There are so many things that I could write about, so where should I start? Well, I am naturally inclined to give some excuses for not writing in a long time… first of all, my computer hard drive crashed, fortunately it was mostly fixed after two weeks. And then classes officially started, and all of a sudden I find myself spending a lot more time doing schoolwork (or mostly worrying about schoolwork), practicing, rehearsing, and so on. Between school time I also managed to find time for other small weekend travels and trip planning. Many students on the program have used regular two-day weekends traveling to nearby cities like Budapest, Prague, or Salzburg. Last weekend on my Facebook homepage, there were albums of Munich, Rome, Paris, Venice, and some other cities that my study abroad friends went to over the weekend. My friend and I also picked out a few weekends, mostly in April, for traveling. In addition to the cities I just mentioned, we really want to go to Graz. But we decided it would be a better idea to go to some of these places and enjoy the beautiful scenery when the weather gets warmer. My last excuse for not posting in a long time would be this: overall I was just not in a very good mood – I think I might be going through the phase when things start to get hard after the initial excitement passed – I was constantly having too much on my hands, sleep deprived, and I think I will blame that mostly on the research proposal. That said, I did figure out how to utilize the Universität Wien library, including its online research database, so that was very gratifying. When I cannot write merrily about travel and life stories, I feel that I should refrain from posting, because who wants to read about me being depressing, stressed, or angrily complaining about every little detail that does not suit me? Anyway, enough of the excuses.
To be honest, I rather wish we get to have home stays in Vienna. That way, I get a chance to really experience the Austrian life style and know what time they have dinner, what sorts of food appear regularly on the dinner table, speak more German, and potentially form stronger bonds. While host family was an option, I chose apartments because from what I understood, the relationships with host families here are more like that between landlords and tenants – the students are not just automatically regarded as part of the family and invited to participate in all the family activities. As it turn out, my study abroad program has very limited number of host families this semester, and even students who expressed interest in living with host families didn’t necessarily get that assignment. As for the small handful of people I know that are in home stays, they are often just one “landlord,” in a few cases, a person in his/her thirties or something. To make up for this lack of Austrian host families, we have a system called Language Buddies. My study abroad program can pair us up with an Austrian student, most likely between the age pf 17 and 27, and we can decide on our own how often we want to meet, what to do, and what language to speak. Because this semester they have many extra language buddies, I got two! I have met with both of them and both of them are really sweet girls. E is 25 years old, and is a second-year history major at Universität Wien; V is 22 and is working on a six-year education program to become an English and history teacher at Uni Wien (I like history too!). I have yet to figure out a very good way to practice English and German at the same time. Currently, my conversations with E is always entirely in German, and we used English at my first meeting with V last week. My favorite activity for these meetings is walking. When it was cold, we walked around in city center, down the narrow, quiet, old streets of Vienna; we walked by churches, coffeehouses, and we just talked. When the weather was nice, we went to the garden of Schönbrunn palace, and we talked – it was fabulous. When I can find a larger chunk of free time, E is going to show be some trails in the 18th and 19th districts, and I am very looking forward to that. One thing I found out was that both of my language buddies have done au pair for a year before college. E nannied for a family outside Paris and V was in Stockholm. She loves Stockholm and highly recommended me visiting there, so now I really want to go to Scandinavia! By the way, she did not know any Swedish before she went, and communicated with the family in English, but was able to pick it up in three months (granted that Swedish is also a Germanic language)! I think it is exciting that au pair is a pretty common thing here, because I have always thought it is a fantastic idea to work in exchange for room and board in a foreign country – what a nice way to learn languages and cultures!
Oh, I am supposed to contribute a roasted vegetable salad to our dinner this evening… I have some garlic and rosemary. So I must start making the food now. My roommate’s chicken has already been in the oven for a while (I am not sure if I am going to try some or keep pretending to be a half-vegetarian tonight)! Tschüs!