Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Holy Land

When I found out that my really good friend Jesse was going to be studying abroad for four months in Tel Aviv, Israel, I immediately started looking for flights. Israel wasn't necessarily super high on my list of places to travel (but it was most definitely on the list), but I'm the kind of traveler who often selects destination based on convenience and price. Therefore, most of my travels over the last few years were destinations where friends of mine were living short-term or long-term. 

I didn't know much about Israel, except what I had heard on the news concerning the ongoing conflict between Israel and its neighboring states. You can imagine then my family's response when I told them I was planning a trip to Israel. Nevertheless, I was BLOWN AWAY by the smorgasbord country. Its beauty, charm, history, culture, friendly and open people, and above all, the normalcy of life there. 

After leaving a frigid Vienna, the first thing I wanted to do was naturally go to the beach. SUNSHINE AND WAVES in December. YES.

We strolled along the beach until we reached Jaffa, the old port of Tel Aviv that is about 4,000 years old. 

Perched on a hill, Jaffa had some amazing views of the Mediterranean. 

And wonderfully winding alleys 

No trip to Israel would be complete without a visit to Jerusalem and the old city. It baffles me that three major world religions call Jerusalem their holiest of holy places. They live together side by side, practicing their very different traditions and cultures.  Pictured above is the Wailing Wall, which is the holiest of places for the Jewish faith.

It was easy to get lost in the old city. We probably left and re-entered the four quarters several times without evening know it. Here we stumbled upon the entrance to the Jewish quarter.

We were lucky enough to experience Jerusalem during Hanukkah. Here some members of the Israeli Defense Forces got together to eat donuts and sing songs in the city center. 

Donuts were everywhere. People seemed to be buying them by the box. 

We also spotted plenty of menorahs in front of peoples homes. Some where basic, others were elaborate. 

Up here I got the best view of Jerusalem. Behind me is the Wailing Wall, and above it the Dome of the Rock, the third most holy site for the Islam faith. 

There were markets everywhere in Jerusalem-- and hard to avoid. 

I decided to walk the Via Dolorosa for myself, as well as in honor of my family members who are Catholic and can't make the journey themselves to Jerusalem. The Via Dolorosa shows the sights of Jesus's last moments before he was crucified. 

And after a lot of sightseeing and experiencing many different things, I had to treat myself to a giant bowl of humus. Alright, if I'm honest I treated myself to humus and falafel every day. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Avoiding Cold Feet

I just realized that the first thing I do when I enter my apartment is go put on my Hausschuhe (slippers). I used to find it really strange that everyone constantly wore slippers around the house and even offered slippers to their guests. Students in schools are required to wear them. I was even asked to bring a pair during my orientation week in an Austrian youth hostel four years ago. (I, of course, did not bring any, and I think maybe just a few out of the hundred TAs actually brought them.)

But today I just became aware of my post-arrival tradition of locating where my Hausschuhe are. The other day I even asked my friend if he had some extra Hausschuhe laying around.

I'm slowly forgetting what it's like to have warm carpet everywhere. I guess my feet have just become too cold in the winter on these hardwood floors and need the warmth and comfort of a nice five euro pair of slippers.

That being said, I should mention that my Hausschuhe are super fluffy and soft while the standard pair of Hausschuhe here are Birkenstock-like sandals. That's right; Austrians wear Birkenstocks as slippers, not as summer sandals as I have seen on many occasions in the United States. 

I admit to the fact of being a Hausschuhe fan, but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to spend fifty euros on a pair of indoor sandals. I also will never bring mine with me.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Studying in Austria versus America Part 2: Libraries

A step-by-step guide to using a Viennese university library:

  1. Figure out which library you need. While there is a central Hauptbibliothek at the Uni, most of the resources you will need will be located in each department's own library. Use the online catalog to figure out where the book is located and set off to find it. This may require checking out several libraries, which aren't always located within the same building, so be prepared to use that metro pass or your legs.
  2. Go to the front desk at the library and get yourself a key for the Garderobe because every library has a Garderobepflicht (meaning it's required to lock up your possessions). What's that you may ask? Well, a Garderobe is like a coat check, or in this case, it's a locker room. A locker room? Is this a gym or a library?
  3. Lock up your possessions: coat, umbrella, backpack-- anything that could potentially cause damage to the library facilities and/or allow you to sneak your favorite copy of that super old historic book out of the library.
  4. If you're going to study, make sure you take all necessary materials with you before you lock up the rest. It's a pain to realize you had left your highlighter/pen/notebook in your locker after having reached the Lesesaal (reading room). Don't forget your cell phone so you can take necessary study SMS/Whatsapp/Facebook breaks. Your high-quality paper student ID should also be brought with, in case you do decide to check out any books. And most importantly, take that key with you! If you're smart, you made sure you wear something with lots of pockets to shove everything in. 
  5. With everything in hand (or pockets), head to a Lesesaal for studying. Good luck staying focused in one of the old, open reading rooms if you come from a younger country like the US, as it seems like you could be studying in a closed-off section of a museum or archive.
  6. Now, let's say you're at the library to check out a book. Did you check to see if you can actually access that book yourself? Is it older than 100 years old? Chances are, you can't check it out. Is it listed in the Magazin? Then you can't actually go and get that book yourself; you have to request it online and pick it up. Does your book not meet those requirements? Good! Go and pick out the book yourself. 
  7. Alright, got the book you want? Take your ID to the desk and check it out. Don't think about smuggling it out (as if you could, because your pockets are stuffed and your bag and coat are locked up), because in addition to the Garderobepflicht, there are of course metal detectors.
  8. Once you've finished using the library for whatever reason, grab your key and head back to the locker room, I mean Garderobe. Gather your belongings and make sure to deposit your key in the drop-box on your way out the door.
Happy reading!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013 in Vienna: Helping lost people find their way-- Google Maps. The streets aren't accurate representations, just well-known Viennese streets. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Knock Knock: Studying in Austria vs. America Part 1

I've begun noticing some things that are different about studying in Austria and studying in America. 
  • Austrian lecture halls are REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE. At first glance, they look pretty similar to American lecture halls (at least at the University of Minnesota), with the stadium-style seating and the professor podium and desk at the bottom. But take away those plush individual movie-theater like seats that one is accustomed to in America and add long rows of wooden tables and wooden benches and suddenly one has the need to start kneeling and praying as if at a Catholic mass. In overcrowded lectures students squeeze together like sardines in a can and personal space disappears as students basically sit on the lap of their neighbor. It's also impossible to cross one's legs, because there is a giant metal bar under the long wooden desk/table preventing legs from being lifted an inch off the ground. Falling asleep is not an option for obvious uncomfortable conditions. At the University of Minnesota, on the other hand, everyone has their own soft comfortable seat with a personalized desk that can be folded down to allow leg crossing, sleeping, etc etc. Guess that's where a portion of my thousands of dollars' worth of tuition went back in the day.

  • I write in block letters. Is that an American thing? If I remember correctly, when I edited my peers' written work in high school and at the University of Minnesota, they also wrote in clear block letters. Austrians write in this swirly looking chicken-scratch that makes it impossible to peer over my neighbor's shoulder and try to write down what they had written when I didn't understand the professor. It makes me super self-conscious about my very legible handwriting all over my page. It screams "LOOK AT ME; I"M NOT FROM HERE!!!!" 

  • Professors receive recognition at the end of every class as the students knock on the tables; it's like the Austrian/German (European?) way of clapping. But, it takes place at the end of every class. Not just the first class, not just when there was a guest speaker, but at the end of every class.

  • Students don't really go to lectures-- or at least I have the feeling that they don't. I know several people who are signed up for classes that they never go to for multiple reasons ranging from scheduling conflicts to plain laziness. No one pays tuition (except us fine Ausländer) so there's not much of a reason to justify sitting in the aforementioned uncomfortable lecture hall when classes are free. In America, when we skipped a class, it was like throwing $300 out the window. I kind of still have that mentality, even though now I'd only be throwing maybe five euros out the window if I didn't go to class.

I'll post more differences as I encounter them along the way. Now it's time to read for my Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft (German linguistics) course. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Uni Update

I'm into my second full week of classes at Uni Wien.

It's kind of intense; not only transitioning from working for the last four years to studying full time again, but also the fact that all of my classes are in German and about scientific topics makes my head want to explode by the end of the day.

I've got seven classes. That's right: SEVEN courses. In Europe they use the ECTS credit system, which has about twice as much worth as an American credit. That means I'm taking the equivalent to a full load in America, but my classes only meet once a week rather than a few times a week like in the States. 

Classes here require a lot of self study, which is stressing me out a bit right now. Other than the material covered during my five lectures, there is nothing keeping me on track throughout the semester other than one fat giant exam at the end. Or in my case, five separate exams.

I'm taking two seminars in addition to my five lectures, and those are smaller classes that I have more assignments and presentations to complete throughout the semester. In fact, my first presentation is this Friday on the topic Lernprozess und Interaktion (learning process and interaction).

These are the classes I am taking:
  • Phonetik im Unterricht (phonetics in classroom instruction)
  • Sprachenpolitische Grundfragen (fundamental questions concerning the topic language politics)
  • Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft (German linguistics)
  • Einführung in die Beobachtung und Analyse von DaF/Z Unterricht (introduction to the observation and analysis in foreign language instruction)
  • Linguistische und didaktische Grammatik (learning how to use grammar in the classroom)
  • Einführung in Deutsch als Fremd- und Zweitsprache (introduction to German as a foreign and second language)
  • Interkulturelles Lernen und interkulturelle Kommunikation (intercultural learning and communication)
And that, is my insanely full semester. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Where's my Schultüte?

Today was a monumental day for me: I had my first Lehrveranstaltung (course) of my masters program in Deutsch als Fremd- und Zweitsprache (DaF/Z)  at Uni Wien.

It had been four years since I had taken any academic course, and just like a child before the first day of school, I had troubles sleeping because I was so excited, and slightly nervous, about what was about to come. 

There was no "back-to-school shopping" this time around, but I did buy a printer yesterday. And a used IKEA desk for five euros. I'm set. Just need a chair for my desk so I can actually begin to use the work space.

Anyway, my class today--the very first class I have properly taken at a university not in the United States--is an introductory course to the observation and analysis of the instruction of DaF/Z. I experienced my first "well this is way different than America" shock today when 60+ students tried to get into a seminar meant for 35 students. I witnessed students line up against the walls and try to convince the professor that they needed this class and THEY NEEDED IT NOW. 

However, Uni Wien has a very archaic way of distributing seats in a course through their beloved point system; every student is allotted 2,000 points of which they can use to more or less bet on their classes which aren't lectures. The more points one "bets", the better chance of getting into the course. I had understood the course to be a somewhat introduction course, so I bet quite a few points and luckily made it into the class. The professor, however, still made those of us successfully registered in the class show a physical copy of our Zulassungsbescheid (acceptance letter from the Uni). This to me was a bit strange, since we can't even register for classes without having been formally accepted.... again, a bit out-dated.

Nonetheless, I have a spot and it should be an interesting semester. I've already been assigned a Referat (presentation) on the topic of the learning process which I should give with two others in two weeks. I'm also going to be doing a ten-hour Hospitationspraktikum at a Czech cultural institute in Vienna, which will include me more or less observing German classes there. 

Another thing I noticed is that I am definitely not the only person in the program who has a different native language than German. That was a bit of a relief but not much of a surprise I suppose considering the degree is geared toward those who would like to teach German as a foreign and second language either at home or abroad.

And that, in conclusion, marks the beginning to a very new chapter in my life. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Applying to an American University versus an Austrian University: Step by Step

My experience applying to my bachelors degree in the United States:

1. Get good grades in high school. Really, make sure your grades are top.
2. Take an admittance exam. Study in advance for exam. Take it several times if you aren't happy. Pay a lot of money for each exam.
3. Be awesome. Be exceptional. Volunteer, have a job, join several student organizations.
4. Get achievements and awards. Excel.
5. Maybe get letters of recommendation, depending on the college.
6. Send in your application, including transcripts, resume and documents proving the aforementioned qualities and achievements.
7. Pay a fee with your application.
8. Wait.
9. Receive acceptance letter and pay a fee to confirm intent to study.
10. Then pay TONS in tuition.

I haven't applied for a masters program in the US, but I imagine it to be somewhat similar to applying to the application process for a bachelors program.

My experience applying to the masters program at the University of Vienna:
1. Fill out a pre-registration form online with intent to study.
2. Print out form. Sign form.
3. Send form with original apostilled copy of University diploma and transcript.
4. In my case, include a copy of the language exam I took proving my level of German needed for the study program.
5. Send application to university.
6. Wait a few weeks.
7. Receive acceptance email.
8. Go to registrar office personally to declare intent to study. 
9. In my case, pay a small (in comparison to the US) tuition fee, since I am not an EU citizen.
10. Pat yourself on the back for getting accepted into a foreign university and smile because you just saved yourself at least $20,000.


Things are changing, that's for sure.

My flatmates and I bought a new washing machine last week. It was kind of a big deal for us, as we had been avoiding this purchase for a good two years now. Now we can guarantee that our clothes will be dry within 24 hours after washing them. (Our old machine had no spin cycle, and we literally had to wring out our clothing and hang it up to drip in the tub.)

Washing machine aside, the whole fact that I'm going to be doing my masters program beginning in October at the University of Vienna is a HUGE change.

It really sank in a couple of days ago when I went to the university registrar for the first time to officially register myself as a student. As I walked through the building, a huge wave of nostalgia went through me as I thought to myself: I've done this before and I can do it again.

Granted, that was in the United States and I had ample amount of personal assistance and guidance to help keep me on track, pick the appropriate courses, etc. However, having navigated Austrian bureaucracy for four years makes me feel like I can take on any challenge life throws at me. 

Getting a student ID and registering was a simple and painless process, aside from the fact that it was very unclear where the waiting room was for masters studies. Another clueless master student and I buddied up and figured out where to go after sitting for probably fifteen minutes in the wrong room. We both missed our numbers, so we grabbed new ones, and sat down to have a nice chat.

If the other students are as friendly as this chap was, I know it's going to be a great year, even if I end up banging my head on the table months down the road due to lack of personal guidance or confusion over XYZ.

After having received my student ID, I headed to my bank to change from a normal account to a free student account. On top of that, I figured it was a good idea to open up a credit card here to avoid getting charged every time I book a flight on my American card when the purchase is in euros and not dollars. 

Not only is my new student account at the bank free, but so is my credit card, and I get some free travel insurance on top of it. 

So, so so excited for student discounts. 

Officially a Student Again

It's now official: I am a student at the University of Vienna. Take a look at the amazing quality of the paper student IDs where I wrote my name in and the woman glued on my mugshot-like passport picture. 

My roommate assured me that is not true of every German-speaking university. I've been told that Vienna is the second largest German-speaking university in the world, and yet they still use outdated paper student IDs.

Yep, there are going to be a lot of differences between doing a degree in the United States and a degree abroad. I'm strangely looking forward to these differences. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Austria 5.0

It's official: I have been accepted for the masters program I applied to at the University of Vienna! Thankfully they accepted my American bachelor's degree, but I will have to take a few courses in addition to my masters classes in order to make it more like an Austrian bachelor's degree. So that means two to three more years in Austria!

I'm just finishing up my fourth year living abroad here. It's crazy to think that I'm still here and about to commit a few more years. I never would have thought four years ago when I moved to small town Braunau am Inn that Austria would become a second home for me. I mean, I was supposed to go to Germany-- not Austria.

But it's worked out. Somehow.

This past week I was at a beautiful lake in Austria called Attersee for a week. Taking my friends and community out of Vienna and bringing that with me to Attersee and receiving my acceptance email from the University really made things crystal clear: even though I can't explain why or how I got here, it makes sense. Vienna is home. For now. Of course, who knows what the future will bring.

And can I see myself staying here long term?

Not really.

But, beginning a fifth year abroad is starting to approach the idea of "longer term".

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Way, Way Overdue Update


Finally! I said "Bye Bye" to the kiddies Friday and said CHEERS to the beginning of three months of summer vacation! 

The past two months have flown by faster than lighting, and that's why I have hardly updated. 

And so much has happened and changed. Here's a quick overview:

I went to Brussels on a last-minute weekend trip to visit my aunt and uncle.

I visited the outside of the European Union buildings, something I had wanted to do since taking a course on European Politics during my undergraduate study.

And shortly after visiting the EU, I was pick-pocketed for the SECOND time while living in Europe, the first time being in Malta. 

This all resulted in dealing with lots of fun Austrian bureaucracy to replace stolen cards, including my residence permit. To make a long story short, it was all taken care of, and I can at least admire my persistence and German skills.

Just a few days after coming back from Brussels, and having been very stressed might I add, I came down with tonsillitis for the second time within one month. Blaming the kiddies at school for that one. This, of course, happened the morning I was due to fly to Norway. Again, some persistence and German skills landed me a last-minute appointment at my ENT doctor, who drugged me up and sent me on my way to Norway.

The weekend was pretty low key for obvious reasons, but I did manage to do a little bit of sightseeing with my friend, Erin.

A few days after returning to Austria, mostly healthy, my friend Laura moved to Vienna from the United States! I took her to a traditional Viennese Heurige to celebrate her arrival.

May ended and June brought viel Lernen. I was scheduled to take an advanced German test mid-June required by the University of Vienna, so I spent hours brushing up my very colloquial German and polishing my writing skills. Perhaps a bit overkill, but I did pass the test with flying colors!

As the school year came to an end, I had to say goodbye to my colleagues and students, as I will hopefully begin a full-time study program in the Fall at Uni Wien, as I have mentioned before in a previous post. However, after much thought and self-reflecting, I have decided not to apply for the Lehramt (teaching accreditation program) here. For many reasons, I have decided to apply for two masters programs: German Studies and German as a Foreign/Second Language, the latter being the program I'd really like to do. The application has been sent in, so cross your fingers and press your thumbs!

And that brings me up to speed. Summer has started, I've caught up on sleep, soaked in some rays, and packed for my trip to Scotland! I'll be in Edinburgh and St.Andrews as of tomorrow for a wedding. Looking forward to my second time in Scotland, as well as seeing some familiar faces!

Happy Summer Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May First: Labor Day // A Free Wednesday

Three weeks ago was May 1st, or Austria's version of Labor Day. Thus, it was a random Wednesday holiday for us at school and for the majority of the country. A good portion of the locals went to one of the many events sponsored by the different political parties. Others went to counter-parades against said political parties. Some sat at home and enjoyed the time off.

Vienna's students and twenty- and thirtysomethings, it seemed, all congregated on a small island on the Danube near the edge of Vienna for Tanz durch den Tag. To my knowledge, this was a word-of-mouth event, or perhaps word-of-Facebook. However, it seemed like everyone was there. Everyone. 

Tanz durch den Tag means more or less to dance through the day. Some DJs set up their tables and equipment, and suddenly there was a giant electronic festival on the field while girls in leotards did cirque du soleil moves on ribbons in the trees. Ribbons, disco balls, and rainbows were some of the decorations while people decorated themselves with glitter and donned outfits straight out of Woodstock to urban-youth hip-hop. There was a zen-meditation-esoteric center. One could also tie-dye T-shirts. Every inch of the field was littered with blankets and people having picnics with bottles of wine or beer. Fairies danced around in the crowd.

It was like the Woodstock of 2013 in Europe with an electronic edge (not that I am the one to judge what Woodstock was like, as I wasn't even around at that time). A strange, yet refreshing mix.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Die Up-takerin

Today at work, while supervising the after-school program, one of the girls began collecting a few items which she wanted to bring upstairs. She declared to the group:

"Ich bin die Up-takerin

Up-takerin is not a German word. It's also obviously not an English word. I don't even really know how one would correctly write such a word. 

What she wanted to tell the rest of the group, was that she was going to be the person in charge of taking the things upstairs; thus, Up-taker (the person who takes something up) was her choice of words. It's also important to point out that she correctly added the feminine "in" ending to the noun, indicating that a female was completing the action.

I've been told that, while English is a language of verbs, German is a language of nouns. So rather than the girl simply saying she would take up the items (i.e. ich bringe die Sachen nach oben), she assigned herself the role of being the person responsible for taking the things up (die Up-takerin).

The things the kids say at work make me smile. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Countryside Comes to Vienna

A couple of weeks ago, the Rathausplatz in Vienna transformed into a farm. Well, not really, but there sure was a lot of hay on the ground.

Every year in the Spring, Vienna hosts a four-day festival called Steiermarkdorf (Styrian village) in front of the Rathaus.

There's lots of Trachten (lederhosen & dirndl), traditional food from Steiermark, and tons of delicious wine. In addition, there were dance performances like Schuhplatter, accordion music, a cappella singing, and anything that was super Austrian country-side and not at all Viennese.

 And it gave me an excuse to put on my Dirndl for a few hours!

First picnic of the year at Burggarten

Yesterday, April 26th, it was 29 C / 84 F in Vienna. Just as a comparison, April 1st it snowed. Looks like there's no Spring this year, but that's alright, since it's picnic weather!


One of my favorite places in Vienna is Yppenplatz, which is conveniently located in my neighborhood. Yppenplatz is tucked away in the 16th district of Vienna and offers a variety of restaurants, a weekly farmer's market, and plenty of outdoor seating for warm days. It seems that everyone has come out of hibernation after the long and depressing winter and making their way to Yppenplatz. The weather has been unseasonably warm (it appears that we've simply bypassed Spring this year and jumped right into Summer), and it has been nearly impossible to get an outdoor table at one of the many restaurants no matter what time of day it is.

What I love about Yppenplatz is the variety of restaurants ranging from Austrian, to Italian, to Indian, to organic modern kitchen, as well as the diverse crowd that flocks there. Hipsters, students, artists, foreigners, families, yuppies, and the like all seem to find a place together while drinking spritzers or enjoying a weekend brunch.

Another great thing about Yppenplatz is the market that takes place on Saturday mornings. Although the Platz is located at the end of Europe's longest outdoor market, Brunnenmarkt, I prefer to do my shopping on Saturdays at the Yppenmarkt. Farmers and wine producers from around Vienna and Austria bring their local, and often organic, products and sell them at a very fair price.

Today I played the game "how much can I buy with just ____ euros". I came home with three full bags of fresh produce and spent only 15 euros! It would have actually been just nine euros, but I bought a kilo of dried black beans and some spices. I tried to keep track of my purchases, and here is an estimate of what I spent:

two red beets: 80 cents
6 large carrots: 60 cents
half a kilo of spinach: 50 cents
fresh ginger: 1 euro
two tomatoes: 50 cents
one pineapple: 1.50
half a kilo of grapes: 1 euro
five bell peppers: 80 cents
two eggplants: 80 cents
1 kilo dried black beans: 3.20
two packages of spices: 3 euros
four bananas: 80 cents

I'm not sure if that adds up to 15 euros exactly, but that's a rough estimate of what I spent. Another instance where I just might point out:

Austria: 1, USA; 0

Saturday, April 6, 2013


It's official: I have made a decision, a very important decision regarding my future, one that I had been pondering for nearly a year. 

I've decided to study to become a teacher in Austria this fall. That means I'd be studying English and a second subject of my choice, as well as my pedagogy courses.

This was a huge decision that took a lot of time to reach. I made pros and cons lists. I contacted people. I meditated. I discussed. I researched. I grew frustrated at my then-seemingly incapability of making a decision. 

It was already clear within my first year here in Austria as a teaching assistant that teaching languages was my calling. I just never thought that would turn into a desire to stay long(er)-term overseas and pursue a teaching career here-- or at least begin my career here.

I moved here about three and a half years ago on a program that was supposed to last one - two years. As the program came to an end, I knew leaving was not something I wanted to do, and as luck would have it, I was one of the lucky few able to actually get a proper job overseas. Since then, I've created a life for myself in Vienna-- one that I'm not too keen on giving up so soon. I've gained experience in different settings teaching English as a second/foreign language to children, teenagers and adults. I love it, and I'd like to think I'm quite good at it.

So teaching it is. 

After finally admitting to making this decision and sharing it with my friends and family back home, as well as my colleagues and friends here, I feel so relieved and so SUPPORTED. I've been overwhelmed by the positive feedback and comments I've been getting from everyone about this decision. 

And, honestly, that makes me feel like this fits, like this is the road on which I should embark.

This will be my second degree, and I'm ready to be a student again. Student life always suited me well, and I'm excited to hit the books again. What I'm not really looking forward to is the bureaucracy I will face in the coming months as I switch visas and attempt to get credits transferred from my bachelors from the University of Minnesota. I'm also super excited about going to university abroad, as I never had a proper study abroad experience during my undergrad. 

It's exciting times, that's for sure. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Katelyn's Culinary and Cultural Visit to Vienna

My dear friend and freshman - junior year college roommate, Katelyn, came all the way just to Vienna for a week to visit moi. Amid catching up and seeing the sights, we had quite the week exploring restaurants, cafes, and bars in Vienna. 

Himbeerbowle at Schloss Schönbrunn

Schickaneder, 4th district

Easter Market at Freyung, Wien

Cafe Demel, famous tortes and cakes

Cafe Demel decor

Katelyn trying out a Käsekrainer, a hotdog filled with cheese. Not something for me!

Wein & Co, Universität

On Monday, I took Katelyn to Salzburg, as it was always her dream to take part on the Sound of Music tour. Normally, I hate such tourist attractions. After doing the tour, I still would rather stay away from such organized tours. But at least we saw some lovely scenery, and Katelyn's dreams came true :)

A special thanks to Miss Katelyn for coming all the way to Vienna to visit! It was wonderful in so many ways, and I will never forget the visit!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Budapest & Mumford.... A Religious Experience

Several months ago, Mumford & Sons, a Grammy award-winning folk band from England, announced tour dates for the European tour. Word spread quickly in Vienna, and tickets were sold out within one or two days. My friends and I found out a couple of hours too late, but, as luck would have it, saw that tickets were still available-- and half the price-- in Budapest. 

Vienna is conveniently located close to the border of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, so bus tickets to and from said countries are rather cheap and frequent. I'd been to Budapest once a few years ago around Christmas time, and my friends thought it would be a fantastic chance to get back to the city and have a short weekend getaway in combination with the concert.

We arrived on that Friday night and made our way straight to the venue in anticipation of the concert. There are few words that I can share to summarize the concert and my experience other than it was simply religious. I don't like to throw that term around loosely, but the music, lyrics, and atmosphere simply gave way to an experience I've never had at a concert. 

After the concert, we went searching for food. Hey, did you know McDonalds also offers walk-through service in Hungary???

The following day, while my studious roommate hit the books at Starbucks, my friend and I joined a free walking tour and I checked off "tourist activity" off the list of things to do while in Budapest. 

Later that night, after roaming the city in circles trying to find the Jewish district, we enjoyed some drinks at the most interesting pub I've ever been to, Szimpla.  I can recommend that to anyone traveling to Budapest; it's a mix of art, grunge, trend, vintage, and locals and tourists alike frequent the bar. 

Taking the advice of our tour guide, we spent our last morning at one of Budapest's famous thermal baths and let the mineral waters magically cure any fog that remained from the night before.

All in all, I'm glad we didn't get tickets to the concert in Vienna, as I thoroughly enjoyed my second time in Budapest, the Paris of the east-- a must if you are traveling through Eastern Europe. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's my "Spring Break", and it's been below freezing every day, and we have three inches of snow. Regretting not booking a trip to Spain or southern Italy to escape the winter.

What the heck Austria?! Two years ago at this time, I was running around in a dress and basking in the sun during my holidays. Now I'm afraid to leave the house. The feeling I have is like when I would see snow in Minnesota in May.

On a positive note, my friend and freshman roommate from Uni, Katelyn, has been visiting me.

Updates to come on Budapest, Katelyn's visit, and plans to start studies in the fall SOON!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How I Spent My Friday

Mumford and Sons in Budapest: It was so good, and I was so sad when it was over. (The quality got screwed up when I uploaded it... but you can just imagine.)

More on Budapest to come.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spring is Coming... Finally

Today is the third day in a row with a perfectly blue sky and beautiful sunshine. Herrlich. 

This may not be so blog-worthy for many, but let me tell you why this is a monumental time for us here in Vienna: This winter has been the gloomiest and cloudiest winter in 130 years in Vienna. Three days of sunshine--that's something to point out.

Every morning at school, we have calendar time. The kids learn about the months of the year, the days of the week, the seasons, and the weather. We always insert an appropriate weather card behind the date, and for the month of February, we had TWO days of sunshine the entire month.

It was simply depressing.

But now the sun is gracing us with its presence,  and I'm tempted to stand outside for the rest of the day so as to store up some Vitamin D just in case the sun forgets about us again in Vienna.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Liebster Award

Hello World! I have been nominated for a "Liebster" Award from Liva over at No Kangaroos in Austria. Liebster award-- that sounds German, you say? Well, Liebster is a term of endearment according to Leo dictionary. Honestly, I can't say I've heard it too much over here in Austria, but that's alright! In any case, this is a fun way to say WHAT'S UP blog world by answering a set of questions written by the nominator and passing along to eleven other blogs which I liebe, or at least like a lot :D (But I don't read 11 blogs regularly, so I'm just tagging a few...)

So, without further adieu, here I go....

1. Where would you like to go on a dream trip, money no object?

I would love to travel to South America, beginning in Argentina and making my way up towards Chile, Brasil, Peru, Bolivia... basically, all of South America would be amazing.

2. What is the most adventurous trip you have taken?

I once took a road trip to Paris with an American friend and an older couple from Eastern Germany that we had just met. It was pretty adventurous, since we had just met them the week before, had cooked them an American breakfast, and they decided to whisk us away to Paris with them when our German was just okay.

3. How do you prefer to travel (plane, car, boat, etc.)?

It depends. I enjoy train travel, because I find it more comfortable than flying; you can get up and walk around and you can see a lot of the countryside. Also, I don't have to suffer with sinus issues when I travel by train. But obviously traveling by plane is a lot faster, and therefore my preferred means of travel most times.

4. Where do you plan to travel next?

I'm traveling to Budapest next weekend for some sightseeing and to see Mumford & Sons in concert. Looking forward to my second time there!

5. What are your top three travel essentials when packing?

Sinus medicine, my cell phone charger, my travel journal

6. What would you tell a new blogger?


7. Who is your ideal travel companion?


8. What is the best trip (near or far) that you've ever taken?

I've had so many amazing trips... but I'd have to go with Istanbul 2012. Three friends and I rented a private apartment and were pleasantly surprised by the city, the people, and the cats. It was a fantastic mixture of sightseeing, relaxing, eating awesome food, shopping, and going out. The weather sucked, but we that did not spoil our time!

9. Where do you go to clear your head?

I go running

10. What is your favorite city?

Top three: Vienna, Berlin, Chicago

11. Describe yourself in five words.

Outgoing, curious, confident, kind, happy

And here are my eleven questions for the following blogs:
1. How and why did your blog start?
2. How long has your blog existed?
3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
4. What has been your favorite trip?
5. What is your favorite city in the world?
6. What's the coolest thing you have ever done?
7. Where do you go to clear your head?
8. What do you do when you have an entire day free for yourself?
9. What can't you live without?
10. What language would you like to learn?
11. Describe yourself in five words.

Here are a few blogs I'm tagging, have fun with it!

A Carinthian American
Emilia in Austria
A German Experience
Jenni Austria Germany
Vegan Soul Power

Please Do Not Respect the Privacy of Others

The germ factories, aka the little kids at work, managed to slam me like a train with influenza this past month.  While the month was indeed positive in many, many ways (Laura's visit from America, traveling, vacation, etc.), a giant bomb dropped on my health and I was left immobile for several days.

At one of my visits to the doctor--one of my faaaaavorite pastimes in Austria--I experienced a slight breech in patient confidentiality. I was waiting to check in at the front desk, awkwardly standing in a giant group of people while we all eyed each other thinking "I was here before you. You better not jump in line", which is a totally rational thought to have while living here, as queues are NOT observed. The man at the desk was having a very loud and graphic conversation with the woman checking him in about his symptoms and the drugs he is on, and it became very clear to me that there is little privacy when visiting the doctor. There is no sign that reads "Please stand back to respect other patient's privacy", so everyone just groups around the front desk. The receptionist checking people in was by no means quiet, and I could hear their conversation perfectly, as could everyone else in the waiting room. The man wanted to get a prescription refilled too soon, or something, and apparently he was breaking the law, and boy, did she let him have it. She told him it was his responsibility to follow the rules and to see the doctor regularly, and that this was not a Kindergarten, the doctor would not take care of that... no, no, no. He is an adult and it is HIS responsibility. Talk about talking down on people.

And I heard all of this perfectly as I told the person standing next to me with my eyes that my turn was next.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


My friend and former college roommate, Laura, has been visiting me the last couple of weeks. In addition to traveling to Poland together, we have seen all of the typical sights of Vienna: Belvedere, the first district, Schönbrunn, Demel, etc etc. We even went to an opera at the Staatsoper

Laura and I

The State Opera in Vienna sells 600-some standing-room tickets at three and four euros allowing even budget travelers and teaching assistants alike the chance to experience some good ol' Austrian culture. We opted for the four euro tickets and this was our view:

Before the performance, a little slanted from my camera

We even managed to stay for the entire performance. I thought that I'd lose interest about a third of the way in, but being sandwiched into the corner and no intermission made for a speedy breakaway unmöglich (impossible). That said, I'm glad that I stuck it out, as the ending was a bit twisted and thus suddenly piqued my interest.

Health Foods Gone Awry

In an attempt to boost my immune system (thank you children at work), I tried to make one of those detox/immune-system-boosting smoothies that I've stumbled across now and again on the internet. Let's just say, without a recipe, it was pretty much an epic fail, and I'm pinching my nose as I drink this brownish-greenish-purple slop. Lesson learned: when delving into the world of kale and smoothies, follow a recipe.

Doesn't that just look gooooooood? 


Last week, while everyone was off skiing in the Alps during the semester break, I headed north to Krakow, Poland with two friends. Krakow was never very high on my list of places to visit, but it was, nevertheless, on my list of places to see and one city that my friend and I had both never been to. Seeing as it is February and really cold and snowy in Krakow (who wants to travel to Poland in the winter?), prices were far too low to pass up an opportunity to visit the land of pierogies.

So we boarded a Polish train, scrambled around a very confusing train station in Katowice while trying to find our connecting train, boarded a second (somewhat sketchy) Polish train, crawled at a snail's speed and stopped several times in the middle of nowhere, and finally, nine hours later with a delay, made it to Krakow. We were upgraded from a three-bed private in our hostel to a two-bedroom apartment with beautiful views of some desolate brick building and with a TV that smoked when we tried to turn it on. 

Our view

Thankfully first impressions aren't always what they seem, as Krakow is a very charming city with extremely friendly and hospitable folks. Lots of churches, open squares, and tons of cafes, restaurants and bars. I read that in Krakow's old town there are more than 750 cafes, restaurants and bars alone! Sadly we only had a four days to take in as much as we could, but we should have devoted one night to just cafe/bar-hopping.

Market Square

On our first night, we had a couple of drinks at one of the more interesting bars I've ever been in the Jewish district, Kazimierz. We even met a couple of friendly locals who gave us lots of useful tips and advice amid nice Polish company. That's one thing I noticed about Poland: the locals were very friendly and helpful-- something I'm not always used to in stuffy Vienna. 

Our trip was a good mixture of trying local food, taking naps, going for drinks, church-hopping (sooo many churches), exploring the castle grounds, and shopping. We booked a daytrip to Auschwitz on the last day, a haunting, yet memorable experience.

Although I definitely enjoyed my time in Krakow, I would recommend to visit in the summer when the weather is more favorable. Most of the attractions are outdoors, and we made the mistake of leaving our boots in Vienna. At least Krakow is the city of shoe shops, and I was able to get a beautiful pair of boots for half the price that I would have gotten in Vienna.

Also, did you know that Krakow is basically my city?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gay Marriage Through the Eyes of a Five Year Old German

Today at school, as I herded the children in rows like sheep from point A to point B, a little boy, L. was having a very mature conversation with another little boy, J.

L: You need to be careful who you marry when you are older. If you marry a man, you can't have children. A man and a woman who are married can have children, but a man and a man can't, and neither can a woman and a woman.
J: But women have children. Why can't a woman and a woman have a baby?
L: Because the man carries the seed. And if a woman marries a woman, she won't have the seed.
J: But what about if the man marries a man who has the seed?
L: That doesn't work. Only women can carry the baby in their belly, but they need the seed from the man. So if you want children, you have to marry a woman.

Oh, the interesting things I hear at work. I'm so glad I can speak German fluently and eavesdrop on their conversations.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Today's Rendition of Kid Denglisch

Today at school, M. told me while she was looking at a class picture from last year:

I hab him geloved. (In reference to one of my former colleagues).

Another little guy, L., keeps saying: Me maching that! (from the verb "machen" which means "to do")

What's going on here? The kids have started to really mix German and English grammar rules and have created a language of their own, namely, Denglisch.

In German, one adds "ge" in front of regular verbs to indicate that it is in the past tense. When there are two verbs involved in a sentence, the second verb takes the final place in the sentence. Little M. probably also picked up the past tense regular verb "ed" and combined the two. Hence the overgeneralization I hab him geloved.

Little L. still can't tell the difference between "me" and "I" even though I have been correcting him the last two weeks nonstop.

L: Me going auf Toilet. (I'm going to the toilet)
Me: I'M going TO the toilet.
L: Aber was heisst "me"? (What does "me" mean?)
Me: Mich. "I" heisst ich.
L: Achso. Ok, me going To the toilet!
Me: *sigh*

Also, little L. pretty much just adds "ing" to all German verbs when he talks to us.

But you know what, it's awesome, and I am SO impressed that they can work all of that out in their young brains. I have to give them props, as those were the kids who didn't speak A WORD of English four months ago. And now they are starting to communicate. Way to GEH!

The Things I Find at Work

One of the kids at school has a toothpaste-shaped Federpennal* (pencil case) with Obama on it. She's six, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't even know who Obama is. Nevertheless, I love finding random Americanisms in the strangest forms abroad.

*Federpennal is a word that I actually learned while working at the school. I never really saw it written before, and because Austrians tend to pronounce "P" as a "B", I literally wrote Federbennal until I decided to double-check the spelling online. Reminds me of all the times I make I have made Austrians hold a piece of paper pulled taught in front of their mouth and try to make the paper move by aspirating the "P" in English.  It's effective, and it looks hilarious at the same time. Love teaching English.