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!


Justin said...


Emily McKnight said...

That's really awesome bethany, I'm glad you had such a great time.

Dunia Duara said...

I love how we consider calling and texting to be "free" in the states, while in fact we just have parents that never make us look at the bill :-)


I'll be in our room anxiously awaiting your arrival. Or sleeping.

castrov3 said...

I totally know what you mean about friends! Not seeing Holly and Karl, and even my crazy roomies, is so not cool!

I, however, can not wait to see you again!!!!

Oh, and I think its hilarious that you left your laptop with manders :).