adventure of this semester. Jacki and I traveled to Prague, Czech Republic. And although the train rides were at times painfully long, we had a great time visiting the beautiful city, fit in a tour, some walking around, sightseeing, and then a live jazz performance.

So the next two weeks will be fast and full of activities that I still need to fit in. Among the list is more skiing, some shopping for gifts, another trip to Munich, local hockey games, ice skating outside on Mozartplatz, and of course studying for finals and trying to pack!

February: Greetings from America!

Well, I intended to get this written soon after my arrival back in the ‘real’ world, but the adjustment took a bit longer than expected, so it is now almost three weeks since my arrival. I think I left you last time after Christmas and New Year’s.

The remaining days of my time in Salzburg now seem like a whirlwind couple of weeks. There were no big trips, but we did go into Munich for a day for some last minute shopping and, of course, there was one last day skiing in the Alps. However, the best times and most important times were those when we spent time with all of the friends that we had made in Austria. There were many ‘dinner parties’, nights out, and, of course, cheering on the local hockey team.

Too soon though, it was time to board the flight back to the U.S. After finally making it through all the security checks and taking my shoes off and then putting them back on, I was on my way. Luckily, I had the benefit of flying home with Javier, another student on the trip. Flying home with him and reminiscing about the wonderful past months made the journey much quicker and less painful. But I don’t want to paint the wrong picture. Although it was hard to leave friends and, of course, the mountains in Austria, I was excited to get back to my life here in Providence and to see all of my friends from here. It was a wonderful feeling to come out with my luggage and see my roommates waiting for me. It was wonderful to come back to campus and see familiar buildings… with signs in English! And it was wonderful to visit the grocery store after six at night. Jumping right back into school was challenging, but a good challenge. And now I feel like I’m right back in the swing of things.

You may be wondering about culture shock. Have I experienced it? Slightly, but it has all been positive. Yes, I miss Austria, yes I miss all of the people I saw on a daily basis, and I even miss walking half an hour to classes! But instead of making life hard, it enriches my life. I now have wonderful memories to look back on, but I also have a full life to lead here in the United States. And the memories even stir me to thinking about when I’ll be able to go back…

Thanks for reading!

If you are inspired by Megan’s story, learn more about opportunities to study abroad with AIFS in Austria.

Reflecting on Three Months in Austria | AIFS Study Abroad

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