The first week is arguably always the hardest to get through in any situation. You’re out of your element and need to adjust to a new way of life over the next few months. During that first week, I never believed that from that one day alone, the rest of the days would fly away. Today is October 16 and it has been a full month since the program started in September. The midterms have passed and the week after this coming week we have a week off school. I thought the days would be so long and I would be homesick. I was homesick and still am because I miss things about the United States from time to time and I miss my old lifestyle, my friends, my family and my dog. However, one thing to note is that you can most definitely have these moments, it is not a good idea to stay there as it will not make your trip enjoyable. I was able to quickly overcome the homesickness in several ways, for example: spending time with the friends I made during this period, going out to eat and finding new places to meet, taking beautiful walks in the city and along the nearby river, newspaper, talking to my family. Now that talking to family can be hit or miss depending on the mood.
During the first week for me, the biggest difficulty was remembering the time that passed between here in Austria and returning to the United States. Where I’m from, there’s a time change of about 8 o’clock, so it was (and still is) hard not to call mom first thing in the morning when it’s usually late in the evening or early in the morning. Now another difficulty was just going to school. Usually when you go from America to Europe you go on vacation not school so I didn’t really want to go to school but I had to and that first week we were lucky enough to able to follow any class. wanted to try out what we wanted before submitting a final form to finalize the courses we wanted to take this semester. I already knew pretty much what I wanted to take, so I already went to my scheduled classes. It was nice to meet my teachers (although here they are not really called our teachers rather just teachers) and learn about their teaching styles. What I really appreciate is that they don’t assign a lot of homework outside of school. It seems that the teachers and staff of this program seem to understand that we students are here to study, but also to explore and experience life. So far the job has been so much easier and much less stressful than I was used to. So it’s definitely something I’ll miss when it’s time to go!
That first week, not much happened. The program organized some activities for us to do to get to know each other and to know the city better, people hung out together and really it was rather calm and relaxing. The school part was relatively easy to understand, the real headache was the bus. I wasn’t used to taking the bus in the US so coming here where the bus is the preferred mode of transportation was difficult. Luckily we were provided with a monthly bus pass so after getting it stamped we didn’t have to worry about getting bus passes every day and just rode in the bus and got off at our stop. However, since almost everything is in German, I really had a hard time listening to what was being said on the radio system on the bus. There is an English translation but it’s a little strange when you listen to someone speaking in German one second and the next moment English is spoken so you can’t always hear the English. Luckily I had already gotten an Austrian sim card so I was able to use my maps and other offline apps with no problem so I knew where to get on the bus and where to get off the bus and almost every day there is groups that go to the study center together so I understood pretty quickly. I wouldn’t say for the first day though…we almost got on the wrong bus which would have taken us in the completely opposite direction if someone hadn’t spoken and told us we were getting on the wrong bus. So pay close attention to which direction the bus is going!
As for my living situation, I stay in this “dormitory” like a building. It’s not necessarily called a dorm because it’s not just students living here, but it’s not really an apartment either, so I really couldn’t tell you what type of building I’m in. screw. I was put in a single and others were put in duplicates. At first I was a bit upset that I was put in singles because I remember selecting the double option when we were filling out and returning forms etc, but realized that was probably better that way because I like to have my own space and I like my time alone as much as I like spending time with others. It just means that I should work a little harder to connect and make plans with others, which I’ve learned that I’m okay with doing. It’s been an adventure to say the least. There is a shared kitchen on each floor, but we all have our own wardrobe and a small box in the fridge, both of which have locks to which we have the keys. The program provided us with pots and cooking utensils after paying a small deposit. I admit I was a little too scared to use the kitchen the first few days I was here, so I spent some of my money on takeout. However, over the weeks I’ve been here I’ve become more comfortable with the kitchen and even met some really nice people while cooking.
All in all I would say it’s normal to be scared and for the first week or so it’s common. You don’t know many people, you don’t always know the language, everything is quite new so going from living your life in your country of origin to living a new life in a new country is completely normal and understandable. I’m still scared sometimes! However, for me, I made new friends that made the transition much smoother and easier. I still get homesick sometimes, but I really enjoy my time here in Austria and learned a lot about the history of the country and its people. I always look forward to what the day will bring me.
That’s all for the moment!