One month ago, I wrote an article from the United States, preparing to go abroad. One month from today, I will be in a completely different country about to start my studies there, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I wanted to take some time today to reflect on some things I've learned in my time in Vienna thus far, and living abroad as a whole.
First off, I've learned how quickly you adapt to a foreign country when necessary.
A moment my friends and I always laugh about is how on our first day, our Resident Director had to go teach after he had finished showing us around, so he showed us the name of the bus station we had to get off at on his phone, said goodbye, and left. From that moment on, we were left to fend for ourselves and honestly, I think we've done a pretty great job.
In just one month, I've traveled outside of the country four times, use the S-bahn, U-bahn, and busses multiple times a day, gone to countless restaurants, museums, etc. etc., and of course, gone to class every day, where I've been able to study German with people from all over the world. Needless to say, I was forced to adapt quickly and it's worked well thus far.
Things being so fast paced however, has taught me that it's okay to be gentle with yourself if it takes a little time for certain things to go your way.
It's okay if you hop on the U-bahn going in the opposite direction than you wanted. It's okay if a waiter starts talking to you in English, even when you are trying to use your German (which, let it be noted, is one of the most insulting things to happen while abroad, but I digress).
Greater than that, it's okay if you take the day off when you need rest. Take today, for example. After a weekend away, I am a bit more tired and not feeling 100%.
Yes, there is a whole city out there to be taken advantage, but I also need to take care of myself in order to be able to do more exploring in the future.
Being in class 9-12 every day and having the rest of the day to explore is great, but I tend to put pressure on myself to be doing things ALL the time, which frankly, is not necessary. I can still experience Vienna and wherever I go next while still taking time to pause. In fact, I'd venture to say that having so much time on my hands is meant to teach me to slow down and simply enjoy where I am now.
This article would be remiss if I didn't touch upon staying in contact with people at home while abroad. To be quite honest, it's difficult. Six hours time difference makes things tricky, but I've learned that people will make time when they can. Even if it means texting your roommate right when you wake up (and when she's about to fall asleep), it's more than possible to make it work. I will admit I am not speaking to all of my loved ones as much as I'd like, but I'd like to think they know how much I love and care about them always and I've been beyond lucky of everyone being understanding of me living out my dreams.
I am experiencing so much over here and I must say it's difficult sometimes to articulate how much this trip is impacting me.
I truly feel I am growing every day, learning how to live independently in a country on my own, creating a sort of family with the three other people in my program (we are the most mismatched group you'd ever find, and I wouldn't have it any other way), having my English decline as I become more and more immersed in the German (I actually find it easier to journal in German at this point), and so many more little things.
I always thought the people who joke "abroad changed me" were so dramatic, yet there is something magical about the streets of a foreign country and the freedom that comes with studying here. I am beyond grateful that my program happens to be longer than most, giving me even more time to discover more about myself and the countries I find myself in. I am beyond excited for what's to come and for all the ways in which I can continue to grow.
Here's to four more months of exploring.