Hallo! I have been in Austria for almost a month now, and what a wild and incredible journey it has been so far. Every few days I’ll pass by an especially German-sounding street sign or see a well-behaved child and think, “Wow, I’m actually living here for the next few months.” I don’t even know who Arkansas is anymore. Totally kidding. But not really. Graz feels like home.
For the last two and a half weeks, I have been in a German intensive course with twenty other lovely international students including Lexi. Three hours a day, five days a week with only a fifteen minute break has produced some of my best memories on this trip thus far. I had anticipated monotonous work and lagging hours, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find myself in a family-like environment. We’ve spent so much time together that we almost had to grow close as a group. We’re all terrible (and I mean TERRIBLE) at German, and our dear teacher, Martina, loves to remind us. Being the kiss-up that I am, I sit in the front row where I am constantly called upon to answer questions or practice conversation responses. I’m not called on because I’m exceptionally good, heaven’s no, ahahahaha. There is not enough schnitzel in the world for me to be able to count the amount of times I have heard, “Nein, Emily!”, “Acht, nein!”, or my personal favorite, “This is not a guessing game, Emily!” I was terrified and almost peed the first time I was yelled at, but I now know that this is how Martina shows she cares and I will truly miss hearing my name used in exasperation by a short Austrian woman at her wit’s end with the falsely confident American. We’re basically best friends.
Aside from my undying friendship with Martina, I have met so many people here that I have had the pleasure of getting to know and forming connections with. I’ve inserted myself into Brett and Lexi’s buddy groups who have kindly welcomed me in with open-arms. I quickly became close to the people in both groups and we see each other almost everyday. They’re a goofy bunch. (Word of advice though, if you’re ever on an elevator with Patrick, don’t let him jump or you’ll be stuck on there for over two hours slowly dying from lack of oxygen. A tad dramatic, but 10/10 would not recommend.) Something I have learned about life here is that everyone is insanely social. I love to go out, but oh my goodness the amount of money I’ve spent on food is something to cry at. I’m okay with my steadily decreasing bank account, though, because I’ve made so many memories with incredible people and discovered that my favorite food is Turkish kebaps. They SLAP.
One of my biggest struggles since being here has been public transportation. Coming from a life of cars and driving everywhere even if it’s just across the street, I’ve had to adjust to checking bus times, taking connections, doing a mash-up of bus and tram journeys, and so on. Not gonna lie, I’ve gotten lost many times, but it makes for fun stories so I’m not too upset. A lot of people walk or bike, but mine and Lexi’s flat is outside of the city center so we would basically be doing marathons multiple times a day to get anywhere. So please tell the Europeans to stop making fun of us for not walking. We’re trying our best.
Finals for German are this next week and normal course begin the next. Eek. I’m excited and stressy for whatever this semester holds, but I know that I’ll grow and change for the better through it all. I have loved every second of this first month-even being stuck on the elevator-and I hope I never get over the disbelief of my living here. I already know it’s going to be incredibly difficult to leave this beautiful city and beautiful people at the end of summer. But until that day comes, I’m going to keep blowing money on kebaps and making lasting memories with new friends.