One should never disregard an opportunity presented for an adventure. After all, you never know where it might take you until after you’re at the end!
It is a challenge to put into words the exact feeling which stirs in oneself and pushes those certain individuals to travel. Certainly, it is not present in everyone. Nor would this make sense for it to be: for this would encroach on the individuality of a human. But nevertheless, it is just this desire which has drawn me away to explore a new country and embrace a new culture in an environment which I would have never before imagined finding myself in.
Before my departure, people who heard of my activities for this upcoming year were so impressed by the exact place I was going. While I have no desire to take away from the grandeur of starting completely fresh in another place with a brand new culture, I think it is key to note that what has impressed itself most upon me in the short time I have been away from the States are the people whom I have encountered.
I believe that in my mind I am only now beginning to grasp the realization that my subconscious has been hinting at this entire time: studying abroad is not so much about the place or exactly what you do or where you go; it’s about the experience and what makes it for you.
I have now been in Vienna, Austria for just shy of a full week. This is following a week-long venture along the South and East coasts of Iceland en route to my Fall destination. In a city such as this [Vienna], it takes less than a day for one to come to the realization that they cannot possibly soak in all this city has to offer in a mere semester; or a year; or perhaps even a lifetime.
This place is one of culture and history. But perhaps the most enchanting part of it all is, even tracing back through the lineages of rulers and battles, the history is not stagnant but is, in fact, taking place on these very grounds which have served as the setting for conflict and compromise for hundreds of years before us.
Austria is a place which celebrates its rich history while embracing the onset of the future. Walking through the streets of the city center, it is impossible not to stop for a few moments and stare in awe at the brilliantly patterned roof of Stephan’s Cathedral, the millions of books stored in the Austrian National Library—some of which date back to the 1500’s!—or the unique combination of Baroque and Gothic era architecture which line the city streets.
Vienna is a grand place: but it doesn’t rely on a single strength to carry itself—it gives you a full sampling and then asks you what you would like more of. Whether it be food, culture, or simply a good place to get some work done, Vienna has something for everyone.
Contributing to what makes this city consistently one of the most liveable in the world is its vast amount of green space (over 51%!). Unlike… certain places (cough, A&M), during the warm summer months leading up to cold, white winters, locals and tourists alike can be found laid out on bright green park grass all over Vienna soaking in the day and the atmosphere. This is just what a couple of friends and myself indulged ourselves in during our first weekend here.
Life here is enriching. With an open mind, nothing seems out of reach.
The majority of people here live ordered lives. However, one should never count a Viennesian out when planning an adventure….
The easily accessible countryside makes day hiking (or, in German, ‘wandern’) incredibly accessible and popular. What better way to clear one’s mind than to take a train ride to the Austrian Alps and spend a day traversing the winding trails! Even if one does not wish to or have the time to travel to one of the nearby villages, there are also plenty of opportunities within the city itself such as visits to the Tiergarten Schönbrunn—the oldest zoo in the world—, wandering around the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, or even a quick visit to Prater Park (which is conveniently located less than 5 minutes walking from my flat!).
I do not know what the remainder of my semester here will hold: but I am looking forwards to a great many more adventures.
From walking through streets laced with history and music, to laying in a park on a warm sunny day, or exploring a neighboring town to hike through vineyards and taste the local wine, Vienna has no shortage of places to fill ones heart, mind, and stomach.
My words cannot possibly paint a nice enough picture for the mind and my ramblings cannot come close to capturing the essence of the adventures I have had here in such a short span of time; but one can be sure that even when caught in the midst of those times which may seem overwhelming, a bit of a desire for adventure and a willingness to step out into the unknown can sweep one away on an unforgettable and completely worthwhile experience.
Wherever a person finds themselves, there will inevitably be challenges which will rise up to face them. These obstacles may be big, they may even seem insurmountable at times.
However, it is at such times as these that the words of Tom Hanks seem most prevalent: “If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” -A League of Their Own
No one promised an easy ride and no one is promising a smooth one—but it’s the bumps in the road and the perseverance through them that are what make memories. It’s the hint of sour that brings out the sweetness in life.
Any major change in a person’s life—an exchange semester most certainly included—will certainly come with its challenges. This presents an incredible opportunity to overcome.
My journey abroad still has quite a ways to go. It has already had its own portion of challenges and triumphs. But wherever the road takes me, I will do my best to live in the moment, to love the life I’m living, and to look forwards to the next opportunity—whatever it may be. Don’t sell yourself short when your greatest adventure may be the one waiting just over the next hill!
The Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace
A Quaint Church in the middle of a Vineyard hike
Castle in Leobendorf
I guess there’s this too…. (St. Stephen’s Cathedral)
A shot from our bird show near Leobendorf