Well, our time in Austria is over. It's great to be home, but I'm already missing the language and the friends I made just like I thought I would. Our last week in Vienna was wonderful and we tried to squeeze in as many things as possible!
Addison and I used the last day on our EUrails cards and spent an afternoon in Graz. We visited several Christmas markets and it was nice to see a city other than Vienna. It definitely was bigger than the villages we'd been to, but this city had a totally different atmosphere than the city we'd been living in for four months.
It was disappointing that our last week was full of studying and exams and we left less than 12 hours after our last final. But our last evening was very special. After turning in our papers, we went back to our homes to get our luggage and met at the subway station Wien Mitte to check in early for our flight. It was definitely a relief that this was a possibility so we didn't have to lug around our heavy bags early the next morning! After checking in, we went to our favorite restaurant in Vienna: Vapiano. I'm already missing their delicious, fresh pasta!
Following dinner, we went to a cafe so I could say goodbye to the friends I'd made in Vienna. It was sad, but they gave me a wonderful going-away gift: a notebook with letters from each of them and a few stickers and mini-gifts.
The five of us then met with Ewen, one of our professors who joined us in Dorfgastein way back in August. We went to Flanagan's, an Irish pub, and stayed for a couple hours just chatting and talking about the things we were looking forward to about America and the things we would miss about Vienna.
Two of the members of our group are still in Europe. Kelly's parents are visiting for Christmas and they will be doing more traveling. Addison is visiting family in Germany. But Annika, Nick, and I left Friday the 7th, and have now separated ways.
It's definitely been odd, trying to adjust to life back in the US. It's weird not seeing Annika, Nick, Addison, and Kelly every day, ordering food in German, and living with my parents again!
I've been looking back through all our photos starting in the Portland Airport on our way to Austria, our first day in Vienna where we were completely lost, having no idea how to orient ourselves, our first week in Dorfgastein, hiking the mountains and listening to the cowbells. And then our final days, our last class sessions, our last meal. We have all grown a lot this semester. Sometimes it's hard to tell, when you are personally living it, but I have seen change in all of us. Not just in our language skills, but as people and as friends. I'm so grateful we had this experience, and I know everyone else is too. This will be a semester I never forget, and it is undeniable that it will have a great effect on the rest of my time at Linfield and throughout the rest of my life.
I'm excited to know there are so many people signed up for the Austria program next fall. I have no doubt that they will have just as amazing an experience as we had. The best advice I can give to next year's students is this: just put yourself out there; take chances and get out of your comfort bubble. You never know where one turn will take you and the semester will go by faster than you think, so don't miss a single second.