After roughly a combined total of 15 hours traveling, I finally made it to Graz, Austria. The plane ride from Chicago to Graz was roughly 8.5 hours. I spent those hours trying (the key word is try) to sleep, watching various German movies, and practicing what I wanted to say by the time the flight attendant reached me with her cart full of drinks and asked “Was möchten Sie trinken?”.
We (Caleb & I) arrived in Vienna at 8:12AM local time. Luckily, two heads are always better than one, and we navigated from the airport in Vienna, to Wien Westbanhof (Vienna’s West Station), onto our Flixbus which took us directly to Graz, and to our hostel for the first night. When we got to the hostel it was roughly 2:30PM, and because of the jet lag we were ready to call it a night. However, we powered through, and decided that sinking down into our beds probably is not the best idea. Instead, we got ready and met Caleb’s mentor, Jasmin, and she took us to the campus for the very first time. It was dark and cold, but the architecture of the main building was still magnificent given the lack of lighting. During the day time the main building is even more beautiful. Jasmin took us to grab a bite to eat, and then later we went back to the hostel and then around 8PM our eyelids became heavier and we couldn’t fight the jet lag any longer.
The next following days we had our welcome week and German placement exams, both oral and written. The test was computer-generated, and quite frankly it felt like the “fill in the blank” worksheets that I have done in Frau Haulmark’s class at Tech. Let me tell you, those that are familiar with the German language will feel my pain, but those who aren’t, please never take for granted the definite articles “the & a” in English. In German, there are many, based on gender, and their usage is contingent upon so many factors. Just believe me when I say that those exams were no joke. I also had the privilege of meeting my mentor Victoria who is a native Austrian. She’s been an incredible amount of help, and I cannot speak more highly of the Erasmus Student Network here at Uni Graz, and the help that it provides for incoming students. Victoria has been helping me get settled in, learn how to get around, and with understanding norms. Today was the first day of the intensive German course, the teacher spoke only in German, and we (the students) weren’t allowed to speak our own language. It was interesting being in a class with people from all over the world. I think there is something endearing about being around other people who aspire to learn German. I met some people from countries like Slovenia, Portugal, South Korea, and Japan. As a TESOL minor, it was enlightening being able to watch people of all different language backgrounds come together to learn the same language.
It’s been a short 3 days here in Graz, but I have already observed so many things, learned new words, and most importantly, have spoken more German than I ever have before. I look forward to finding more ways to express myself in German, and gaining real intercultural competence. For fun, I’ll leave you with four interesting observations I have made thus far:
- I’ve learned that by greeting people with “Guten Tag”, people automatically know that I am not from around here, even though I’m speaking German, and that “Grüß Gott” is a much more common greeting.
- Apparently “lol” isn’t a thing here, but ^^ is the equivalent when texting.
- Dogs get to basically go wherever their owners go, so if you have a dog, and you regret leaving him at home, might I suggest a trip to Austria with your dog.
- Different dialects and accents make understanding a language you’re trying to understand WAY harder, but they’re extremely interesting to hear.