None right now

Sunday, March 18, 2018

What I've Learned After A Month Studying Abroad

As you may or may not know, this semester I am studying abroad in Graz, Austria. Just a litttttle bit far from Arkansas. A couple weeks ago marks the one-month anniversary from when I arrived in Europe, feels like it's been a lot longer than a month. It definitely felt like I was just kind of thrust into unfamiliarity. No amount of planning could really prepare me for all the things I've experienced since I've been here, so here are a few things I've learned.

1) The language barrier isn't THAT big of a deal

Despite 3 years of German classes and having actually acquired my German minor, my German is not good. At all. And I'm such an awkward human. Like, I can barely speak coherent English. So, yeah, it's really daunting to move to a country where you don't know the language very well. BUT, pretty much everyone in Europe speaks English, especially in a professional setting (they're employees at a store or restaurant). They really do appreciate people who are at least trying and they are typically very patient with people who don't speak their language well.

Yes, I still panic when I have to interact with German-speakers, but at the end of the day, I've managed to survive for over a month now. And quite honestly, you'd be surprised by how far very basic language skills will get you.

2) Grocery shopping is terrifying

Maybe by the time I leave Europe I'll be able to make a trip to the grocery store without having an anxiety attack. Maybe not, though. This is the most unexpected source of stress for me. I'm used to lazily strolling down the aisles of Walmart and grabbing whatever strokes my fancy, but things are different here. For one, if you ever go grocery shopping in Europe, make sure you bring your own bags or be prepared to pay for your bags if you don't. But that's not really a big deal. Grocery shopping is hard because, for one, I have NO IDEA what products I even like here. Is this brand of frozen going to taste like cardboard? Let's find out! There's such a learning curve, and the only way to really figure shit out is to make decisions and hope for the best.

Anyway, grocery shopping is tough because NOBODY is playing around. People will straight up bump into you and nobody cares if they're in your way. You just gotta assert yourself.

People aren't there to hang out. They're trying to get their shit and get out. So you better be prepared in the check out line. You better bag your groceries as fast as the cashier can scan them and also have your form of payment at the ready immediately and be ready to get the heck out of the next customer's way. I swear to you, grocery shopping is like an Olympic sport I have not trained for. I never thought I'd miss Walmart, but here I am.

3) Not every single moment is rife with excitement and that is okay

I think I had these foolish expectations that my life was suddenly going to turn into a YA novel and there was going to be adventure around every corner. Not true. A country is just a country and people are just people and I'm still me. This experience is what you make of it. Some days I go out and explore and I'm amazed, and other days I watch Netflix for 12 hours. Excitement isn't looking for me, which is okay because that might get exhausting. It's there when I go looking for it, but you really have to be in the right state of mind to appreciate what the world has to offer. One thing I've realized, though, is that it's important to seek out genuine joy, rather than do what you think you "should" be doing or what other people say is good for you.

4) Food isn't the same, which is both good and bad

I've put some heckin' delicious things in my mouth and discovered some new favorites (currywurst in Austria, kurtoskalacs in Hungary, cream cake in Slovenia, to name a few), but foods I thought I could trust, brands in the US that I love--they do not taste the same! I was appalled when I tried a Kit-Kat bar in Austria. I was not about it. Now I try to avoid brands I'm familiar with and have developed a general rule when in a restaurant: Don't obsess whether or not you'll like it. Who the heck knows. It's better to just try it and learn from your mistakes.

And, okay, yeah, I'm forever going to be bitter that I can't get pizza rolls here.

5) Photos are never going to do anything any justice 

I've seen beautiful buildings and churches and landscapes and no matter how hard I try, no photo I take will ever be able to show the true beauty of what I see. Of course, I still try. And I do think taking photos is VERY important, but I also think it's important to take your photos and then step away from the camera so you can really take in the beauty before you.

Really, that's just a few things. I could go on for days. This past month has been so transformative. I have learned so much and I have grown so much and I cannot wait to keep you guys posted on all my adventures. I hope this post is informative for anyone interested in studying abroad. It has some supremely tough moments, but if there's one thing I've learned more than anything it's that I'm capable of way more than I realized and that I can face any obstacles that arise.

If you'd like to read more about my journey, I write a weekly column for my school newspaper:
Welcome to Graz, Austria
Dancing Americans

And here are just a few photos of me living it up!!

This is me at the top of Schlossberg, a mountain in Graz with a gorgeous clock tower. The path was icy but I still managed to climb it in a dress and heeled boots. 

Me in Budapest, Hungary. I absolutely loved Budapest!!! I can't wait to go back.

Me at Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy. Visiting Italy has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I cannot believe I've achieved it.

Me in front of an island castle in Bled, Slovenia. I never really had the burning desire to visit Slovenia, but I really did love it! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I have to say and give your opinion on it. It really means a lot to me. And of course, I will do my best to return the favor. However, as easily distracted and scatter-brained as I am, please don't be offended if I forget to comment on your blog.