Reflection on a Semester Abroad

Alright.  It’s December 6th, one week before the nurses leave.  

Time to jot down some thoughts.  I don’t know how accurately I’ll be able to express my thoughts, but I’m sure as hell going to try.

I mentioned it in my France post, but I’m so grateful for my time that I’ve been here.  For being 4 months, though, it sure feels like it’s flown by.  Maybe it’s the jam-packed weekend trips.  Maybe it’s the schoolwork.  Who really knows?  Anyways, I’m grateful.  And I’ve learned a lot.  Academically, culturally, socially.  About myself.  About others.  About what I want to do with my life.  But, in short, a lot.

To start, friends.  I’ve formed a bond with the almost forty other people that came on this trip to Salzburg.  A group of people that mostly didn’t know each other, thrown into a foreign country, into a different language, and into a different culture.  

And no, we’re not at each others’ throats!

The people I’ve gotten close to, and even the ones I didn’t, during this semester have honestly touched my life in ways that one would think I’ve known them for years.  Maybe it’s the deep talks.  Maybe it’s the travelling.  Maybe it’s the endless activities we’ve done as small groups.  Maybe it’s the RD meetings, and the interactions that come out of it with new people, many of whom we didn’t even know existed prior to this trip. Maybe it’s the trips to Augustinerbräu, Schnaitl, O’Malleys, Lemon Chili, or whatever restaurant or bar we end up at.  Or the trips to the market, or the Christmas markets, or the hikes, or the scavenger hunts, or the coffee shop study groups, or the late-night talks, or the movie nights, or the committee events.  Maybe it’s all of the above.  And maybe it’s just the genuine goodness of everyone on this trip.

I was warned prior to coming on this trip by one of my friends, Dagan, who went to Salzburg two years ago, to start the year off by vowing off any drama.  As he mentioned, drama spreads fast in a group of almost 40 people living in a very close environment.  And although occasionally a little bit of drama flows through the Center, almost everyone is pretty quick to get it out.  

The friends that I’ve met here have really impacted my life and made me feel, to put it simply, loved.  Whether it’s a mentally shitty night in Paris in which my friends came to comfort me and offered all of the support that I could possibly hope for, or being invited out to a restaurant, café, or bar with a group I didn’t normally talk to, the people in Salzburg just made me feel genuinely loved.  Or the Active Minds activities, like Compliment Communism.  Whatever it is, the Salzburgers always knew how to make everyone feel good.  I don’t know of a better group of people – even the people I didn’t get particularly close with are so nice and friendly and just overall amazing people.  And that’s not to mention the NON-UP people I met!  

I’ve met so many wonderful non-UP people during this semester, whether it’s at a Stammtisch at Augustiner where we meet a Czech guy and a Brazilian guy, or the French and Italian girls we met at the same Stammtisch, or the guy from Montana that we met at O’Malleys, or the Salzburgers I talk to in German there, or whatever.  And most of all, I met Christina, Flo, and Lukas!  They’re all three from Vienna, and Christina is one of my former roommate’s (at UP) and my friend’s cousins, and Flo and Lukas are her friends.  That was confusing.  She’s the cousin of my roommate’s and my friend from UP.  There we go.  I met them while we were in Vienna but didn’t go out with the big group that went out, but thankfully they’ve taken a few trips out to Salzburg and I’ve become good friends with them.  They’re a huge part of the Salzburg family, and the trips that they make out to Salzburg always manage to brighten everyone’s moods.  They’re just so much fun to be around and they’re all just such great people.  Matter of fact, all of the people I’ve met through this program are.  The professors, Katilyn (the RD), Dr. Horcicka, Frau Strobl, the students.  Really, minus maybe that guy getting mad at me at Oktoberfest, the drunk lady yelling at us in Vienna, and the people trying to pickpocket me in Paris, I don’t think I’ve really met a bad person here.  So that’s a pretty good track record.

Academically and culturally, I can tell my German is getting better, since I’ve been using it almost everywhere now, and I regularly talk with Austrians and my roommate in German.  Thankfully, they’re pretty nice about it and they’re willing to talk back and forth, and it’s a lot of fun when the conversation gets into “unknown territory” where I have to guess what’s going on to follow.  Ich dachte, dass ich einen Absatz auf Deutsch schreiben sollte, also los geht’s?  Ich habe eine Präsentation gemacht, über die Besatzung der Österreich und Salzburg, zwischen 1945 und 1955.  Ich habe über die Übergabeverhandlungen, ,,Leben in Hungrigen Zeiten,” die Moskauer Deklaration, die Wohnungsnot,  die Wirtschaft, das Ende der Besatzung, der Österreichische Staatsvertrag und viel mehr gesprochen.  Es war sehr schwer, aber das Buch, dass ich gelesen hatte, Welcome Ami, Go Home, war sehr interessant.  Wir haben auch ,,Die Physiker” gesehen, und Andrés hat über das gesprochen, und es war auch sehr interessant.  Ich habe nicht so viel verstanden, aber das ist ziemlich OK, weil ich Deutsch letztes Jahr angefangt habe.  Also, ja, mein Deutsch ist nicht Perfekt, aber vor 5 Monate war es sehr schlimmer als jetzt.  

Anyways, in terms of learning about myself, I’ve definitely learned what I want to do with my life.  I really hope that, after I graduate, hopefully with a poli-sci/German double major, that I’ll be able to do grad work over here.  Grad work at the Universität Salzburg costs $1652, if you’re there for two years.  So around $413 per semester.  Compared to UP’s ~$30,000 per semester?  I’d say that’s pretty good.  

I’ve also learned to put things into perspective.  When everything goes wrong on a trip (like in Florence), on the bright side, we’re still in Europe, we haven’t had anything stolen, and we ended up making it to our destination.  Sure, it was a pain to get there, but we did it!  Or in Linz, where we got stuck overnight – it ended up being a really good experience with good people!

Overall, I’m just really glad this program has happened.  It’s brought me so much joy, lasting memories, and lifelong friends.  I’m very grateful to be where I’m at in life and this program has definitely impacted my future in the best way possible, I already know it.

I created a video to showcase the people of 1st semester, and you can find it here.  Or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1_Qe5eOqG0 if the hyperlink doesn’t work.

And here’s another video that one of my friends, Camryn, did. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAR3jgXsHPE if the hyperlink doesn’t work) Check it out!  It’s a really good video and it showcases some of the fun stuff that’s happened over the semester.  

Well, that’s all for now I guess.  Onto the next semester!

Mit Liebe aus Europa, hauptsächlich aus Salzburg,

Cal

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