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!

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Honig im Kopf

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

honig-im-kopf-film

Gestern war ein unglaublicher Tag! Ich bin wieder in Lienz bei meiner “österreichischen Familie,” den Füchsen. In Lienz fühlt es sich gleich an wie zu Hause und ich bin so glücklich 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 süß und so rührend, 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 Müsli, 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.