Hello again! My five-week study abroad program in Austria and Slovenia just came to an end last week, and while bittersweet, I am excited to now reflect back on all the experiences I had there. When beginning my program in Graz, Austria, the foremost obstacle I encountered was not knowing an ounce of German. Though my limited practice prior to departing prepared me with a few words and phrases to use while abroad, I was still far from easily getting by. However, I quickly learned the importance of immersing myself in Austrian culture and hearing everyone around me speaking German. Soon, I began recognizing words in people’s conversations that I knew and slowly expanded my vocabulary to being able to speak key basic phrases. Another crucial resource to help overcome this language barrier was a compact German lesson we had in our first week of classes. This introductory lesson allowed me to learn the various ways to say some of the same meanings that are often used in Austria. For instance, while there are several ways to say “goodbye” in German, a very common choice in Austria is the Italian “Ciao!” instead. After spending four weeks in Austria, I finally felt confident enough to complete basic tasks in German, right before we headed to Slovenia where the process restarted with the new challenge of learning Slovenian.
My daily routines while abroad were also quite different than I am normally used to. The schedule for the program I was in was packed with excursions, lectures, and trips, which meant days were always very busy with back-to-back activities. My days would start early in the morning and end late in the evening, so there was not always much free time during the weekdays. In Graz, where I spent the majority of my time abroad, most stores and shops close much earlier than what I was used to in the United States, which meant planning your days around opening hours. I also had to rely entirely on public transportation or walking to get places, which also required more planning around tram and bus schedules before leaving to go anywhere.
Due to this packed schedule, I saw so many amazing places and got to partake in numerous experiences that I would never have the chance to do elsewhere. Despite having many favorite experiences during my study abroad trip, one that really stuck with me was when we traveled around Slovenia in two days. After an early start to the day, we headed to Postojna Cave, which was so massive that it required a train ride to the center of the cave before the hour-long cave trek actually began. We then visited the Predjama Castle, which is built into a cliff, before heading to the coastal city Piran for the night. The following day we continued our journey with a visit to Lake Bled, a picturesque lake that is a common icon you will find on many Slovenian postcards. After our time at the lake we then toured the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana, before finally heading back to our hotel in Maribor. It was incredible to experience the diverse array of landscapes that exist in Slovenia, and it was easy to see what made them some of Slovenia’s top attractions. While my time abroad has ended, I look forward to recounting more of my experiences soon!