Hello from America! After 3 weeks of study abroad and 10 days of traveling in Europe, I’m back home in the States and (finally!) writing. Apologies for the lack of posts, I have been reliant on my phone and hotel wifi when traveling. I had an amazing experience this summer, living, studying, and traveling in Europe. I do have so much to catch up on though before school starts in less than three weeks. Between my last post and this one, I finished my study program and traveled to 5 new cities. Quite I clearly I am behind on blogging as well.
So where do I begin this reflection post? Well, this was my first time in memory of leaving America. Coming into the program I was both excited and a little nervous. However, no one who is narrow-minded or unwilling to make friends decides to study abroad so making friends proved easy. People came from all over the world and together we shared three wonderful weeks. My only wish is that my time in Vienna lasted longer.
A Truly Unique Experience
Studying abroad is such a special experience in that you are both living in another country with people from around the world as well as in the classroom learning with them. My two classes, marketing and management, focused a lot on group work with people from different countries. It is an invaluable experience to work with people from Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, Vietnam etc on a project.I will never forget the people I met and befriended. Although the program lasted 3 weeks, we spent so much time together-from class to cultural activities to bars to traveling adventures. While I’m fortunate to attend a diverse university at home with many international students this was definitely different.
I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad to find a way and make it happen. I will make a shameless pitch that Vienna is a wonderful city. It holds tons of history as well as cultural facets (art, music, etc). Furthermore, it is very livable with an amazing public transportation system, low crime rate, and you can drink pure water right from the tap! And beautiful mountains and nature are an easy train ride away. Just sayin’. While I love my home university, study abroad is definitely one of the highlights of my college experience!
Study Abroad Changes You (And Your Perspective)
As cheesy and cliche as it sounds….study abroad (and going abroad) changes you. I don’t mean I returned to America a completely different person but it opened my eyes and changed my perspective on many things. I have taken a few internationally-related classes like global health and international trade. It is one thing to read about other countries, but another to experience them and their people, firsthand. I had the great opportunity to visit many cities and travel, even in a short time. Seeing the world through both travel and studying made me realize that while we use the phrase “small world”, the world is in fact still not that small. There are so many people out there to see, meet, and connect with beyond our own cities. I think these experiences change, humble, and widen your view of both yourself, your country, and the world.
I Learned More About Me
Maybe being in your 20’s is all about self-discovery. And this summer, I definitely learned more about me.
I have always been a relatively independent person. This may come with being an only child, but I am completely fine with going to a museum or spending an afternoon by myself. However, going abroad reaffirmed I am happy being independent, even outside my own comfort zone. For example, I went to find a fan during the first week. I went on my own, still new with the subway station and country as a whole. But I found the correct neighborhood, food, and explored on my own. This is not a big deal in America where I know the language and area, but I am quite proud of myself for venturing off from the start. (But don’t get me wrong- I also love to be around friends and other people too). I like to think of myself as pretty adaptable though so I enjoy these kind of experiences.
I also learned more about what I want in my future. Knowing I have a home and feeling connected with friends/family is incredibly important, but I also need adventure and exploration. I do not want to be stuck in a comfortable lifestyle that stifles my curiosity. I loved spending time with people so genuinely passionate about life and what’s out there in this sometimes crazy world.
Living abroad also solidified my identity as an American. As a Chinese-American who looks full Chinese, I am often asked where I am from. However, saying my city in the US is rarely a satisfactory answer…people want to know where I am “really from.” Which FYI is a very annoying question. I am proud to look Chinese/East Asian and be born there, but I also feel as an American, a nation of immigrants, we can look non-Western but still be considered “American.” However, abroad when I said I was from the States people didn’t question it. It felt nice to not feel so stuck in between and people just accept that I am American.
So…Do People Overseas Actually Hate Us?
I am proud to be an American. Like any country, we have our faults and by no means do I hold the nationalistic view we are the best country in the world and everyone should be just like us. However, we are also a country to be proud of. Quite a few Americans assume people hate us abroad, but honestly I was met more with questions and curiosity from other students. A lot of questions about Trump, our gun laws (or lack thereof), what it’s like living here, how college works and so forth. It is also hard to stereotype who an American is, given we are a nation of 300+ million people (Austria’s population is the size of my single state!), but hopefully us Americans reflected a positive image of our country.
Meeting people from other countries and cultures was truly an amazing experience. We had many differences, from punctuality to how we approach a group project, but also many similarities. It really doesn’t matter what country you are from to enjoy a good night at the bar or playing soccer (“football”). Some of the Americans and I concluded that our culture is very in the middle on many things. For example, we are not punctual down to the second, but in general we are on time and do not run on “Latin Time” so to speak. However, the warmth of Latin and Italian cultures was truly lovely. We are also not always the warmest culture where everyone you meet is instantly a “brother” and we are sometimes less immediately inclusive of new people, but we also enjoy small talk and smiling at people who pass by.
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to study abroad, to meet the people I did, and see the places I saw. This is far from my last trip overseas so you can count on that. I traveled to some amazing places so I will be documenting some of them in individual posts as I did for Salzburg and Bratislava, I am just behind at the moment.
A List of the Cities I Visited:
- Vienna Austria
- Salzburg Austria
- Melk Austria
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Budapest, Hungary
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Bled, Slovenia
- Venice, Italy
- London, England
It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite city out because each offered something incredibly unique. The award for underrated cities goes to Ljubljana and Bled Slovenia. The award for most budget friendly goes to Prague, Budapest, and Bratislava. Venice is one-of-a-kind. London meant the most to me because of my love for Tudor History. Vienna will always have a place in my heart, and Austria as a whole. I hope to finish writing up some more posts about the individual cities/countries in the coming week.
I’m not sure where this summer went because I feel like May just ended but here we are mid-August! I’m finishing up my last year in undergraduate studies (how is this possible!) so gotta make the most of this year. On another exciting note, I signed a lease for my first apartment and will be moving in and decorating soon with my roommate! Hooray for growing up!
Until next post,