Austrian Alps: The Hills are Alive

January 7, 2011
austria, culture, study abroad
Austrian Alps: The Hills are Alive

The Salzkammergut district along the Austrian Alps is a truly beautiful place. Lined with small picturesque Austrian towns, lakes that go on for miles, and views of the beautiful Austrian countryside, the district located in Western Austria shows the true Austrian enchantment. As I stood looking out at the mountains before me, I thought about how magical it all seemed. This was the same magic that has touched me since coming to Austria four months ago.

There were times when I questioned why I had to chosen to come to Austria. I did not know any German (my four semesters of college French were clearly not going to help me), I did not know a single person in my program, and lastly, I was going to a place where I would be taken out of my comfort-zone and placed in a culture that I was not used to. Before I left to study abroad, I was always afraid of taking chances or trying something new, for I always thought I would fail. I was never really sure of who I was and what I wanted to be. Austria changed that.

Austrian Alps: The Hills are Alive 

There are a few things that one should know about living in Austria. Austria is a city that has maintained its significance and importance for centuries, even despite the dreadful collapse of the Hapsburg rule after World War I. Austrians are very proud people, for not only do a dozen or so famous composers come from this musical country, but so do other renowned people such as Sigmund Freud, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the beloved Von Trapp family that we all know and love from The Sound of Music. Austrians are very proud of where they are from and those who come from their country.

Another thing that I have learned through studying abroad is not to judge a book by its cover. When I first came to Vienna, I had heard that the Viennese were some of the snobbiest, most stuck-up people in Europe. NOT TRUE! It is simply a cultural difference between Americans and Europeans. The Germanic culture is very reserved and polite, in that you rarely ever see any crazy happenings or loud-mouthed people in the streets.

When I asked my study abroad coordinator about this, he said that I should not take it personally. It is a sign that they are interested in you from afar. The way to handle this: stare right back at them.

There is something known as the “Austrian stare.” When I first got on the U-Bahn (underground train in Austria) I noticed that there was a woman starting at me. She would not stop for a couple of minutes and had a stern, almost glaring look on her face. At first I did not know how to take this. Was I wearing something funny? Did I have food in my teeth? As I went to the next stop, I noticed a man doing the same thing to me. When I asked my study abroad coordinator about this, he said that I should not take it personally. It is a sign that they are interested in you from afar. The way to handle this: stare right back at them.

Austrian Alps: The Hills are Alive

Austrian Alps: The Hills are Alive 

Being a woman abroad, I know the fear of safety in choosing where to go. Luckily for me, Austria is VERY safe. Never did I have a feeling of being in a bad place or being afraid of walking around the city. Even at night, there is constantly police out to make sure that nothing happens. As a young girl on her own in Europe, this gave me a feeling of security. Austria had become my new home and I very quickly adapted to living in this wonderful country.

I began to see myself as an Austrian. I would walk around and say the typical “Gruss Gott” whenever I entered a coffee shop or grocery store. Austria has been a great home for me. It has helped me grow up and has challenged me to think differently. Austria has taught me how to live up every moment. Austria has taught me how to be myself. I am going to admit it: I am in love with Austria.

Austrian Alps: The Hills are Alive 

Now that my time aboard has ended, I look back and wonder why I was ever scared. Austria has changed me in ways I never thought was possible. I have become self-reliant in figuring out things on my own. Austria has taught me to see the world differently through the eyes of someone foreign to me.

Austria had taught me to see the beauty in all that is around me. I now know why I chose to study abroad: to challenge myself. Austria has taught me a lot about myself and it has taught me to be the change I want to see. I thank Austria for everything it has given me, for I have fallen in love with a country that has significantly changed my life forever.

 

Austrian Alps: The Hills are Alive photo credit: unsplash.com // Austrian Alps 

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