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!