I never think any big events in my life are going to happen. I didn’t ever see myself graduating from high school or moving to Athens or accomplishing some huge task. I did it last week with Bonnaroo.
I’m currently doing this with Austria, and I’m becoming scared because I just realized that I’m leaving in 18 days. 18 breakfasts. 18 nights where I’ll wake up at odd intervals. 18 (well, probably fewer) showers.
I’m trying to pull together a list of things I need for this trip. Ideas. Plans. A level head. A plug converter. My big bottle of Ibuprofen. It’s hard to find Ibuprofen in Europe, so I’m going to bring a huge bottle and deal it. Just kidding. I’m going to share it, and that’s how I’ll win peoples’ hearts and friendship over there.
I’m getting nervous because it’s hard for me to imagine what my life is going to be like over there because, well, I’ve never been to Austria. I hardly know any German – I’ve been slacking on studying it. It might get really cold there. I’m going to miss people and there won’t be anything I can do about it. I’ll be a whole ocean and several countries away. Mostly I’m afraid of ending up alone. What if nobody likes me there? I’ve got some bad qualities.
The one thing I have complete confidence in is the literature class I’ll be taking. I’m great at English and I’m very passionate about words if you can’t tell. I know I can say something impressive and be able to bond with people who get starry-eyed over the same writers, books, and punctuation marks that I do. I think I will make a friend in my literature class. I need to, actually. I can’t be reserved like I normally am since all of this is going to happen over a span of six weeks instead of a semester. I’m got to give myself a crash course in branching out to other people, and that happens to be one of the things I’m worst at.
I just end up fantasizing every time I try to construct a controlled thought about Austria. Instead of thinking about how to make friends, I think about things like how often I’ll be able to eat gelato and how I want to rent a bike and ride it around Innsbruck every day I’m there. It’s funny that I’m thinking this way, because usually I’m very rational. Actually I’m never rational when it comes to thinking, because that’s how anxiety manages to take over me so easily.
What is good advice for studying abroad? What is a good way to make people like me? Does anybody have any recommendations for where I should go and what I should see in Europe, particularly Vienna and Germany? Or anywhere that’s close to where I’ll be? What kind of food should I try?
Any advice – or any statement that will calm me down, really – would be much appreciated.
I am a woman of lists: lists of what to eat, what to do, how to behave, and even what I should think about. I know I’ve mentioned this before.
My summer starts in six days. Because I am a girl, I’ve started dreaming up tons of expectations for my summer. I do it every year, just like everybody else.
I don’t want to call it a bucket list. That name just seems a little ominous, especially with what’s going on in the news right now (you know, the bucket list baby that died today?). Besides, this isn’t a list that I want to cross out before I die; it’s more short-term. I mean, sure, I can do these things some other time, but I’d really like to do them this summer. This summer is important to me. I’ll be in Europe for six weeks. It’s going to be crucial to my development. This list needs to be lighthearted, not heavy like a bucket. Beach pails are pretty light. Plus they’re brightly colored and obviously marketed for summer vacations. That works. This will be a beach pail list.
I’ll keep my beach pail list relatively short because I don’t want to bore you all to death and I really should be studying or eating or writing my feature story or something.
1) Go stargazing. I have wanted to go stargazing for years. Well, I kind of did it once, but that was almost six years ago. I’d like to go again. I think it would be good poetry material. I just need to figure out the best way to defend myself against mosquitoes first, because those bitches (only the female ones want your blood) love me. This brings me to my next item on the list….
2) Figure out some way to get mosquitoes to stop biting me. I’ve heard that drinking vinegar helps. Actually, can’t you get B-12 shots for that? I’ll do that. It beats getting bitten every time I go outside (I’m already sporting several welts, as a matter of fact).
3) Go to Munich and see my friends. That will be awesome.
4) Try new foods when I’m in Europe. More food equals more chances to get fat!
5) Read a lot. Once I get all those books that have piled up out of the way, I can get some more.
6) Work on my people skills. That is a big one.
7) Unwind a little.
8) Make that classical music pilgrimage to Vienna.
9) Go on an impromptu trip. I think that will be very possible in Europe.
10) Write a good story. Because I’m a little out of practice and really need to.
That’s all I can really think of. My brain just turned to mush, so you guys are lucky. I guess I can always add to this.
Now all I want is some prosciutto and a nap.
One thing that sold me on studying abroad this summer is how close Austria is to so many countries. UGA’s travel writing professor, who is teaching the class this summer – and hopefully I’ll get in during drop/add – calls Austria the “hub of Europe.” I don’t really like the word “hub,” so I’m going to try to avoid that term. (It’s just not a very euphonic word, you know? It’s boring.)
I’ve always been good with maps. When I was little, my parents and I would play a game where someone would name a country and I had to say which continent it was in, and I was damn good at that game. At 5, I knew things my 17-year-old sister still doesn’t know. The schools I went to before high school really pushed geography. I’ve labeled maps, pasted countries made out of construction paper together, and put puzzles where every piece was a different country together. And even though my high school curriculum covered very little geography (which wasn’t exactly a huge issue for me since geography has always made sense to me), I have had to make a few in high school for my AP history classes. Well, I didn’t physically draw the map of Europe for my European history class. That one I filled in while riding an Amtrak from Boston to New York.
Anyway, back to the point I was discussing in the first paragraph. Here’s a map of Central Europe, just so you (and I, since I definitely don’t have it memorized) can get a clearer picture of it.
Look at how many countries Austria brushes up against! I knew I’d be close to Germany (Innsbruck, where I’m staying, is an hour away from Germany) and some hours away from the Czech Republic, Italy (which isn’t in this map but borders Austria), and Slovenia, my latest obsession. I didn’t realize that so many countries are packed into Central Europe. (Actually that’s a lie. I’m fully aware that Central Europe’s demography has changed drastically since World War I. An easier way of explaining this? The pre-WWI map was way easier to fill in than the post-WWII one because I didn’t have to worry about all the names overlapping. So let’s just say that I forgot that so many countries are packed into this area. Literature and journalism are taking over my life, after all.) I’ve always wanted to go to Hungary – the name amused me when I was little, I’ll be honest, and I can just pull so many puns out of that one – and Croatia caught my attention a few years ago. The March issue of Conde Nast Traveler actually has a short story on Croatia, and oh good god that place is beautiful and so green. And Slovakia? I forgot that borders Austria.
So what’s the point? Well, I’d like to completely exploit the fact that I’ll be living somewhere so close to all these countries for six weeks. I can see places, watch people, eat different kinds of food, and get lots of stamps on my passport, which will make me feel really awesome about myself – I have this thing about passport stamps, okay? My passport is completely naked! Oh yeah, and I want to get shot classes from each country I visit. Central Europe would be a nice start to the collection. I’m in college, okay? It’ll be awesome.
So here’s to chaotic long weekends in other countries, new passport stamps to fawn over, and yes, new shot glasses.
Once upon a time, there was a lazy little fuck who bought some German-English dictionaries because she signed up for a study abroad program in Austria. Being a post-Fall human, she had a tragic flaw – she took forever to get around to accomplishing things she wasn’t getting graded for. Perhaps she procrastinated on learning German because English is a Germanic language – this girl was an English major, you see, and a damn good one at that. The truth is that this girl was either too lazy to get off the couch and watch Regular Show and Degrassi some other time, too busy stressing over her assignments for her journalism classes, or actually reading Paradise Lost and exercising for once. She was mostly on tumblr, though.
Obviously this girl is me. Is learning German hard? I don’t know if I’ll be very good at enunciating certain syllables harshly. I had a huge issue with that during my first few semesters of Persian class. I kind of sucked at rolling my tongue, which apparently occurs in the Middle East.
Enough about Farsi, though. I’ll be done with my language classes forever in four or five weeks unless I decide to take Old English since I’m a nut for roots. And do you know what will be a deciding factor in whether I take Old English? How my experience with learning and speaking German goes.
Now that I’m finally back on track, I can continue to worry about learning a little German, and whether my abilities will be any good in Austria and Germany if I get to go for a weekend.
Is German a hard language to learn? From my experience, I have a much easier time learning languages that share English’s alphabet. Spanish in elementary and high school was obviously a lot easier than Farsi in college. Plus there’s that whole “learning languages when you’re older is harder since your brain isn’t a sponge anymore” dynamic. But I’m smart, right? I’m pretty smart for a lazy person. I’m like a year ahead in English. Maybe I’ll actually crack one of these books open tonight even though the last time I did, I had a nightmare about being able to read Old English even though I knew more about it than anyone else in my AP English class, because my dream took place two years ago.
I’ll do it. The letters look funny in the Say It Right in GERMAN book, so at least that’ll amuse me.
And what a good call! I opened the book to the dessert section!
It’s official: I’m getting out of here.
My somewhat instantaneous decision to go apply for the Austria program worked out really well, and on June 29th, I will be en route to Munich (I’m assuming it will be June 30th by the time I land, so I won’t be flying directly to Austria until then.)
It has only very recently occurred to me that this is real. I won’t be sleeping until 2:00 or working a job I have zero passion for this summer – I’ll be breathing the world’s purest air and learning about expatriate writers in the Alps and running off to another country every other weekend or so. I also plan on getting fat, because if I’m going to spend six weeks in a country with some of the world’s best food (and its neighbors), I might as well put on some weight. Apparently there’s a cheese road that runs through Austria. Hopefully I’ll be writing all the time, but I think living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world will give me plenty of encouragement to press my fingers against a keyboard or take a pen to paper. I know people who are going, and they want to travel around Europe just like I do. I want to spend weekends in Vienna, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Or maybe Slovenia, or Croatia if it isn’t too far away. The point is that I’m going to go somewhere.
This trip is coming at a very good time for me. I’m very desperate to get away this summer – lots of issues are popping up in my circles of influence, and I’m dying to evade them. Some of my relationships have gone haywire. I’m also terrified that I’ll somehow end up a deadbeat.
At home, I have drugged out friends, a baby, and a father in the middle of his mid-life crisis to deal with. Thankfully, though, I get to spend six weeks focusing on literature, traveling, and eating as much as I can. Going away might not be a permanent escape from the stress I’ve been experiencing, but at least I have the chance to get away.
I guess there really wasn’t as much on my mind as I expected to type out. Just know that I’m excited.