I’m writing this post curled up in my house in Houston, Texas. After 3 1/2 months abroad it is really nice to be home with family and friends but there is still a part of me that longs to be back in Vienna. After getting home I had time to reflect on my time abroad and I can’t help but smile and get a little nostalgic. People say that studying abroad changes you but I never thought it would change me in all the ways that it did.

Studying abroad gave me a new found passion to travel – I discovered new cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. I had the opportunity to travel to seven different countries while studying abroad. I went to France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia & Czech Republic. It opened my eyes to all the different cultures there are in this world, I not only am dying to go back to Europe but I would love to explore places like Asia or South America. I feel as though we often get so caught up being American or even Texas A&M culture that we forget all that is out there. It also made me realize I would much rather spend my money on experiencing what this world has to offer rather than spending money on temporary materialistic things. Don’t get me wrong, I still love shopping and getting a cute new outfit, but there is so much more out there. Spending money on experiences will last a lifetime, the materialistic things only bring temporary happiness.

While studying abroad at WU, I met so many amazing people. I was expecting a lot more people from America if I’m being honest. But I was pleasantly surprised at how many people weren’t from America. I made friends from Ireland, Japan, Hong Kong, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Israel, and so many more amazing countries. I loved sitting down and comparing the two countries, talking everything from politics to day to day life. It was fascinating and everyone was so intrigued that I was from Texas. I was asked quite a bit why I didn’t have an accent, but I was made fun of because I said y’all (I don’t think I can ever not say y’all, it’s pretty much engraved into my head forever). I loved learning about peoples beliefs and religions, everyone was so respectful of each other which was really refreshing. In America a lot of times it seems as though no matter what your views are on (especially in politics), there is someone bashing you for your beliefs. In Austria everyone is quite respectful no matter what you believe.

Another thing that I wasn’t expecting to learn was how environmentally friendly everyone was in Austria. Mostly everyone recycles, stores don’t even carry plastic bags (you have to pay for paper bags, but most people bring reusable bags) and there is less waste overall. I even went to a Fridays for Future climate strike inspired by Greta Thunberg. It was so cool seeing people from all ages and life come and meet up for one special cause.

I loved that studying abroad made me become more independent. I always liked to think of myself as an independent person, as in I could go to the grocery store by myself or run errands by myself. After being abroad I truly believe that I became independent and confident in myself. I spent a lot of my days commuting and doing things randomly by myself. Yes of course I made friends and spent a lot of time with them, but the everyday things I learned to love to do myself. I lived in a 2 bedroom dorm with my friend Danielle (we got so close through study abroad and I know we will be life long friends, already planning a reunion). Our school schedules were sadly pretty much the opposite, whenever she was gone I was home and vice versa – therefore the everyday commute, the everyday breakfast and lunch was primarily spent alone. I learned to love doing things by myself. I became so much more confident from the first time walking the city alone to the last time walking the city alone. I remember thinking about 2 weeks in from starting studying abroad that I would never be able to understand the city without a map and someone by my side, by the last month or so I could pretty much go anywhere without my phone or someone by side.

There is something so freeing about being able to get around a somewhat unknown city without anyone’s help – including my phone. One of my favorite things about doing things alone was truly being able to experience the city, the people and the culture. Sometimes whenever you’re around people you get distracted and can talk about random things and not truly embrace what you’re looking at, but when you’re alone you can embrace every little thing. You notice the details and you feel like a local.

I took my first solo day trip to Salzburg which was easily one of my favorite travel experiences while abroad. I woke up about 5 a.m and lugged my giant backpack and my to-go coffee I bought the night before and walked to the train station. The train ride was about 4 hours or so from Vienna and I loved looking around and seeing who was on the train. I remember it was a pretty vacant ride but I definitely saw lots of Austrian natives, business men and women and a few small families. Life in Austria is at a much slower pace than America, although they get things done everything is less stressful there. After the train ride I got off and explored Salzburg on foot, which was incredible. It was such a beautiful little city. I ate lunch alone and got a coffee and talked with the owner of the food place. Although every once in a while I’d get stares that I was alone – I genuinely didn’t care because I was in Salzburg drinking a cappuccino embracing my the experience. I will forever want to go to back to that blissful moment. I also did the Sound of Music Tour which was my childhood dream! It was amazing and I ended up meeting two incredible girls who we ended up having mutual friend. I also sat next to a sweet mother next to me which we talked most of the time talking about what the almost 55 year old movie meant to each of us. It was truly such a special trip and I loved that I had that experience to myself. Don’t get me wrong I love traveling with people and gaining that experience with someone, but doing something alone and figuring everything out for yourself is truly so special.

(Picture of Vienna Christmas Markets -people travel from all over the world to come these famous markets!)

I am beyond lucky to have been able to study abroad I truly believe that this past semester has and will forever shape who I am. Being abroad will forever inspire me to evolve, learn, grow and never stay consistent. I will forever want to travel and meet people and learn cultures, there is so much more out there than we know.

I am so thankful that A&M allowed me to study abroad this past fall. I will forever hold the memories I made, the lessons I learned, and the people I met so close to my heart. Vienna will forever be a home away from home and I am looking forward to the day that I can return to the beautiful city of music. Until next time Vienna. Auf Wiedersehen Wien ♡.