I have finally made it half way through my exchange, actually I’m past half way and somewhere after that time started accelerating. I feel like Christmas was just a few weeks ago, but in reality January & February are gone! (Hence my apology for the lack of blogs, but I will make up for it now!) Lats time I was blogging I had been here a little over 3 months,..now I only HAVE a little over 3 months left!
It is now March; spring is here That is the first thing I want to compare. See I realized I hadn’t maybe compared and contrasted so many of the differences, but recently I have been thinking about them a lot. One of my Swedish friends asked me the other day, “But really, are the U.S. and Europe that different?”, my answer was yes. But then I had to of course defend it.
First, a brief update of what has been going on the past several weeks. January was the last of classes and some exams, which were pretty easy. I somehow got lucky and picked a lot of seminars that didn’t really have big exams, it was more about presenting and participating, which as a Comm major I got down pat!
Then, after the official last day of exams was the Boku ball in Hofburg palace. It was like a dream, really. Walking through all of these extravagant rooms, each with at least 2 huge chandeliers. Every room was slightly different, whether it had a traditional Heurigen (wine tavern) or a cheap student bar (my fav haha) or fancier high class bar. Then there were about a dozen different types of music, so the dancing never got boring. There was everything from disco, jazz, salsa to traditional waltzing (which my friends and I attempted to join in, but didn’t last long for fear of getting knocked over by the older twirling couples with many many years of practice.
February was quite weird because some friends were still here while others were saying goodbye and then new ones started to arrive. So we had some multi-purpose goodbye/welcome dinners and I went to a lot of new exhibits or museums as some people tried to check off their last to-do list in Vienna & others were just starting theirs.
Then, by Valentine’s Day my sister was here to visit for 2 weeks, which was amazing. No other words can describe it. We want to come back & live in Vienna together. While she was here it was a combination of showing her the regular places I go and hang out while trying new things like a trip to Salzburg & Munich! Munich was really special for us to be together because our grandma was born & raised there, so we felt instantly connected. She passed away when I was only 1 and my sister wasn’t even born yet, but I feel the culture there really fit us & Bavarian culture is quite similar to Austrian–so now I can really justify why I chose Austria . I have been saying I thought the cultures were similar, but now I know first hand.
After my sister left I think I was at my saddest I had been in Vienna, but it only lasted a couple days of just staying inside for some me time, relaxing and watching some shows from home. And then it was off to start classes in March.
I have found some really great classes this semester. And that overwhelming feeling of everything new is gone. I know how to get to the University, how the room numbers work in each building (are you in Horsaal V or Seminarraum 05?), where the best place to eat lunch is, etcetera. I even know some cool professors from last semester that I really liked and signed up for their spring class . My favorite right now is 2 classes with the same prof on Thursday, one is Decision Making in Culture Differences, which he said is more focused on Communication across Cultures (perfect!) and the other is Global Networking where we videoconference with classes around the world, where we also discuss cultural differences. I am also signed up for some more excursions, which should be really awesome since Winter has left. March is actually spring here!
I know back in Northeast U.S. we get the occasional 60 degree day in March but then that weekend a snow storm could hit! I can just tell that is not gonna happen here. In fact though there were some snow flurries in January, there hasn’t been a snow storm since before Christmas. When I returned in January from Poland, all the snow was melted and gone in Vienna. I didn’t know the last time I would see a snow pile was in Poland, should’ve said goodbye! Now that spring is here, exercising season has begun! Everyone is working their winter blubber off. I normally take the U-bahn (subway) half way to class then switch to a bus. Now on my way home, I am walking instead of taking the bus. It is so nice!! I also joined an exercise class. Here there is an entire Sport University! And any student can go there and pick from heaps of classes (heaps is my interweave of Australian slang I’ve learned here).
So what about the new people? Well they are great! I had to remind myself in the beginning that no one could replace my friends from last semester here. I met some really great people and became quite close with them. It was a bit of a shock of how hard it was to say goodbye to friends I had met just a few short months ago. It was the first time I said goodbye to someone close, not knowing when I will next see them–with the reality that it could be years or sadly never to cross paths again. My old roommate, who was quite wise in her years (she was nearly 30) said this inspiring phrase to me that really helped, “Goodbyes are a part of life. You have to say goodbye to some people, so that you can say hello to new ones.” I had heard similar more cliche things like, one door closes only to open a new one. But I never thought about it as this part of life and involving people not just opportunistic “doors” in life.
My new roommate is also great; instead of a mother like caring roomie as my last one was, she is my age and more of partner in crime haha. And I can’t forget to say she is from Germany! So I am already rapidly improving my German, since there was actually a lot of English speaking among exchange students last semester and the Austrian slang is quite tricky for a beginner like me to understand. But my roomie’s German is “Hoch deutsch” or “high German” so it is very clear! A lot of people this semester seem to be younger. Last semester almost all of my close friends were at least 23 and upwards of 27. This semester most of the people I am hanging out with are exactly my age, 21. It is a different feeling, but I like it still. Another effect of the spring is people’s hormones are going a little crazy, but I think that is universal for spring around the world!
Lastly I will comment on my first impression of some of the new Americans. I was at a dorm party someone held to meet new people, talking to some friends when I turned to see a guy sandwiched between 2 girls dancing! I actually said out loud, “Oh my god!”. I know a wide range of viewers are reading this, but there is no denying this was something I saw nearly every week at Cornell frat parties. I think everyone knows that Americans touch a lot more while dancing, while Europeans have their own space (teaches you to really be able to dance alone), yet the ironic thing to me is that Europeans (well most, maybe not the Northern ones) kiss hello and it freaks Americans out a bit ;P haha. Anyways, that was a bit of culture shock from my own culture. A touch of what I will be full-on feeling next semester upon my return to Cornell. Another American stereotype is how many posed pictures we take. You know everyone makes fun of our cultures love of white teeth? I thought everyone wanted white teeth, but they don’t really care here and would never buy whitening stripes at a grocery store. So with our shining white teeth we are known for always having this perfect fake smile anytime we see a camera. Personally I just enjoy taking photos, the happy posed ones but only if they are actually capturing true happiness. I wouldn’t take the picture if we weren’t really having fun. I don’t feel that my smile in pictures is fake, but I think this is just a cultural difference. And maybe I feel a bit different, being the daughter of a videographer where cameras are a part of life. But when I went to a Masquerade ball, another gorgeous opportunity in the Hofburg palace, I noticed what these Europeans were talking about a bit. When instead of dancing, we posed in dancing pictures..maybe if we had actually danced and then wanted to take pictures, but I can see a bit of American ridiculousness here; we are a culture obsessed with competition and visually proving how much fun we have or how great we look, even if it’s subconscious (an effect of our ever-powerful media). It’s not something so bad, gave me a good laugh, but I am glad I am now aware of it & add to my perspective of my own culture and life (there’s my white teethed smiley face to end my post!).