Abroad Musings, Vol. 1

I’m an English major.  I do a lot of reading and writing, and believe heartily in linguistic power.  For this blog, however, I owe a disclaimer.  I really don’t think it’s possible to describe what I’ve been experiencing in Europe thus far with words.  I will supplement with as many photos as possible, but you, dear readers, will need to supplement with a little of your own imagination.

Where to begin?  I got into Europe about a month ago and have been on a nonstop adventure ever since.  I live in an independent apartment in Vienna proper, about 15 minutes outside the city center.  This is the view from my apartment window:

I just wrapped three weeks of “Intensive German” and am currently writing this blog from a hostel in Berlin; we get a 10 day break post Intensive German-ing, and I’ve been on a jaunt through eastern Germany – Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin — since (most non-casual casual parenthetic ever: also had a quick weekend trip into Prague).  Photographic evidence:

Prague

 

Dresden

 

I hit the ground running once I’m back in Vienna, as my full course load commences.  I’m taking an Eastern European Comparative Literature course, Sociology of Immigration, The Cultural Heritage of Vienna (auf Deutsch), and continuing with my German class; I also have an Education internship, working with a local Viennese public school.  Conveniently enough, these courses will also garner credit for my English major, and both Sociology and Education minors.  Haverford doesn’t have any of its own, independent study abroad programs, but instead has established relationships with different universities and  study abroad programs; I am currently a student with IES Vienna.

As I write this, I have to admit that my brain feels a bit linguistically schizophrenic, and I find myself thinking of German phrases in place of English ones, or accidentally inserting an “ß” in place of a double-‘s.’ The language immersion is definitely playing its role well.

Though Austrians speak “Deutsch,” they are certainly not Germans.  It’s been fascinating unearthing the subtle, but culturally hugely important, differences between the two countries.  Some of it comes in slight differences in pronunciations, but there are some real cultural disparities.  Exhibit A:

www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.527984950565298.121291.119279904769140&type=3

This doesn’t happen in Germany.  I went to a ball last week – a legitimate ball, complete with Viennese and non-Viennese waltzing, ball gowns, bow ties, and breathtaking atmosphere.  Those photos were taking in the Hofburg Imperial Palace – as in the place where the Habsburgs from the Austrian-Hungarian empire ruled.  Here’s a good place where my linguistic schizophrenia is coming in handy; that night was “traumhaft,” or literally like a dream.  There’s really no other way to describe it.

That’s actually a pretty apt word for Vienna in general.  I’ve never been in such a pristine and beautiful city before.  Just look:

Parliament

Domes on Domes on Domes

A square about 5 minutes from the Study Abroad center

Stephansdom

I am really, really relishing my time here.  As I upload my own abroad Facebook albums, however, I can’t help but feel a slight twinge of homesickness when I stumble upon my friends’ albums of Haver-life.  Campus looked beautiful with a fresh dusting of snow, and there are some incredible classes being offered this semester. My dad’s side of the family is German, and so much of this experience feels like coming home and reconnecting with my German heritage, but I also miss my friends and life back on Haverford’s campus.  I absolutely melted when I found out my professor’s four-year-old, whom I normally babysit, asked about me the other day. That said, though I am physically thousands of miles from my Haver-life, this is absolutely enriching and deepening my college experience.  I am so thankful for this time abroad, and owe Haverford much for enabling this adventure.  Bis bald, und viele Grüße!