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Friday, August 6, 2010

Living Like a Local

This summer, I had the great opportunity of going on a Study Abroad trip with two of the HTM professors, Dr. Adler and Mr. Rousselle. The trip was five weeks long and we spent the time going around several major cities in Central and Eastern Europe.

After touring the cities of Paris and Munich, we moved into our student apartments in Vienna, Austria. Now, Vienna isn’t a city you go and visit—like London, Paris, or Rome. In those cities, you have the London Bridge, Eiffel Tower, and Coliseum. But what is there in Vienna to visit? I couldn’t think of a single thing. So after a four-hour train ride from Munich, the train came to a stop at Vienna’s Westbahnhof Station. I had no idea what to expect—would I like the city? Would I be bored all the time? What are the locals like? Now, I had been to Europe several times before this trip, but this would be different: I would be living there. And after spending four weeks in this best kept secret of Europe, Vienna is a city not to be missed.

After a week in Vienna, we were no longer tourists—we were locals. We got used to seeing the same employees at the corner grocery store. We had an hour-long commute each morning and afternoon using public transportation. We knew where all the locals went to eat, shop, and relax. We went swimming in thermal spas and in the Danube River on the weekends. We went to Naschmarkt and bought locally grown produce and baked goods to use when cooking our meals. I had a favorite track where I liked to run everyday. We got used to the fact that air conditioning isn’t very common and that ice is something not widely used in restaurants. And even though most of us didn’t speak German, we learned the common greetings and simple words that would get us through the day.

For most of us, we adjusted to the very different lifestyle that Europe offers. But after an extremely long 48 hour travel period back to the United States, I’m finding it difficult to adjust back to my old lifestyle. I miss where I lived, the people I met, and the food I ate. While I’m grateful to be back with my family (and to have air conditioning), I will miss it. The first few days of living there were tough and it took some getting used to, but this trip has given me a whole new perspective on many different things and the whole trip was a life changing experience.

So for all of you students thinking of participating in a study abroad trip: go for it. It is something you will never forget. You’ll gain valuable life skills and experience a walk of life completely different from your own.