Hallo, everybody! I think it comes as no surprise to learn that a lot has changed since the last time I have updated given everything that is happening right now. To begin this post, I would like to say that I, along with Lexi and Brett, am back in Arkansas as of a few days ago. I am still trying to process everything that has happened not only to us, but to the majority of the world, and I am at a loss for how fast things have changed.
Going back a couple of weeks ago, we received our Visas and were finally legal to study in Austria (woohoo!) so the next few months were becoming even more real and exciting as our stay in Graz became validated. Classes began the following week so I was able to meet more people and experience what classes at Uni Graz would look like (aside from Martina’s excellent lessons in Intensive German, of course). Not all of my classes scheduled a meeting that week, but I was excited to spend the semester with the professors I did meet. My German Language professor, for example, was the absolute cutest lady that designed a board game for us to play on our first day. I lost to no one’s surprise. Ahaha. But seeing this different method of teaching, even if it was for a first day activity, provided me with a glimpse into alternative instruction I myself could use in the classroom or simply use to compare to teaching methods I’m already familiar with. And as a language-learning student, loser or not, I thought it was a pretty rockin’ way to practice German.
For when I didn’t have class, I had arranged a small teaching assistant job for the duration of my stay in Austria at a primary school not far from Graz. I met with the headmaster of the school at the beginning of February, and we had arranged for me to come to the school every Friday beginning on March 6th. I’ve touched on my perils with public transportation in earlier posts, so please congratulate me on my success in arriving to my first day of work thirty minutes early. *patting myself on the back because nobody else did* I immediately fell in love with the school as soon as I met the staff. It’s a small school with about thirteen teachers in total and around a hundred students, and they are all adorable. And small. I felt like a giant. Maybe I am. Anywho, the teachers were excited and nervous to practice English with me, and the students looked at me as though I was magical, which really boosted my self-esteem. We played English games, sang songs, read books together, and learned dances all in the span of four hours. And I loved every second of it.
The days following March 6th proceeded normally. We hung out with our friends, ate a lot of food (kebaps), and enjoyed the beautiful sights Graz has to offer. Typical, happy things. On Tuesday, March 10th, we received news that the Austrian government decided to close all Austrian universities until further notice to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Uni Graz sent out word that their courses would be converted to online in the coming weeks. Brett, Lexi, and I contacted Frau Haulmark at Arkansas Tech to provide her with an update on our sitch and inquire as to what we should do next as the lost puppies we were. We decided as a group that it would be best for us to return to Arkansas so that we would not lose any credits and be set back in our hours. March 20th became our new departure date and we began our sad preparations. We spent a lot of time with the friends we had grown so close to in the short amount of time we’d been there and making plans for our last weekend in Europe. A week and a half seemed like a short amount of time to take care of eveything we needed to, but we made ourselves ready for it.
However. Ahahahahahahhahahaha. We were thrown for a big ol’ loop when by March 12th we learned about the travel ban that would be put into effect at midnight on March 13th. When I say it was speedy turbo, I mean that we. were. running. The flat we were going to pack up gradually throughout the week was done in a night. The extra-large suitcases that were still stowed away under desks and inside wardrobes were yanked out of their slumber and given the devastating news that they were about to be man-handled by four different airports. The good-byes that weren’t supposed to be fast happened in a matter of hours with promises of seeing one another soon.
It’s crazy to think how attached I became to this city and these people that I’d only known for not even two months. I had made a life for myself and expected to be there for many more months, but sometimes life is funny that way. It’s no one’s fault that I had to end my study abroad experience early. So much is happening in the world right now and everyone is being affected in some way or another. Many have experienced loss due to this virus, and this was mine. I had the most amazing experience in Graz, Austria prior to my departure, and though I wish with all of the kebaps to ever grace my body I had been able to stay for the duration of the semester, I wouldn’t trade these last couple of months for anything. My semester has been a crazy ride with excitement, wonder, and screams of terror (landing in America, for example), and I’ll remember all of it.
I’d like to say a quick thank you to both Uni Graz and Arkansas Tech for working with us to ensure that we were and are well taken care of physically, mentally, and most importantly, in terms of our education. Both universities have been immensely helpful in providing us with assistance in receiving our course credits so that we do not get behind. It’s been a stressful week, but the transition between schools and assurance in our credit hours has taken a huge load of stress off of these three Arkansans, and we are so appreciative of the help.
Austria, I’ll be back. I’m sorry. That was a terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger joke. My apologies. But really. This isn’t the last you’ll see of me, I can assure you. I fell too deeply in love with the country and met people too amazing to give it all up.