As my first two weeks abroad come to a close, I reflect upon my travels, adventures, and journey thus far. Life in Salzburg is much different than that of the United States. It is also much different than my time spent abroad in Berlin, Germany over the summer of 2015. While Salzburg is very different from the US, I emphasize that it is neither a good nor a bad thing, but simply just different.
Travel is so important, because it allows you to become open to many mindsets, viewpoints, and ideas. It can help solidify opinions or thoughts on certain discussions, or even can change your very own viewpoint with exposure to the outside world. It is very easy to create a secular mindset for oneself without really knowing what this world has to offer. While it does not mean you have to agree, it is very important to experience such environments to not only create a better understanding of other cultures, but to better understand your own.
The amount of culture that exists beyond the United States is astonishing. Perhaps history is the key word I am looking for here. While the United States will always have my heart, the amount of history in foreign countries is unfathomable; some dating back to the B.C. eras, which was far before the United States was even founded. The history that surrounds each country is truly something to be absorbed.
After spending my first few days in London, England, AIFS transferred our group to Munich, Germany. On the bus ride to Salzburg, Austria, we received our dorm locations. It was incredible knowing that I would be right in the city center in a place called “St. Sebastian,” which quadruples as dorm rooms, a youth hostel, a church, and a cemetery. The dorm building and dorm room is covered in religious symbols. I am grateful for this experience because of my faith and relationship with God. Austrians are not ashamed of their history, their culture, or their faith. They proudly stand by their beliefs, regardless of what others think, which is something I find truly remarkable and commendable.
Everyday life in Salzburg is very unique. You enter every shop or building with “Groß Gott” and leave with an “Auf Wiedersehen.” Stores close at 18:30 every day and Sundays are only for church and relaxation. Food is much more fresh and can be bought at your local DM, Billa, or Spar. Let’s not forget the every day access to the farmer’s markets and little shops in the Alt Stadt (Old City). It seems that you do things the Austrian way, and you do it by their standards, or you go somewhere else. Austrians are confident in their faith, beliefs, and customs.
While the semester is just beginning, we have already ventured to Bad Ischl, Hallstatt, and Sankt Gringen am Wolfgangsee, Austria. Next up is Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. Many students in the Salzburg group, including myself, bought a dirndl, which is the traditional dress of the Bavarian, South Tyrol, and Austrian people. Women wear dirndls and men wear lederhosen. The festivities that Austria has to offer will provide plenty of opportunities for this Austrian outfit. The rest of the semester will hopefully include trips to Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Croatia, as well as other areas of Austria.
For those who have yet to travel outside of their own country, or maybe even state, I highly encourage you to seek opportunities to travel — whether it be several hours away or an entire continent away. It is never too late to start your adventures. You have a whole life ahead of you travel and explore. The possibilities are endless. Every place is a new experience and a new memory. Time will tell what the future holds but, whatever it may be, it is an adventure that awaits.