A Semester in Vienna: 9 Things You Won’t Find in an Abroad Brochure

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Well friends, I’m back in America. I’ve had a nice 9 day trip around Austria and Italy with my parents (and a few days at home) to reflect on my semester, and I’ve come to one overwhelming conclusion: no amount of reflection will suffice to process these past 5 months, anyone who’s studied abroad will tell you that. I could write a 12 page blog that nobody wants to read outlining the details of my personal growth and life changing adventures, but for obvious reasons, I’ll refrain. So instead, for any future “Study-abroaders” out there (or my sweet family who will read anything I write), here are 9 pieces of heartfelt advice from an over-eager abroad vet:

1. That paper you have to write?…It can wait.

No, I’m not saying you should blow off all school-work, though, a semester abroad is likely to be your easiest semester, academically speaking. Rather, I’m trying to say that when deciding between seeing Anna Netrebko at the Vienna State Opera on Monday night and logging 500 words for your Austrian Art and Architecture class (my apologies for the case-specific examples), put down the computer and get your butt out the door. You’re only abroad once…or perhaps more if you’re lucky 🙂

2. Travel alone, at least once.

The moments I cherish most from being abroad were moments spent in self-reflection, usually on the train back from one of my many adventures through Europe. Time spent alone whilst exploring the world allows you to examine who you are –  you can unpack your deepest thoughts, passions, dreams, and the things you hold dearest in life. It is in the solitary moments that you truly find yourself…and believe it or not, making friends with random strangers is way easier when you’re on your own – and because everyone knows talking to strangers is a great idea (sorry, Mom).

3. Europe has not yet caught on to the value of free water and bathrooms.

Ergo, carry a water bottle everywhere you go and cherish every free bathroom you find.

4. Allow yourself to pick up new habits, new personality traits, and new ways of living.

I love the “Viennese” Mo that emerged while abroad – the tranquility that comes with being silent in public (I’m looking at you America…). I love that I finally figured out how to take time for myself to recharge – over a 3 hour coffee date, or a sunny day in the park with a good book, or a One Tree Hill Marathon in my favorite cafe. I love the solitary museum junkie that came to life in the antiquity of Europe, residing in Vienna’s (and many other cities’ ) countless museums. I love who I became in Vienna, and I intend to keep that girl alive wherever my life takes me.

5. Immerse yourself as much as possible in your host culture.

I’m quite sure you’ve heard this one before, yet few people really take this to heart while abroad. From learning the language to meeting new people, find the heart and soul of “your” country while abroad. Richness of experience does not come from going out every night with other Americans (though nights like can certainly be a healthy taste of home for any American college goer). Instead, I found that my love for Vienna came when I managed a 20-minute conversation in German with my non-English speaking horn professor, or when he started to tear up at my last lesson. It came when I made friends with the sweetest 18-year old Austrian girl named Hannah on a train from Graz to Vienna. Or when I spent a weekend in Sankt Wolfgang im Salzkammergut (AKA the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen) with a wonderful couple that took me in as their pseudo host-daughter. Or when I played French horn with a bunch of random 40-year old men in a biology lab because its the only place they could rent out. Those are the moments that shape your experience and who you become in your time abroad.

6. Keep hold of what’s important to you.

It’s really easy when you’re abroad to throw all caution to the wind and abandon everything you know in an attempt to “be a new person.” Keeping hold of my love for home, my closest friends, and most importantly my faith, did not diminish my experience whatsoever – quite the opposite actually. My time abroad helped me appreciate the incredible blessings I have at home in CO, in my family, and in my friends, and it allowed me to grow closer to God as He proudly showed me His creation. Whatever is important to you when you leave home, hang on to it wherever you go.

7. Budget your semester, but don’t be overly frugal (if said budget allows).

I spent most of my semester counting every penny (or Euro cent) I spent, constantly worried about my finances. What I failed to realize: money comes back, but the experiences don’t. That trip to Prague that I didn’t take, that museum I thought was too expensive, that tea set I wanted all semester but didn’t buy – they weren’t worth the extra money I have in my pocket driving home from the airport. *Disclaimer – don’t forget to budget, however, because failure to do so may result in very unhappy parents…*

8. Let yourself fall recklessly in love.

No, I’m not saying find your significant other abroad (though, it does happen for some lucky people). I’m trying to say this: keep your heart as open as possible. Let yourself fall in love with new places, new foods, new friends, new perspectives, and most importantly, allow yourself to fall in love with…well, yourself! For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I love who I am, or rather who I’ve become – because it took 5 months of living halfway across the world to appreciate its grandeur, and to find my extremely small place in it. The world has taught me humility, open-mindedness, resiliency, and most importantly, the absolute importance of love. So fall in love, because there is so much out there worth loving.

9. Be thankful.

Not everyone gets the crazy awesome experience of going abroad, and recognition of that blessing is key to enjoying it to the fullest. Whenever I got homesick, or started wallowing in self-pity, I remembered that I was living in freaking Europe, in Vienna, Austria studying music and suddenly, thankfulness took over and helped me to fully appreciate the experience I was blessed with. If you ever get the opportunity to study or live abroad, be grateful each and every day.

If you’re reading this, thanks for hanging in there with me – whether it was from day one of my starry-eyed, amateur blog or if this is your first read. I appreciate you regardless, with all my heart. I assure you, any future travels will find their way back to this humble WordPress page, but only God knows when that will be…literally. If you can’t tell, these 5 months have changed me for the better (I hope) and I certainly am already missing my home (far) away from home. BUT, I’m thrilled to be back in the USofA and can’t wait to catch up with some of you lovely people in person (translation: I miss all of you and want endless friend/coffee dates). I will be back, but for now, “Bis Bald!” (“till next time!”)

London Calling

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. –Samuel Johnson

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After years of watching loads of BBC (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Top Gear, etc.) and obsessing over the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith, I finally fulfilled my dream of going to London. This trip was a way for Klara and I to celebrate completing the Vienna half-marathon but really we just wanted an excuse to go to London. We stayed with a dear friend of mine from DePauw, Laura Neel, who moved to London so she could kick butt in Grad School after leaving good old DePauw. Her adorable flat is in Swiss Cottage, a northern neighborhood of London, where we had easy access to a Tube station and a choice selection of coffee shops and pubs. After arriving late Thursday night in the boonies of London, AKA Gatwick, we paid through the nose for a taxi to Laura’s because the Tube was closed. After a late night of catching up over tea, Laura helped us plan our weekend and the next morning we began our adventure with coffee and croissants at Loft, quite possibly the cutest coffee shop I’ve ever seen.

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Klara and I hopped on the tube toward Westminster and after taking a few clichĂ©, touristy photos walked to the National Gallery. One of my favorite things about London: all of the museums are free. I’m sure this doesn’t appeal to every 20-something traveling Europe, but any museum junky would’ve enjoyed our Friday morning strolling through halls filled with the likes of Raphael and Da Vinci. After 3 hours of this, we met up with Laura at Fortnum & Mason for another dream of mine: afternoon tea. Yes, it lived up to expectations, even though my poor college budget only allowed for tea and scones. Ice cream in the parlour and a purchase in the massive “tea shop” (1 of the 4 floors of F&M) are a must, and pair nicely with a long walk through one of London’s great parks. And because God continues to abundantly bless my travels, we got to meet up with my awesome Brazilian friends (from hiking the Camino de Santiago) and spent the rest of the day wandering around Hyde Park, Covent Garden and SoHo after stopping by Laura’s parents’ house for more tea. Klara and I had dinner with my sweet friend and sorority sister, Katie, and then sat around Laura’s apartment laughing with a bunch of sarcastic Brits, delirious from finishing up closing night of their show. Talk about a perfect day in London Town ❀

The next morning, Laura took us on a tour of Borough Market (a must for any foodie), where I ate my weight in samples, and then left us to explore Camden Market with yet another amazing friend, the one and only Trish Preuss. Despite how insanely crowded and overwhelming Camdem Market felt, I couldn’t imagine a trip to London without experiencing the “punk/alternative” centre of town. We spent the latter part of the afternoon back in Covent Garden, where I spent a solid 45 minutes enthralled by the most captivating street performers I’ve ever seen, a sextet of 2 violins, a viola, a cello, and a flautist who somehow managed to actually dance while playing
#talent. Laura took us to a tasty Indian place for curry and then to “Ye Old Swiss Cottage,” literally a trip back in time where we listened to old British men singing out of key with their beers sloshing onto the old carpet floor of this ancient pub. A friend of Laura’s invited us to their house for wine and chocolate cake balls (totally sealed the deal) where I fell in love with more of London’s quirky theatrical residents, managing one degree of separation with Maggie Smith – translation: one of Laura’s friends casually “ran into” Maggie Smith outside before his show and she casually wished him good luck. #casual

Klara and I enjoyed one final morning in London, stopping by 221 Baker Street to find my future husband (kidding
sorta), taking more clichĂ© pictures, and glancing through the V&A (Victoria and Albert) museum, to which I will assuredly be returning. And because every trip is not complete without some painful “learning experience,” the airport bus I was supposed to take to Gatwick left 10 minutes early, leaving me to translate between a Spanish couple and a grumpy cab driver so we could barely get to Gatwick in time to run to our gates. Talk about “growing up fast.” Regardless, my short 3 days in London left me with an insatiable desire to return, next time for more than one weekend. Several posts coming soon to wrap up my semester abroad – stay tuned!

April in Paris…and Brussels

Paris is always a good idea. –Audrey Hepburn

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It’s been over a month since I returned from my “Grand Easter Adventure” (if it’s not self evident, this is Part 3 of said holiday), the last leg of which consisted of 2 nights and 1 day in Brussels, Belgium, and 2 1/2 days in Paris over Easter weekend. Clearly, timeliness, at least in the context of documenting my travels, is not my strong-suit. Thankfully, what I lack in timing I (hopefully) make up for in sincerity and eccentric story-telling.

Thursday night I arrived in Brussels where a dear friend from DePauw (Ashley Conard) is currently on Fulbright (yes, she’s a genius) using game theory to decode proteins for the sake of cancer research…cue inferiority complex. Somehow I managed to get myself from the airport to her flat, to which I was greeted by an invitation to the Belgian equivalent of a frat party – a “TD (thé dansant).” Essentially, each University degree program hosts an initiation/baptism of sorts in these old bomb shelters (I think) – everyone wears dirty clothes, drinks half a beer, and throws the other half while the new members of the degree program wear these bizarre long-billed, patched-up hats and long, scary, black trench coats and “join the clan,” so to speak. It was like looking into a snow globe: me, awkwardly standing on the outskirts with my jaw dropped at this unique cultural phenomenon.

Travel tip: spend more than one day in Brussels. One day, however, is indeed enough time for a tour of the Parlamentarium, a long walk through the “BoBo” or Bourgeois Bohemian streets of the city, a stop at DĂ©lirium Café (Guinness World Record holder for most beers in a single bar – 3162 beers), Belgian pommes frites (fries), a Belgian waffle, Belgian chocolate, and a Belgian school ball for the Architecture Department (think Prom but for European college students). The dirty (in a good way), darkened, Bohemian character of the city left me hungry for more time, but alas…Paris.

Ashley and I hopped in a “Blah-blah car” early Saturday morning to Paris where we navigated our way to the quaint and heartwarming household of the Guerjdou’s, the family of Ashley’s Parisian best friend (Leila) from Brussels. If I impart one single bit of wisdom upon anyone reading this humble narrative, the benefit of worldwide friendships/connections is authentic cultural immersion and it is invaluable,  even if only for 2 days. Leila’s parents greeted us warmly with a baguette (the first of many), Camembert, and coffee. Whoever said Parisians were unfriendly has not met Claire and Hakim, who unhesitatingly extended to us an invite for family dinner after our day exploring the Tour Eiffel.

The Eiffel Tower is tall, in case you were curious. Of course, the view at the top is worth the long cue, the steep fee, and the wind…lots of wind. We took horribly clichĂ© pictures, of course, but most importantly caught up on each other’s lives with hours of rich conversation. (It’s true, with whom you travel is certainly as important as to where you travel.) We headed back to the Guerdjou’s around 8 to find fresh bread, more Camembert, homemade hummus, and red wine lying on the table for our “starter course” which preceded an excellent meal prepared by Hakim, who perfectly incorporates his own cultural cuisine (Algerian) with that of the French — with that said, I will never understand how the French are so skinny.

The next morning, Ashley and I attended Easter mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral where I, being an early music history GEEK, was in a permanent state of “nerdgasm.” We sat down to what we thought was normal Easter mass — turns out, Gregorian chant mass started midway through. My jaw might as well have been laying on the ground for 2 hours as I gawked at the exquisite stained glass windows, flaming Gothic architecture, and the bone rattling organ and Gregorian chant “choir.” Of course, we had to go have a fancy brunch after (see picture), after which we headed toward the Pompidou. Europe has made me a museum junkie – I could’ve spent hours in the Pompidou feeling empowered by the societal issues brought up by so much of the art. Or perhaps gaping at the captivating exhibit of Jean-Paul Goude. We left the museum for another clichĂ© photo-opp at the Lourve and then spent the afternoon walking the Champs-ÉlysĂ©es toward the Arc de Triomphe prior to another lovely dinner at the Geurdjou house.

Last anecdote, I swear. In middle school, I spent obscene amounts of time with three of my music/theatre friends: Danny, Dylan, and Dallin. In 9th grade, Danny’s father got a job in Paris and off he went, never to be seen again (lol sorry, I had to). Well, conveniently, Daniel is on a semester “internship break” from his casual studies in Philosophy at Oxford; so on Saturday night, after 7 years, we met up for drinks in the middle of Paris with Ashley and Leila. I’m still flabbergasted by how small this world felt as I sat at a bar in Paris catching up with a delightful childhood friend from Fort Collins, CO. Yes, I’m quite sure my life is a dream…from which I’ll be waking up in about 3 weeks time 😩

My sincere apologies for the lack of brevity. I’ll try harder next time. More to come on the Vienna City Marathon, my trip to London, and more adventures in Österreich! Ciao!

El Camino De Santiago

Blessed are you, pilgrim, because you have discovered that the true Camino begins at its end. –Saint Anthony’s Messenger

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Photo Credit: InterVarsity Study Abroad (Jen Hermann/Tymoteusz Pieszka)

It’s been about 2 weeks since I returned from what was quite possibly the best trip of my young life. I’d like to say that I’m at such a loss for words that it’s taken this long to come up with the right ones, but really I’m just having too much fun running all over God’s creation to put my thoughts on paper. But here I am, prepared to deliver the second instalment of my “Grand Easter Adventure” about my backpacking trip through Spain to all 10 of my readers (Grandma, Aunt Pam, I’m looking at you).

Before embarking on a 6 day stint of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage through Northern Spain, Emi and I spent one day in Madrid. Our day consisted of a long walk through the Parque del Retiro, churros y chocolate, el Mercado de San Miguel (a food and drink market), and wine and tapas with our  friend Aditya and his lovely Spanish girlfriend. In my travels, I’ve found myself overwhelmingly blessed by international friendships that allow me to experience each country authentically. So if you (whoever you might be) ever travel, meet locals: THAT is where you will find the life of a city.

I could go on (and on, and on) about the breathtaking, lush, green hills of Spain, or about all of the papas fritas (french fries) I ate, or the blisters on my feet (because I assure you there were plenty). But I’m hoping the pictures will do that for me. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the grave of St. James, one of the three disciples that walked most closely alongside Jesus during his time on Earth. The 105 Km between Lugo and Santiago de Compostela allowed me to do the same, to walk alongside Jesus and 11 of his beautiful children through one of the most picturesque places in all the world.

I’m learning so much about the character of God during my time in Europe. He is kind, loving, all-knowing, ever-present, and all of these things which we read about throughout the Bible. But he’s also really fun. He loves to spoil us, romance us, play with us, and talk to us. He knows our hearts better than anyone, and he knows precisely how to love each one of us in our own, unique language. Being from Colorado, nature and I are pretty tight. Hiking through the wilderness, sleeping in questionable places, not showering for days, gazing at the stars late at night: these are the things that bring me joy, that bring me life. The Lord spent 6 days showering me with love in the form of sunny skies, small villages, kind-hearted Spaniards and missionaries, and long conversations with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.

Our group consisted of quite the international crowd, representing 9 different countries including Poland, Argentina, Singapore, China, Guatemala, Brazil, Armenia, the Netherlands, and America. 105 Km of walking allow for enormous amounts of laughter, long heart-to-heart conversations, and joy-filled tears from the kind words of new friends. In 6 days, I made friends I know I will have the rest of my life; people I intend to visit all over the world that share with me the same love for blisters, sore feet, endless green fields, and the faithful, loving God that brought us together.

Walking along this ancient path left me with the best memories: Albergues (pilgrim hostels) rich with character; daily lunches of bread, cheese, and salami; the many dogs I befriended along the way; teaching yoga to an 8-year-old Spanish boy named Pablo; mornings spent in silent retreat; almost losing my Birkenstock in a river, a Spanish missionary named Ionut who tells his story, sells t-shirts, encourages pilgrims, and preaches the Gospel; and 6 days of precious time with Jesus and his people. Now almost two weeks have passed and my heart remains full of joy knowing that the true Camino begins at its end.

More on my adventures to come including Brussels, Paris, London, and more of daily life in Vienna! Bis bald!

Baths are Better in Budapest

My sincere apologies to all those breathlessly anticipating new blog posts – please, hold the tears – I’ve been away on a grand holiday (p.s. that last bit is more fun if you read it in a pompous British accent). This is the first instalment of what I like to call “Mo’s Grand Easter Adventure!”, a 4-part series of average story telling, amateur pictures, and a truly extraordinary adventure.

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Me and Emi

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” I suppose I owe a huge shout out to the best travel companion ever, Miss Emi Lungmus (she’s in all my pics – can’t miss her). We began our journey in Budapest, Hungary, where we attempted to experience the character of the city in one short day. This central/eastern European gem blends the elegance of Viennese culture with the darkened grandeur of Eastern Europe, creating a unique cultural centre. After our 2-hour morning train ride, Emi and I checked into our Hostel (for future travellers: check out Maverick City Lodge for a great stay) and asked for a lunch recommendation seeing as we were extremely (wait for it) hungry in Hungary. We enjoyed a traditional Hungarian meal of Paprika chicken and Hungarian wine at Bali Cafe, walked around the street markets, and headed to St. Stephen’s Basilica before our free walking tour. As we were walking in, a sweet British man held the door for us and Emi instinctively shouted “Danke schön!” He replied in German with a big grin on his face and asked if we were from Germany. Laughing, we told him we’re from the States, studying in Vienna, etc. etc. and next thing you know, I find out he’s a classical British composer and his wife is an artist (she does his CD cover art – it’s too cute to be true). After a nice long chat, he gave us 3 of his CDs and bid us farewell…I’ve yet to listen to the CDs, but apparently he is compared to Bartok and Shostakovich, so he might be an undiscovered genius, who knows. Also inside the church we saw “The Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen” – literally the preserved hand of the first Hungarian king and Holy Saint of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire (too bad Vienna didn’t get ahold of that…JK).

The 3 hour (FREE, an abroad student’s favorite word) walking tour began at the Basilica (in Pest) and ended across the river in Buda. (Important side note: Budapest used to be two cities divided by the river, Buda and Pest.) We saw lots of superstition-ridden statues, walked across the famous Chain Bridge, climbed up to the castle, saw the famous parliament building and the Matthias Church, and learned a lot about Hungarian history (most of which I’ve since forgotten). We made friends with a sweet German girl named Marie (who spent a year in the US in high school and is going back next year – GO AMERICA) and indulged in coffee at a fancy coffee-house back in Pest. Best travel tip ever: meet people, listen to their stories, and make friends – this world is full of incredible people that can change your life for the better.

Now, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll recognize the picture of bright, cerulean waters surrounded by beautiful a Baroque building. The entire city of Budapest lies on top of natural hot springs and Budapest is therefore known for it’s thermal baths. Emi and I haphazardly navigated our way on the metro to the SzĂ©cheny Thermal Bath (completely worth the 16€) for 2 hours of utterly blissful relaxation (and a super awesome human whirlpool). Needless to say, if you ever find yourself in Budapest, go to the thermal baths, you will not regret it. Supposedly, another “can’t miss” attraction in Budapest are the “Ruin Bars,” so called because they are bars literally functioning inside of Roman Ruins. Emi and I, being the night owls that we are (lol), took to dinner at a park of food trucks and an early bedtime in preparation for the Camino (lots coming on that!)

My suggestion: don’t just watch the Grand Budapest Hotel, go to Budapest – it’s definitely somewhere worth exploring. Part II of Mo’s Grand Easter Adventure coming soon – stay tuned!

The Honeymoon is Over

The Vineyards of Vienna

The Vineyards of Vienna

Fernweh (n. German): An ache for distant places. A craving to travel. Wanderlust.

Heimweh (n. German): A desire to return to familiarity, to return home. Homesickness.

No, this isn’t a German lesson. Or a German reference dictionary. These are, however, the two most perfect words to describe March as an abroad student, at least in my experience. I constantly find my heart torn between aching for home and craving adventure. This emotional friction hurts; it’s uncomfortable and has frequently left me binge-watching One Tree Hill in my bedroom with a jar of Nutella. BUT, the uncomfortable times in our lives, especially when every day feels completely new and unfamiliar, act as a catalyst for growth. I’m perpetually “finding myself,” learning new things about the woman I was created to be. A wheel turns because of its encounter with the surface of the road; a wheel spinning in the air goes nowhere. I suppose I’m okay with a little burnt rubber if it brings me to a richer, fuller life.

It’s March 12th. I’ve been in Vienna for over 2 months and I’m FINALLY starting to feel like I live here. Adapting to the culture, learning the language, and fully understanding public transportation take time (and getting lost at least once a week). Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m teaching English at a Gymnasium (middle/high school) in the 19th district of Vienna. My hour-long 7 AM commute to the outskirts of Wien, though painfully early, defines the phrase “totally worth it.” I teach three classes of 13-14 year olds, a class of 16-18 year olds, and occasionally a class of 11-12 year olds. In addition to having 30 new adolescent Instagram followers, I am developing meaningful student-teacher relationships with Viennese students, teaching about everything from Guerrilla Art to the structure of a persuasive essay (and occasionally playing Simon Says with twelve year olds). I work with 4 different teachers (one of which I get babysit for!), who’ve all provided overwhelming affirmation in my developing teaching abilities. Who knows, maybe I really am meant to be a teacher (please, don’t say I told you so).

Actual classes include: Austrian Art and Architecture (weekly field trips all over the city, sketches, and journaling), Finance Markets and the Economy (learning about financial systems and global finance), and German. Essentially, I’m in the midst of the easiest semester of all time, getting semi-normal amounts of sleep, and enjoying the “classroom that is Vienna” (I know it’s cliche, sorry). Leaving for Europe, I had been praying for these 5 months to be full of rest and renewal, a chance for new perspectives, rejuvenation in the form of adventure, and relaxation, lots of it. Rest assured, those prayers have been answered. Weekend trips to the Vineyards of Vienna, lazy afternoons spent wandering through museums, and loitering in Kaffeehauses whenever I get the chance: my life hardly feels real.

Spring break here falls over Easter (which means I get 10 days off), so my friend Emi and I signed up for a 6 day backpacking trip in Spain, part of the Camino de Santiago or the pilgrimage of St. James.  (For a much better description, watch The Way – it’s on Netflix.) We’ll be with a group of other American abroad students, hiking from Lugo to Santiago de Compostela, staying with families along the way, and undergoing what I’m expecting to be a time of incredible spiritual growth. We’ll be in Budapest for two days before Spain, and I will be headed to Brussels and Paris to see the lovely Ashley Conard (friend from DePauw) over Easter weekend. Essentially, my life is a dream and one of these days I’m going to have to wake up from it…I don’t have too many good stories to report, aside from playing horn with the same group of middle-aged men, “crashing” an Austrian girl’s 21st birthday party with my language buddy, exploring Vienna with my sorority sister Kara (studying in Prague), and enjoying Viennese cuisine in Grinzing, a town on the outskirts of Vienna known for it’s  Heurigers (wine-taverns). I attached some pictures of the vineyards and the awesome friends who came with me, so please be as jealous as you can!

In summary, I’m homesick, but still loving Vienna. life’s full of adventure, but I’m feeling utterly carefree. I’m changing and growing, but I’m settling into myself more than ever before. And even though Europe feels like a dream, when I wake up and find myself back in the States, I will feel just as blessed as I do here, because home is an incredibly special place. Needless to say, I miss all of you dearly, and I wish you were all here with me enjoying this adventure . Until next time!

Honig im Kopf

Tilda: “Wie fĂŒhlt sich das eigentlich wenn man alles vergisst?” Amandus: “So wie Honig im Kopf so; so verklebt.”

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Gestern war ein unglaublicher Tag! Ich bin wieder in Lienz bei meiner “österreichischen Familie,” den FĂŒchsen. In Lienz fĂŒhlt es sich gleich an wie zu Hause und ich bin so glĂŒcklich hier sein zu können. Klara und ich sind zu Mittag 14 Kilometer gelaufen und am Abend haben wir uns “Honig im Kopf” im Kino angesehen. Der Film ist so sĂŒĂŸ und so rĂŒhrend, dass ich sogar weinen (und lachen) musste! 🙂

American friends and family, I promise the rest is in English. I’m back in Lienz again, which if you remember from a month ago is a stunning mountain town in the Austrian Alps situated in the region of Osttirol where I have “pseudo-Austrian-family” (that’s a thing, right?). Regardless, I’m finding my heart growing fonder of these views and would almost trade them for life in Wien. However, that’s like asking me, “Which do you like better, chocolate or coffee?” (Because coffee and chocolate are life essentials…) Two days ago, Tina picked me up from the train station and we headed home for some grub (bread and homemade marmalade, salami, cheese, yoghurt and MĂŒsli, grape juice – commence jealousy). We then took the ski bus into town where we browsed through clothing stores and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon watching skiing on the telly. In one shop, Tina knew the girl working and she immediately, thinking I was Klara, “congratulated me on my award”…she couldn’t stop remarking on how similar we looked (maybe we really are twins 😳). We stopped for authentic Italian Pizza (Lienz is just 30 min from the Italian border) and headed home, where we watched How I Met Your Mother in German and The Voice Kids (Germany). Translated from above: “Yesterday was an incredible day.” I completed three summer internship applications (one to work in Music Production at The Walt Disney Studios 🙋 <——-pick me!), I biked to a grocery store in Lienz and spoke successful German (baby steps), I ran 14 Kilometres (a little under 9 miles) with Klara, and got all teary eyed while seeing the German movie, Honig im Kopf at the cinema.

Honig im Kopf: Honey in the hat. I find it absolutely mind-boggling that everyday activities, like seeing a movie at the cinema, can act as mind-altering events in our lives if we are in the proper state of mind (I am making no drug reference here, I swear). Honig im Komf beautifully depicts the sweet relationship between a young girl, Tilda, and her Opa (grandpa) as he suffers from the deteriorating effects of Alzheimer’s. Her parents, Niko and Sarah, experience the breakdown of their marriage, but see full reparation after they go chasing after Tilda when she secretly takes Amandus (her Opa) on one last adventure to “visit” his late wife, Margeurite. I laughed a lot, I cried even more, and I got lost in the story, so much so that I forgot I was listening to a foreign language. Seeing a German movie in an Austrian theatre seemed like a culturally appropriate thing to do for a new German speaker (I was honestly quite surprised by how much I understood for only 6 weeks of German)…but when I felt tears dripping down my face as Amandus failed to recognize his granddaughter, the experience ceased to be cultural: it became inherently human. Often times, I think the bubbles we live in prevent us from seeing the bigger picture: that the world is truly massive and that all humankind is connected by matters of feeling, of expression, and of love. The love that this Tilda had for her Opa made me think of the love I have for my grandparents, and for my family as a whole. The creation of emotionally stimulating, thought-provoking, and heart-warming art, in this case film, is happening all over the world, and somehow it’s taken me 21 years and a semester in Austria for me to fully realize what that means. People constantly amaze me, and every person I’ve met here in Europe has reaffirmed my love for mankind. I apologise for my sappy soapbox, but I couldn’t help but share that which have been life-changing perspectives for me. So if you take away nothing else, here’s some advice from an impassioned 21-year-old: travel the world, learn another language, and meet and love as many people as you can – the heart is a very big place.