As you all know, circumstances have changed completely considering the COVID-19 pandemic and I have returned home early from Austria. I hope everyone had a well-rested and healthy spring break with everything going on.
My last couple of weeks in Graz were a whirlwind of challenges and emotions I was never expecting to happen so soon. After hearing news of other programs, for example in Italy, being sent home due to the dangers of coronavirus, Lexi, Emily, and I were preparing to possibly come back to the U.S. early. Thankfully, we had been in close contact with Frau Haulmark, the ATU Study Abroad coordinator, who kept us in the loop on everything going on. I am very grateful to ATU and Frau Haulmark for making sure we felt safe and well informed throughout the entire process of coming home early. After hearing news of the Europe travel ban along with increasing infected numbers throughout Europe, I, alongside ATU, made the decision to pack up and fly back.
With this unexpected turn of events and the craziness of rescheduling flights, packing, and saying goodbyes, I found several moments to enjoy since my study abroad experience was being cut so short. I adventured back up to Schlossberg to get one last view of the city and made final walks around the University and the city square. I was able to go to the city park as well and say goodbyes to several great friends I had made in such a short period of time. Reflecting on my 7 weeks in Graz, I am so thankful for all the memories I made and everything I learned.
Readjusting back to the States was extremely different with everything going on, because as soon as I arrived home, I had to go into a 14-day self-quarantine. I have just now finished this period, but not much has changed as we all should be staying home and social distancing! However, I still have been noticing cultural differences within the home (like why do we Americans wear shoes indoors??? It just doesn’t make sense). I’m looking forward to when the challenges of this pandemic pass and I can reconnect with work, friends, and school.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that I will return to Austria in the future. The life I had made for myself there completely on my own is something I’m very proud of! I’ve gained new independence and confidence in myself and with others. I can’t wait to see where that helps me with wherever life takes me. I am thankful again for the opportunity I had to go and the connections I’ve made all over the world. For now, I’m grateful to be home, safe, and healthy and hope everyone can do the same!
See you soon, Graz!