When I talk about my abroad experience, I could tell you about so many things. I could talk about the way I was ready for the physical travel, but not ready for the lifelong friendships I would make. I could tell you about how I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock or the way I would fall irrefutably, indisputably in love with a country I didn’t initially know much about. I could tell you about how much I grew to respect the kind people of Vienna, or I could fill you in on how much I would struggle stumbling upon the German language—eventually deciding that German was what I wanted to minor in. However, I think the common thread among all of these things is that the most important quirk for anybody going abroad is to have an open mind and an open heart.
It may sound generic, but going abroad is so much more than traveling and having fun—it’s about being ok with having your skin stretched, your plans changed, and people getting to know you for who you are. It’s easy to think that this explanation sounds perfect and untainted. Easier said than done, I understand that.
On that note and in all reality, there were times this summer that I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the emotional rollercoaster I continually experienced. So many things happened that changed my heart and outlook on life forever, that at times I didn’t know how to handle it. And all I wanted to do was talk to my mom about it, but that was particularly hard given the seven hour time difference—so that really allowed me to confide in the people that I was on the trip with.
By the end of the trip, I had adapted to my Wien routine and wasn’t at all ready to leave. Wake up early, eat breakfast with my dear host family, head out to school via public transportation, grab a coffee on the way (European coffee is the best!), rush to class with my coffee, study hard and do homework, and then hang out with my friends until the day didn’t allow anymore socializing time.
I think the biggest take away from European culture that I really took to heart was the way they take value in their relationships with people. For instance, instead of sitting down at a restaurant and rushing to finish their food so they could get on their way, they would sit for an hour and half or two and just enjoy being with one another—no phones, just conversation. In the midst of being in a state where us abroad students didn’t have access to technology as much, it really helped set this routine into stone. Eventually I grew to love it because I came to know people so much better.
When I did come home, I’ll be frank and say that I did not have an easy time adjusting to being back. I missed everything about Austria, and I didn’t know how to adapt to being back in a familiar place that I felt so estranged from. Since then, it has taken a good long while to develop a routine and settle back into American culture.
I miss it every day, and I do dream about/plan on going abroad once again, but in the meantime I have been given an incredible opportunity (AUAB Internship) to supplement my passion for the abroad process. My heart in being an Auburn Abroad intern lies in uniting the Auburn Abroad Alum in sharing their experiences, but also being able to put their abroad experience to good use for their future. So, please stay tuned for the workshops and meetings that will take place this semester for Abroad Alum!!
Anna Cook ~ AU Liberal Arts Summer Program in Vienna, Austria ~ Summer 2016