Congratulations on experiencing your first ever study abroad program! It was the first time you were a student studying in a country you have never been to before- Austria! If someone asked you years ago, you would never have guessed that you would be abroad in Austria and Slovenia, surrounded by great peers that became your friends.
Some tips that I wish you knew before the program include some more preparation. Although you were busy in the weeks leading up to the program, learning some more German phrases would have been helpful to feel more comfortable during the trip. Also, packing more necessary items such as pencils for class and bringing athletic sneakers for comfort over style would be the smarter option. I would also try to ease your fears of flying independently and navigating airports in other countries for the first time, as you did just fine and were with 2 of your peers!
I would also say not to stress about the academic portion abroad, as it was very interesting and there were many highlights of the program. You loved learning about aspects of Austrian history and culture, and then finding these topics in the museums and further learning about it to gain a deeper understanding. For example, a highlight included learning more about the Order of the Golden Fleece and the crown, orb, and scepter at the Imperial Treasury in Vienna. Another highlight was trying tons of new tasty foods that represent Austrian culture! From the original sacher torte to the classic schnitzel, you definitely turned into a foodie on this trip and experienced the food to the fullest. Another favorite part abroad was Salzburg, as it was your first weekend of the program with independence to explore and really realize you were abroad at that moment, standing high up in the Alps and also at the beautiful fortress!
Although I wouldn’t change any part of the study abroad, I would approach some of the busy moments that were exhausting with a different mindset and remember that this busy schedule was temporary to get the most out of the experience. Also, to know that some of the longer days in the classroom were to make the most of our time based on the schedule, and it was definitely balanced with fun adventures as well as witnessing parts of the healthcare system first hand, connecting to all we learned in class.
A few goals I would recommend setting for yourself at the start of the program would be to not be afraid or feel awkward experiencing culture shock or the language barrier. Making mistakes and learning is part of the journey. Establishing a study and tourism balance is a goal that you definitely achieved. Being able to navigate public transportation as well as remember and become familiar with directionality is an important goal to have.