Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reflections Far Away from Home.

This has been an amazing experience all around. Five days left. I am excited to go home. However there is a part of me that will always want to come back here. I would love ot come back with my family, and close friends.

The has been no limit to the access of knowledge that has been obtained here. Every single student has learned a lot about themselves, has been introduced to a larger spectrum of life, and has learned many lessons that they never would have had an oppertunity to learn back in America.

I have had a great time here, making friends with people I have only seen around campus, or who I have never known before. These friendships will be life long. Being able to travel as a class and on our own with our fellow classmates who are now friends, has been one of the best parts. In traveling with the other students and teachers we have been able to learn more about each other which reflects and adds to our knowledge about the world.

This opportunity has allowed me to do freelance on an educational/ real life level, it has allowed me to travel to places I hope to see again, I have been able to engage in classes I never would have taken.

I will always be hopeful of returning to Innsbruck and Wien with the ones I love and who are a part of my life back home. To return and share the knowledge I have gained, and also learn from the experience we may share returning here.
I hope every student is able to take a piece of this far away land and share it with the ones they love most.


How can you start to sum up 3 months of traveling in Europe when you've done so much। There's many lessons, experiences, and aspects that have made up this trip, and it's easiest to categorize my reflections।

I woke up in Rindge, New Hampshire for 5 semesters to go to the same buildings and sometimes have the same professors। The biggest change is what I'm doing after class। I'm still in class here but when I get free time, I can wander Europe। Besides the class trips to Salzburg, Innsbruck, Munich, Bavaria, Paris, and Prague, I managed to go to Venice, Rome, Semmering, Budapest, Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, Krakow, Auschwitz, Zilina, and many other little places along the way। It's been amazing to see the world. I loved traveling on my own at points because I can do what I want. I've heard from others that they didn't have a good time at places because they were held back by friends and their desire to do other things. When alone, I can do what I want to do and not feel like I was held back.

I am a mass communication major and I love that this trip was all about mass communication। I have watched so many European films that I never would have seen in America because we don't really get them। This trip has opened my eyes to the rest of the world and see what is beyond the American borders that doesn't get imported in। I know many people that can't stand subtitled movies because they can't get over the fact that they have to read the translation the whole movie. Honestly, I really haven't watched an English spoken movie in 3 months so when I go back to the states it will feel like something is missing. I feel that once you get into the movie, the subtitles aren't even thought about. You almost forget that it's a foreign film because you get so used to it. I'm glad I've watched so many foreign films.

I don't know how somethings happen sometimes, but I've noticed someone is always looking after me। I seem to get into situations that could end badly, but something always makes them swing in my favor. There are so many examples that I feel it's honestly its own category. I'm in Slovakia in a Eurail Pass deadzone, meaning my ticket is invalid. I was confronted by train authorities and they told me I had to pay a fine for fraud ($160), then the actual ticket ($100). After explaining my situation to them for 10-15 minutes, he just smiled and said, "Sit anywhere you want. Don't worry about it." It could have been bad, but it worked out for me. Another time is just recently... I overdrew my bank account and they charged me $117 in overdraft fees. After calling up the bank and explaining my situation, they told me many times that they can't do anything about it because it wasn't a bank error. I got a little personal with the representative and the supervisor and then the manager... I explained I took complete responsibility for my mistake, but I was asking them a favor and eventually they rebated me the overdraft fees. So many stories like this have happened here, and I know I'm alone a lot of the times, but sometimes I feel someone or something is always looking over me. I guess Karma is working for me.

Missing Home:
This is the longest I've ever been away from home। Yes, I'm in college I'm 1 1/2 hours from home... but I can always go back home on the weekends or when I want. This is 3 months without my mom, dad, sister, other relatives, and my girlfriend. I'm so grateful that my girlfriend stayed by me even though I left for Europe. She has always been supportive. I respect that so much and it honestly has built our relationship more because we met new people and never once wanted someone else. We know how strong our relationship is and how in love we are, and we waited for each other and that showed me a lot about how strong our love is. We webcam everyday, talk on the phone when I'm on excursions, but nothing is the same as being able to touch or see her right in front of me. Less than 1 week left and I can't wait to actually be able to hold her in my arms again.

Final exams are coming up and the end of the semester abroad. It has been an amazing time and I recommend this trip to anyone. It is the best time of your life because you experience the way people live in a land far from yours. I am so glad I came. I learned so much.

Monday, May 4, 2009

a lil bit

jon is here

Reflections on my semester in Vienna

While I was in Vienna, I learned how to live on my own in a city. I'm from a small town in Massachusetts and living in a large city in a foreign country taught me how to take care of myself and others around me. Learning how to travel was a great experience, especially in Europe. I found it quite easy to travel by train or plane. I'm used to driving every where in the States, but being on my own, finding the airport and getting there on time taught me how to managed my time wisely. I was studying here, so I had homework. I started out procrastinating, waiting until the last minute to do my work, but I realized that this was dumb. While I was in doing work, my friends were out enjoying the weather and the sites.

I enjoyed traveling. I know what it takes to plan long trips and I know how to pack light and be prepared. (zip ties came in handy). I very much enjoyed traveling to all the places I went to because I know this is a once in a lifetime experience. Even when I felt under the weather, or I didn't feel like going out, I mustered up the energy to get up and get out and 99% of the time it was the right call. I enjoyed Europe and all the culture it had to offer. I understand the world a little bit better now from being abroad for a semester.

Reflecting On a Semester in Vienna

Living in Vienna, Austria for a semester is a part of my life that I will never forget. I was able to travel around Europe, learn new languages, experience different cultures, and learn how to be around the same 12 people 24/7 for a semester.

My favorite part about studying abroad was being able to learn about paintings, statues, or historical information on a country and actually be there to really visualize these things. We recently went to Prague, which is the capital of the Czech Republic. Before we left we watched movies and talked about communism, then actually went to a country where this actually existed. We visited a museum on communism and had a tour around the city where major events occured, and actually being able to be there made a major impact on my learning experience. I was able to skype with my mom and tell her everything I learned, such as how we stood on the spot where a teenager actually burned himself to death to make a statement. It is a much better learning experience abroad because you just don't read something out of a book and get tested on it, but you visually see it.

I was able to go to Rome, Venice, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Munich, Paris, Athens, and some Eastern European countries that weren't really planned. Speaking different languages and eating different food was a lot of fun. Traveling with different people is always interesting because someone might want to visit somewhere that I never even thought of going.

I have made many new friends here in Austria that I hope to keep in touch with, even one from England. Everyone has been really nice when we travel or get lost. For example, when we went to Athens for spring break we had to find our apartment. Not speaking any Greek, we took out our map and tried to figure it out, but a couple came up to us immediately and showed us the right way, and even spoke English. People in Europe may say they don't like Americans, but for the most part they are excited to have visitors and show us their culture.

With only a week left, I look back on my entire experience of being here and I feel great about it. I hardly travel when I am in America and to think of how much I traveled here makes me happy. I never thought that the 5 years of French I took, would actually come in handy, where I can actually communicate with people who speak that language. I will miss living here in Vienna, Austria, and I am excited to say that this experience has really helped me mature. I will never forget it!!

Can't I stay in Vienna forever, and just bring all my friends and family here?

Wow!!! Its almost time to 8 days I will be back in America.

I'm so excited to see all my friends and family and tell them all about my times here. However I do not want to leave. I want to bring the city back with me or bring everybody from back home to Vienna. Even though the time spent here is almost over, and the sun is setting on amazing time; the colors the sun casts up are beautiful, and I appreciate that beauty.

Before I reflect on my times here, I want to say that I am so thankful and appreciate that FPU offers such an amazing opportunity to study abroad. Honestly, if you're a student reading this considering if you want to study in Vienna...DO IT!!!! Its the best thing that I've ever experienced. Its not every day an opportunity like this comes around. Living in Europe for three months, taking a few classes, AND getting credits for it. Whats better than that?? I cant think of too many things.

Okay, so, looking back, time has flown by. I remember saying, "We've only been here for two weeks, it feels like forever." Well now it feels like I said that only a few days ago. There is so much I still want to experience here. When it was rainy, cold and snowy it was hard to want to go out and explore. But ever since the weather has gotten better, I've been outside every chance I can get.

Since being here, I've learned that everybody needs to travel at some point in their lives. Whether it is three months in Europe or a week to tropics, the life lessons learned give an understanding to how other people live. Not everywhere is like America, and it is important to see how other people go about their daily lives, and seeing the differences and similarities throughout cultures. Here in Austria, people are punctual, polite, respectful, resourceful, considerate, and selfless. I'm going to be cranky when i get back home, because i can tell that I'm going to feel that Americans are loud, lazy, disrespectful and rude, wasteful, and glutenous. Yeah there's some great people back home, but after living here, I've kinda been spoiled with a majority of amazing Europeans.

I've also learned that it is important to hold on to who we really are. To try not to get caught up in the trends, or what seems cool, or what everybody is doing. I'm a positive caring person, and for a while I started to pick out the negative sides of people, and not notice the good side, or not care about other peoples feelings. I almost lost a friendship because of it. But I realized what was happening and got a hold of things before I messed up. I though about my definition of friendship and why I came to Vienna in the first place. I've gained a few friendships that are going to last for a while. My motto about being over here is, We're only gonna be here once, honestly, why look at what is wrong or what could be better......when we could be focusing on all the amazing things we may never get to see or do again. So I've gained a stronger sense of myself and taken steps to improve upon my faults.

I've gotten to travel to so many places while being here. As a class we went to Salzburg, Innsbruck, Munich, Paris, Prague, and trips to museums, churches, and abbeys. For outside of class, I've gotten to Amsterdam, Athens and explore Vienna. Just yesterday my brother Steve and I took the train and bus to the mountains just outside Vienna. The view of the city below is breath taking. We enjoyed a coffee then started to explore. We found some trails and followed them, before we knew it we were descending down the backside. We decided to walk all the way back to where we're staying. We talked and caught up on a lot of things and laughed the whole way home. I'm not sure how many miles it was but it was a 5 hour journey. And on that journey i connected to the city, we saw so many different sections that I was completely oblivious to before.

I feel like there is so much I can continue on about the whole time here. Even though I have spoken of some of the harder things experienced here, there have been so many truly amazing times that I will remember for the rest of my life. I know years from now I will look back on the trip and not have any regrets because I feel I've benefited so much from everything we have all experienced.

A semester that felt like a lifetime...looking back on my 13 weeks in Europe

So the time that I never thought would come finally has...going home! I personally feel that our time here was just right, had we only been here only a few short weeks I would have felt like there were so many things I didn't get to see but had we been here any longer I think I might have gone crazy.

Throughout my 13 weeks I've faced personal challenges as well as physical ones. I never realized train schedules, tickets, and reservations could be so complicated! Especially during the time I spent traveling from Paris to Spain and back to Vienna during spring break really opened my eyes to how your plans can change faster than you know what hit you. I learned very quickly that many people in other countries will judge you because you're American and although this isn't right the world is not perfect and neither are people. This encouraged me even more to plan numerous routes to my destination in case my first and/or second and third plan fell through. On a personal level I can definitely say I'm much direction savvy now. I trust myself with a map and I'm now able to get myself places and not have to rely on anyone else.

Some of the more personal challenges I faced was learning how to deal with others and be more tolerable of people in general. Especially when there is a language barrier it's easier to become frustrated and not want to try at all. By the end of this trip I can definitely say I have a lot more tolerance and patience for all people in general, this including the other Americans attending the trip.

Some of the smaller issues to touch upon revolved mostly around time management. Trying to focus on schoolwork and your next trip to Italy or Amsterdam is not always so easy. Discipline and hard work definitely came into play when it came down to choosing between work or play.

I think I learned the most by experiencing it first hand being out and about in Austria and some of the other places I visited. Most of the time it was the small things that mattered the most. Meeting people from all over the world on the trains, in the streets, at restaurants, what have you. It's completely true when they say first-hand experience is always the best way to learn. Even some of the bad things were really learning experiences that helped me to put things into perspective.

Overall my best memories of this trip are all random times that made me laugh or cry that really made the trip what it is and helped me to grow as an individual. Although the 12 of us didn't always get along that was to be expected and we always found a way to get over it.

I know after being in Europe for 13 weeks I have definitely come to appreciate home and America in general so much more than I use to. There are so many small things that you take for granted daily that you would never think twice about...driving your car, eating home cooked meals, efficient and quick laundry, family and friends, pets, and even just the fact that you can walk into a store and people speak English.

Through the ups and downs, the goods and bads, it is finally time to say goodbye to Europe and move forward with all the knowledge and memories I have gained from the past 13 weeks.
Malaga, Spain


Ladies ready for the Opera!

The semester in Vienna was amazing. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I've traveled so much and learned so much about myself and the people who I am living with. As the semester went on I learned to love Vienna more and more. Everything from the language to the rooms and cafeteria. With only 8 days until my return to the United States I am going to miss Vienna and all of Europe so much.

This opportunity has giving me the ability to travel to so many places. I've been to Rome, Prague, Paris, Athens, Salzburg, Munich, Innsbruck, and even an all day layover in Serbia. Having been able to travel to all these places has made me become a more confident traveler. I can't reflect on one trip because each one had its own ups and downs and exciting new things to do. Some trips were down on a personal level and others on a class level. Though each were different they were all amazing.

I think that coming here has shown me that I can do things that I never thought I could do। It also taught me to not take things for granted। When I first arrived I only thought wow 3 months is a long time to be here, but its really not. It flies by and I feel I made the best of every opportunity given to me. Getting over the fear of getting lost and just exploring was something that I enjoyed doing.

Something that I thought would never happen was when traveling in other non German speaking countries I started to miss German and Vienna a lot. Now that I will be returning home in a week I wonder if I'll still miss the German language and Vienna.

If someone asked me today would I recommend this for them I would say yes. No matter who you are or what is going on going abroad was the best decision I have ever made. Yes it gets stressful and things can get a little crazy but I wouldn't trade any of it. I had the time of my life here and I hope one day that I can return. I can't seem to say it enough one of the BEST decisions I have ever made was going abroad to Vienna!

Final Thoughts

Before I came to Vienna I had this idea in my head of what a semester in Europe was going to be like. I thought that I would spend a lot of time traveling and that it would be this magical experience where I learn more about myself and the world. I feel like I did travel as much as I could and learned quite a bit about Austria and a little about the rest of the world. We went on three class trips to other places that were fun. I liked places that I had not ever thought about going more then I would have expected. When we went to Paris, I was really excited to go to Paris for the first time ever. I am glad that I went and glad that I saw it. I went to Rome with two other people in class and it was an amazing experience, we walked most of the city and went to every site that was recommended to see. It was a ton of fun and really enjoyable.

I some good experiences and saw some amazing cities and basically saw part of seven countries in three months, which is an experience most people can’t claim to have. I went to the Opera, saw the Coliseum, climbed the first level of the Eiffel Tower, stood inside the Sistine Chapel, went to an old Monastery in Spain, took a tour of the Salt Mines in Salzburg, saw a few castles, visited a concentration camp in Dachau, took a bus tour through Copenhagen, and saw a show that was a bit like a ballet but not quite in a country that used to be Communist. I did a lot more then that but those are some of the highlights and when all is said and done I feel like I did and saw a lot.

This trip and experience is something I would not take back if I had the chance. I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to live in Europe for three months again but I know now that I do really enjoy being in Europe and I want to come back someday. On most of the trips we took I thought I’m going to come back here some day when I have more money. There are things I would like to go back and see and new places and activities that I would like to experience and this trip helped me learn what it is that I do want to see in Europe and what it is that I probably will not want to do again. I had a lot of good times in Europe and intend to come back but right now I am ready to go home and see my friends and family, and enjoy my upcoming senior year.

Reflections on My Semester in Vienna

It is hard to believe that in less than two weeks, I will be back home, in my own country, my own town, my own home. After being in Europe for twelve full weeks already, it would be misleading to say that I am not excited to get back to the United States, but I leave this continent with the confidence and hope that I will one day return to continue my travels. The memories made during these past three months will long remain with me, and as I continue to grow and develop, I know that my experiences here will serve me very well in the years and decades to come.

Spending a semester abroad is a chance that far too few people take advantage of, and in spite of my early hesitancy at leaving my home and family for so long, I am happy that I decided to travel to Vienna to continue my education. My eyes have been opened to new and different ways of living, to a different culture with different norms and values. While my German still may not be as great as I originally hoped, I cannot help but be impressed at the journeys-- both geographical and intellectual-- I have taken these past several months. From Vienna, Rome, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Munich, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague, I have been exposed to the best that Europe has to offer. Whether it was looking down at the gladiatorial ring in the Colosseum or up at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin, I often found myself in awe at the history and culture of a continent that was, for most of human history, at the center of the world. Yet it was not only the traveling and the history that made this semester so memorable. I have been fortunate enough to meet a talented (and above all fun) group of eleven other students who have made my time in Europe exciting and go by all-too-fast. The laughs and memories that we have made since arriving will never be forgotten, and I hope that they have enjoyed my company as much as I have enjoyed theirs.

At the same time, it was not only my fellow students that have impacted me. I was lucky enough to go to Europe with a family that has been very accommodating, kind, and fun-loving. Professor Tullio has enhanced my love for film for example, and now I am seriously considering doing something with film studies for graduate school. Our Program Director, Tom, was always prepared and on top of things; I never got lost while following him (in fact, it seemed as though I had difficulty when he wasn't around!) on our excursions, and he often went out of his way to ensure that our class trips went as smoothly as possible. Last, but certainly not least, there were two young kids that I have shared many fun times with. Whether it was playing Star Wars on the computer (and around town too!) with Oliver, or trying to "escape" from the blockades that Lilly often set up, I always found myself with a smile on my face when I was around them. I hope that as they grow older they remember the fun times we had together; I know I will.

Though it is hard to peg down the things that I liked "most" and "least" about my time abroad, I feel that I should, in accordance with our culture's fondness for rankings, talk about the places and events that were my favorite. Though I liked all the cities I visited, Berlin, Germany is definitely my favorite. It is the city I would be most likely to return to next time I visit Europe. My love of history found much nourishment there, especially in terms of the history of the Third Reich. Germany itself is a country that has done much to remember and preserve its past, and consequently, there is so much to see. Visiting the Olympic Stadium, House of the Wannsee Conference, The Brandenburg Gate, and the countless memorials, I was completely absorbed. What is more, Berlin is a city that is always moving; there is always something to see and somewhere to go, even after the museums have closed in the evening. In terms of Vienna, the city where I spent the majority of my time while in Europe, I have much praise to give as well. It is one of the cleanest major cities I have ever been to, and the history, as in Berlin, is well-preserved. Having a local professor, Heinz Kr├Âll (who is without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable men I have ever met) to take us on excursions around the city helped to unlock the secrets of Vienna, many of which I would otherwise not have known about.

The Soviet War Memorial in Berlin, Germany
In conclusion then, it is obvious that my time in Europe has been overwhelmingly positive. The people, professors, and places that have formed the core of these past three months have made this experience one of the best of my life. As I am graduating in less than a year, I can confidently say that my time spent abroad is the best semester I have had in my undergraduate career. While I am ready and excited to return to the American culture and way of life (and I return with a stronger and more firm love of my country than before), I look forward to the next time I travel to a foreign country. While I may not travel alone, however, it is unlikely that my next trip will approach this one in terms of how much I get to do or see. And even though this is the end of one journey, it is also the beginning of another, as I prepare for graduation and my entry into the so-called "real world." In closing, then, it seems appropriate to cite a quote (one of my favorites) from Winston Churchill, who said:

"Now this is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Semester in Vienna: Reflections

I do not even know how to start when reflecting on my semester abroad in Vienna, there is so much that I have done and there are so many amazing things to think about! I think that my favorite part of the semester has been the simple fact that I have been in Europe. I grew up moving all over the United States, so I have already travelled quite a bit, and I now go to school in NH while my family lives in California, so I have been fairly independent for awhile now. Therefore the newest thing for me was being able to travel so easily between such unique countries. I really feel like I took advantage of this since I was able to go to Italy, Greece, France, Germany, Hungary, and all over Austria.

The most unique part about this semester has simply been that I have been experiencing so many new and exciting cultures and languages that I was never exposed to before. As an Anthropology major this is especially interesting for me since I have studied quite a bit about cultures. As an Anthropologist I also know that I cannot make generalizations about the people I met in the various countries because I would hate to stereotype people when I did not do any formal work, but I feel like a did learn a little bit about each culture I visited. For example, I made an effort to try new foods in the countries I visited and my new favorite is Gyros from Greece. I also enjoyed the sites in the various cities of course, my favorite being the Archaeological Forum in Rome which was absolutely astounding. I was most flattered by the kindness I found in the people of Athens who were also willing to lend a helping hand, not only to their own people but to the tourists around them as well. I learned a good deal more about the history of the various countries, and I was especially interested in the new aspects of Austrian history that I learned.

Another really great thing about this semester has been the friends that I have made. From meeting some really great people who live and work here, like my friend Kate who is from Britain but is currently working in Vienna, to becoming close with the people who came here from FPU. Being in a country where you do not speak the language and living with only eleven other people who speak english, for the most part, can be very difficult. But it also brings you close together. Living in a confined space and being limited to such a small group really limits how you can interact with them. Since I did not come abroad knowing anyone too well I am very lucky that I ended up with two great roommates who I was able to travel with and get to know. The trip certainly would not have been the same without them, or without everyone else here, and I think it is so great that I was able to meet them all.

Overall when I look back at this trip I can honestly say it is one of the best experiences of my life. I have been wanting to study abroad since I was high school and the semester has met all of my expectations. I really feel like I got to do something unlike anything I have ever done before and I truly got to experience Europe in a way that you can never experience it after college. I really believe this was the opportune time for me to come to Europe and experience these intriguing cultures and learn more about the lives of those who were unknown to me before. This is most certainly the trip of my life.

Natalie, Me & Alison on the Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria.