And no, I did not forget the “e” in hello and misspelled it. That’s how you say it in German!
I’m dedicating this post to share my experience of studying abroad for the very first time. As of Saturday, May 11th, I’ve been in Vienna, Austria!
To make this even more of an adventure, this is the first time I’ve left the U.S., AND the first time I’ve been on a plane. Yes, I chose a 10-hour flight abroad for my very first plane ride.
Why Vienna, you ask? Excellent question! I’d like to answer by saying why not?
It’s known to be a very beautiful place, which I can now confirm is 150% true. It’s also a host for many of the world’s international organizations and a diplomatic capital. For someone aspiring to have a career in diplomacy/international relations, visiting this place is essential.
Alright, where to start, where to start?
Well, how about with the airport? As I explained above, this was my very first flight…….and I had no idea what to do at the airport during check-in. Five employees had to help me.
I should probably be embarrassed to admit this, but I’m not. They helped me get through check-in, so I’m content.
Following that, I got to meet the other people going on the trip with me. I didn’t know anyone prior to departure; however, in a week’s time, we’ve all become really good friends. There’s 22 of us in all, 4 of which are guys (including me). Apparently, guys don’t study abroad that much.
Fast-forward a bit to the plane. Yeah, first plane ride ever. We’re going from Chicago to D.C. and D.C. to Vienna. The Chicago to D.C. flight is only supposed to be an hour tops.
I get on the plane. Fasten my seat belt. Annnnnnnd………BOW.
All of that hype for nothin’. “Chew gum.” They said. “Your ears are going to fall off.” They said. “Where ear plugs.” They said.
Shush it up.
It was all a bluff. To everyone that got my hopes up, sit down.
Plus, I had a U of I alum sitting next to me (What a coincidence!). He was extremely kind, and even taught me some Arabic!
Landed safely in D.C. after a 45min flight and only had an hour layover. While there, the woman over the intercom was speaking in German to announce the time for the flight to Vienna. This is when it finally hit me that I was, indeed, leaving dear America. After the hour wait, we boarded the plane and took off for Vienna. The 10 hour flight actually wasn’t that bad. Got some meals, free drinks, watched some movies, slept, all of that good stuff.
Then, the moment I’ve been waiting for had arrived.
I’m not going to go into every single detail of what happened, because that’d get boring. But I’ll highlight some of the good stuff.
First-off, I’m living in a dorm here. We all also have a roommate. Now, when we arrived as a group, everyone went up to their rooms and unpacked/freshened up/napped, and we met up later to have dinner. Everyone also returned with stories about how they met their roommates and they’re cool.
However, when I went up to my room, my roommate was not there. I returned later, and he still wasn’t there. I became a bit worried. “Everyone has great roommates and I don’t know who mine is.”
Later on that night, we were traveling around as a group and got lost. Suddenly, an Asian guy with what we perceived as a British accent, appeared and escorted us back to the dorm. He was incredibly charming towards the women in the group and very helpful. As we were walking up to the dorm, he introduced himself to me. I then asked:
“Do you live here, too?”
“Yeah! Room blah, blah, blah!”
“Oh, nice…..WAIT you’re my roommate!”
And everything’s history from there.
Feels like we’ve been friends for a while now. It was a crazy instant bond. His name is Alex, from Hong Kong, moved to New Zealand and now Austria!
This guy is great.
Next up, culture shock.
EVERYTHING is in German. Everyone speaks German. I CAN’T READ ANYTHING. I don’t know what food to buy. I CAN’T READ. I can’t talk. Well, I can talk. I CAN’T READ. O Lawd Jezuz I can’t read. 😦
I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life. Being the extrovert that I am, not being able to read and properly communicate with those around me is devastating. Most Austrians have a basic understanding of English, but it’s still a bit difficult to articulate many things.
Though, one thing that is universal is a smile.
A smile is the universal sign of kindess and sincerity that can be shared amongst anyone, no matter your nationality, religion, economic class, etc.
Language is one of the tools that help to connect different cultures, but it surely isn’t the only thing.
That is what has been assisting in navigating through this foreign land.
I’ve picked up some German words while here, though. It’s pretty nice to be able to walk into a store and order something in their native tongue.
Oddly enough, I do enjoy this disarming feeling. It’s great to just experience the world without trivial distractions.
Next, Europeans are fashionable.
Everyone always looks fashionable here. Every. Single. Day. Men, women, elders, children; literally, everyone. They look good here, and they know it. I haven’t seen any sweats, basketball shorts or gym shoes. I thought it was a crime for me to walk to class wearing basketball shorts the other day. The looks I received basically implied it was.
Austria is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. The historic architecture, the cobblestone roads, the fashionable people, the street performers, the fancy dining, the palaces, the statues, the fountains, the old cathedrals; they’re all beautiful. I find myself in awe every second I step foot outside the dorm. Today, I took a tour of Schönbrunn Palace. I honestly can’t describe it here, I wouldn’t do any justice to it’s magnificence. You’d have to see it for yourself, sorry.
As I walk down the streets of Vienna, the song Viva la Vida by Coldplay constantly plays in my head. Yes, I know the song has nothing to do with Austria, but it fits perfectly with the setting of the city.
Vienna, Austria is home to numerous intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) including a United Nations HQ, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and many more. I was able to visit the UN and all of these other significant organizations, get briefed on current world affairs, met diplomats, all of that good stuff. Needless to say, this was an exciting experience for me. Me. At the UN HQ. What. Goodness, it was breathtaking.
Everyday here honestly feels like an adventure, and I’m loving each moment. I have three weeks left and I’m going to make the most of them.
(Wearing the colors of the Austrian Flag WOO!)
By the way, “Wien” means “Vienna” in German. And schnitzel is a traditional dish here in Vienna. I’ll probably have other posts detailing my experiences here.
Until next time,