Friday, December 19, 2008


I've been keeping a little list of observations about my time here in Vienna in my Moleskin over the last few weeks. So I'm going to share them with you. Warning: this entry is quite long.

1. I adore being in German-speaking countries. I think it might be because I lived there for a few months when I was young. It's hard to describe, but (as Erin put it) I just sort of have an "itch" to be in this type of culture. I love that Germany/Austria/Switzerland have such a strong sense of culture and identity. I love the food, the language, the countries, etc. I'll have to come back soon.

2. I am amazed at how fast I made friends and how close I got to a couple of them in such a short amount of time. My friend Ms. Katherine Williamson and I had a conversation about this earlier in the year. That no one who hasn't studied abroad can truly understand how close you can get to someone in a semester. I leave tomorrow, and I can't stand the thought of leaving Nat and Polly. A little melodramatic, I know, but it's how I feel.

3. There are dogs everywhere here. Even more so than any other city in Europe that I've been in. These people bring their dogs EVERYWHERE, including restaurants, the H&M, the U-Bahn. And my (and Polly's) natural reaction is to start cooing and talking to the dogs. But no. That's not how the Viennese operate. They just glare at you as if your conversation with their dog is somehow harming them.

4. My American identity has changed so much by being here. On one hand, I am now completely positive that American can be a huge asshole sometimes. And am reminded of this everyday. On the other hand, I love my country more now than I ever have. I would never (and still don't) consider myself "patriotic" in your traditional sense. However, people's irrational hatred of America has led to the conclusion that it's not really that bad. I often want to scream at people, "If you don't like us, then stop eating our food, watching our movies, and listening to our music. Oh and have fun funding the UN. And Canadians suck, despite what you think." Speaking of which, I was mistaken for a Canadian on the U-Bahn the other day. It was weird. I don't look/speak/act like a Canadian. Granted the guy was homeless and completely drunk. At 2 PM.

5. I would say the number one thing that I will miss about Vienna (besides friends) is the cafes. For those of you who missed my earlier posts on the cafes, this is a very, very important part about Viennese culture. And an incredibly important part of my study abroad experience. Polly, Natalie, and I have spent countless hours (actually, I think we're up to 65) sitting in cafes. The great thing about a cafe is that you can order something small (like and espresso for a couple Euros) and then sit for hours. The waiter will never come up and bother you. I have had so many life changing conversations in cafes and have eaten absurd amounts of pastries.

6. One of the things that drew me to Vienna was its location in Europe. As some of you probably have guessed, I am minorly obsessed with Eastern Europe. Vienna is perfectly located between East and West. I can get to Germany in an hour or Italy in 3 hours. But I can also get to Slovakia in an hour, the Czech Republic in 3, Hungary in 2, and Poland in 5.

7. My courses this semester have been really, really easy. Plus, GW doesn't transfer study abroad grades into your GPA. So as long as I get a C in all my classes, I'm fine. As much as I have loved this, I am also ready to go back to a challenging academic environment, where my effort, skills, and grades matter. I may regret saying this come January, but I really do want to be challenged again.

8. I love sausage. And about 2 months ago, while sitting at Cafe Hegelhof, I stumbled upon the best food in the world: bacon wrapped sausage with cheese inside and melted on top. If you EVER make it to Vienna, your life can be permanently altered by this substance.

9. "Make new friends, but keep the old..." While I have made some friend here that will permanently be in my life, this experience has also taught me how much I value my friends and family back home. I feel like people generally take the important people in their life for granted until they can't see them anymore. Being here has taught me how important my home friends, my GW friends, and my family, both in KC and DC, are to me.

10. One of the things I am really looking forward to when I get home is my cell phone. While I have a cell phone here, it doesn't do free (or cheap) calls and free texts like my phone at home does.

11. I love to travel. I always have. And as much as I've traveled here, I could travel again in a couple months, no problem. However, I am completely exhausted at this point. So I definitely need those couple of months off. :)

12. I feel that at this point in the list, I should mention Stephen. For those of you who don't know, Stephen is also studying abroad this semester, but he is in Klagenfurt, Austria, which is about 4 hours south of me by train. It's funny. Even though we're in a foreign country, I still got to see him more here than I do when I'm in DC.

13. This experience has also taught me the importance of money. While I am fully aware that it can't buy happiness, money certainly can go a long way to making your life more pleasant. On a side note, for the first time since I was about 16, I've been spending money without earning money. And it kills me. I cannot wait to have a job again!

14. I've been keeping a journal regularly here. I write in it every night. I figured that I would someday like to look back and able to read myself through this again. And I feel like it kept good track of the emotional changes I was going through. I would highly recommend it for anyone going through a major change in their life.

15. Vienna is not Paris, Rome, or London. It is not a sprawling metropolis with the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or the Colosseum. But I think that's why I love it. Vienna is subtle. You just don't get her til you've been here. Markus, my internship boss, told me a story once. He said that he had been in London for a few months working. When he came back to Vienna (it was a Sunday), he thought that there must have been a plague or something because the streets were so empty. People don't come to Vienna to fall in love, or to be at the base of modern civilization. Vienna is quiet and not showy at all. Which I love.

So those are some of my thoughts on life. I am leaving tomorrow to start my long journey home. Today will be spent in a cafe and eating a massive schnitzel with Polly and Natalie. Tomorrow night I'll be in Paris (with Erin!!!), the next night in New Jersey (with Amanda!!!), and finally home.

Thanks for reading my blog. I think I'll probably update once more after I'm home. I'll be seeing most of you soon!

Monday, December 15, 2008

T-Minus 5

I am wanting to do pretty much anything but study for my "Post Cold War European Security" final. And so I write a blog entry.

I am down to 5 days, 2 finals, and 1 paper until I leave Vienna. The paper is pretty much finished and the finals won't be terrible. Though the thought of doing an essay-style final for my "Central and Eastern European Economies" class makes me sick. I will survive though.

Nothing too crazy or exciting has happened to me since I last wrote. I went to see the Nutcracker at the Volksoper a couple days ago. We showed up to do the Student Rush (students get whatever seats are leftover for 10 Euros), only to discover that the whole ballet was sold out. But then some lady came up and sold us some other tickets for 12 Euro, so we got to see the show. Needless to say, it was very cool. And also full of obnoxious children.

Other than that, I've been passing my days going to the Christkindlmarkts, watching Sex and the City online, and doing last minute touristy things. I went on a tour of the parliament building a few days ago, which was very cool. It's a Greek-style building. I even got to see the huge parliament room that was used when Franz Josef first allowed the Hapsburg Empire to have a parliament. This is also the room that a young Hitler came to and watched the parliament proceedings. Everyone spoke in different languages (because they were from all over the empire) and no one understood each other. This is supposedly why Hitler was so fanatical about having everything be in German.

I have a lot more to do before I leave. In about an hour, I'm heading to the UN complex here in Vienna to go on a tour. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to see a practice of the Spanish Riding School (yay horsies!). I'm also going to go the Succession building. For you art history people, this is the building that was built for member of the Successionist movement (jugendstil) in 1899. This movement included Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner, Adolph Loos, Gustav Mahler, Schiele, etc. And since I'm in love with Jugendstiel, I figure I should go see it.

Thursday and Friday will be spent packing. My stupid flight from Vienna to Paris will only allow me 20 kg (45 lbs) TOTAL, so I get to give away about half my stuff. Oh well. I needed to purge anyway.

I'll probably update once more before I leave and again once I get home. If I ever make it home...

See you soon!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Vienna by the Numbers

Cities visited since July: 21

Countries visited since July: 10

Hours spent on trains (excluding backpacking trip): 119

Commercial-sized jars of Nutella consumed: 8

Hours spent in cafes with Polly and Natalie: 59

Times sick: 2

German spoken: Too much and not enough

English spoken: Too much and not enough

Textbooks bought: 0 (yay!)

Euros spent: About 4,000 (Ew.)

Euros I have for the next 2 weeks: 20 (Ew.)

Visits to the doctor: 2

Internships completed: 1

Trampoline classes: 10

Trips to the ballet: 2

Trips to Christkindlmarkts: 3

Packages of Rösti consumed: 5

Liters of Sturm consumed: About 3

Balls attended: 1

Weekends in Klagenfurt: 3

Amount I missed my people at home: 6.2 kg (that's a lot of missing:))

Heurigers visited: 2

Nights spent hiding from packs of dogs in Romania: 4

Seasons of "The Office" watched: 4.5

Seasons of "Sex and the City" watched: 5 (working on 6 right now)

Meals at McDonalds: about a zillion more than I ever had in the U.S.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Grand Tour of Austria

So this week was a little difficult for me. All of my home/GW friends were talking about going home for a few days. My family was getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. And I was stuck in Austria. Where the main holiday of this time of year is Krampus, a period of time in which the young men dress up like the devil and run around whipping small children (click here) Anyway, it involves no turkey.

However, since my program has about 150 American students in it, IES was kind enough to put on a Thanksgiving dinner for us. So they bussed us out to Baden to a 300 year old Heuriger. We got all the traditional Thanksgiving food with apple streudel for dessert. They had to throw something Austrian in there. And since we're in Austria, they had to throw wine into that mix. It was really nice and yummy, but still just wasn't the same.

The next day, Polly, Natalie, and I headed off for our Grand Tour of Austria. This involved seeing Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck in 3 days and 2 nights. Linz was cool, though nothing to write home about. We did see the biggest cathedral in Austria, which can seat over 20,000 people! Salzburg was much more entertaining. We went on the "Sound of Music" tour. All of the outdoor scenes for the SoM were filmed on location in Salzburg. So we got to see the gazebo (I am 16 going on 17), the two palaces they used for the Von Trapp house, the abbey, and the mountains that they all ran through. Interesting fact: When the Von Trapps were supposedly escaping over the mountains into Switzerland, they were in fact on a mountain that would lead them right into Germany. Switzerland is about 300 miles from Salzburg. lol. It was also a cool tour because it allowed us views of the mountains and the city that we never would've seen on our own. The next day was Innsbruck, a city famous for its gorgeous mountains and that is hosted the Olympics twice in 12 years. It was a very, very pretty city, in the sense that there were gigantic Alps everywhere. But the city itself is built in a way that makes it obvious that most of the building were built in preparation for the Olympics. Which were in the 60s and 70s. But it was still nice. Unfortunately, Polly and I were both pretty sick the whole weekend, so our evenings were spent in the hostels just talking. Still nice though.

To see pics from this trip, click here.

So I go home in less than 3 weeks. My emotions are going to be very jumbled for the rest of my stay here.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break!