Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Home in the USA

I've been home for about a month now. It was nice to finally be home after so long. I did experience some reverse culture shock and for about the first week, I felt like a foreigner in my home country. My brain needed some time to unpack the old memories and revive my American habits. My struggles also served as a decent conversation starter with friends and family. It's always a treat to see them as it feels like time hasn't past at all.

My summer will most likely be jammed-packed with reunions and short trips, that's just the overly organized planner in me. But typical me, I'm already in Vermont working at Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy for another summer. That means I have to switch my brain back into German mode. Believe me, it doesn't happen as quickly as a light switch. 

If there is anything I've learned from this year, it is crucial to enjoy where you are and to stay in the moment. I know you've probably heard this already, but this was fundamental for me. In fact, it was almost a daily homework assignment for me. My year in Austria is already planned, but after that, I cannot say I'm certain what will come next. Life is not linear so why plan it to be like that? I hope to invite some spontaneity in Vienna, but I may fall back into old habits. 

I plan to continue updating this blog once I am back in Europe in September. I'd like to (with emphasis onpossibly) share more of my teaching experiences and impressions of Austria. Anyway, I thank you for following along and hope this summer is magical in your corner of the world. 

Liebe Grüße und bis bald
Matt :-)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

May: Hurry Up and Enjoy!

The amount of federal and Catholic holidays in Austria is overwhelming. I had three extended weekends and only one full week of school...and that's without having to taking a personal or sick day. With time running out in Linz, I set out with the goal to do something new or meet up with (a) friend(s) everyday. I figured I could push off my rest to June, and that's actually what happened. 

May was full of farewells and final visits. My roommate, Matthias, invited me to his family's farm in the Salzkammergut. He forgot to mention how amazing the whole area is. We explored a bit of the surrounding area before finally making the 500-meter ascent to his place. The pictures in the FB album, "Auf dem Hügel," can show you the weekend highlights better than I can with words. But it goes to show that I have had nothing but welcoming and hospitable experiences with the Austrians...even my landlords (Matthias' aunt and uncle) had us over for a farewell BBQ.

My last trip prior to my parents' visit was an extended weekend in Slovenia: Maribor and Ljubljana, the two largest cities. My Airbnb experience in Maribor was wonderful thanks my conversational and whimsical host. The city was quaint, but I loved it for that after so many people in Italy. In Ljubljana, I joined a larger group of teaching assistants. This comparatively tiny capital was just picturesque! But still, the city did have some spunk with the night scene and the varying architectural styles. Walking around these two cities, now at a transitional crossroads between the former Yugoslavia (communism, etc.) and the modern European Union, only proved to me how blessed this year has been. 

My last week of school was rather normal but also heavy on the farewells. In both schools, my colleagues and students were extremely generous and appreciative of my "enrichment" to their classes. One school had a farewell dinner for me; the other crew had a BBQ for me. To be honest, I would consider myself to be the lucky one.

May concluded rather quickly as I always had something on the docket. My parents in Austria a mere 36 hours after my last class. It was a joyous reunion to finally see my two biggest cheerleaders after almost nine months apart. I would say that their visit was a success. We visited Vienna, Linz, Krefeld and Cologne, Germany, as well as Roermond in the Netherlands. The Netherlands snuck my 2014-15 country count up to 11. Despite multiple crises to find adequate coffee, we toured a fair bit of where I will be living, where I was living, and where I lived during my high school exchange year. The people we met, especially Barbara and Claude, were beyond kind and hospitable, and I'm hopeful my parents got a glimpse of Europe's beauty. This concluded my 2014-15 stay in Europe. Although it was sad to bid farewell to Linz and new friends, I was more excited to see home and my friends and family. Plus, the fact that I have another year in Austria probably made things a tad easier.

Facebook albums

Auf dem Hügel - at Matthias' family home

Slovenia: Maribor and Ljubljana

Farewell to Linz/Marvelous May

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

April: Amazing Travels

My trip through Spain seems to have blurred the the end of March and the beginning of April together. Barcelona's flair was a wonderful start, but this Spanish major was in search of some Spanish, not so much the Catalonian side of life. I found that in Madrid. Sangria and tapas were staples in my diet there. The time in Madrid brought my studies to life. Finally, I saw the buildings and art styles that I spent four years studying. The Spanish was like I learned and practiced in class - it came back to me like riding a bike. From the Plaza Mayor to El Prado, it was my favorite stop in the trip. It was also nice to have the company of my friends, Mel and Charlotte - two British teaching assistants. 

With my Interrail pass, I also organized two day trips from Madrid. Toledo was a walk back in time. Segovia was like a fairy tale. My pass also brought me Valencia - my final stop. This was the "underdog" city in my itinerary, as in, I wasn't sure what to expect. Everything was perfect! This student city has a diverse range of things to do, from bull fighting and graffiti, to the classical touristy sights (i.e. Flamenco) and the beach. The Easter week processions were also unforgettable. I met a former CBYXer in my hostel which goes to show how small the world can really be. After Valencia, I had one more night in Barcelona and a layover in Zürich before I was officially back in Linz. I did my best to make the most of the time and wonderful weather, including a free walking tour and lunch in Zürich with my friend, Marco.

Each weekend in April was jam-packed. One weekend was spent in Vienna to scope out where my schools will be next year - my main school is in the 3rd district while my second school is in the 7th. Another weekend was spent in Linz with other Austrians and/or other teaching assistants doing my favorite pastimes in this Alpine country: hiking and baking. My last weekend, a solo trip to Italy and the Vatican City, rolled into May.

Italy was all that I had expected: wonderful sights, delicious food, warm people, hot-ass temperatures, and a million tourists. One unfortunate accessory to many tourists was the Selfie Stick. To save you my typical hour-long rant: in short, the inventor is probably very rich now, but oblivious tourists become even more annoying and obnoxious with a pole that enables them to take selfies (a self-portrait taken by the person). Perhaps I'm being a tad hypocritical, since I too was a tourist...

Rome and Florence were my two stops. Italy's capital city, Rome, was extraordinary. The cathedrals, especially the Vatican, were out of this world. I could have wandered for days since everything (i.e. street corner, statue, toilet, etc.) had some sort of historical significance. Florence, the capital of Tuscany, was architecturally beautiful in its own right. Again, it was very touristy, but I never wondered why. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, many influential people thrived here. I was fascinated to literally walk through history. However, I felt most in my element watching the sun set over the Tuscan hills from Piazza Michelangelo with gelato. My travel bug and appetite were both fully satisfied as rolled in directly to school on Tuesday morning.

Facebook albums

Hiking through Ebensee and Traunkirchen

Italy and Vatican City