I’m afraid that the time has come. I mean I told myself there was no way I could be so emotional about this, but boy was I so wrong.
No amount of words can ever describe how I terrified I was at the prospect of a year abroad – I mean I literally thought of everything; “should I change my degree?”, “can I really do this?”, “how can I get out of this?” and so on. It was endless thinking, debating, and in desperation hoping and pleading that it would actually all turn out alright in the end. I guess, like many, I didn’t like the uncertainty of it all. It was the same kind of feeling as leaving for university for the first time, yet amplified somewhat by the fact that it involved being an extra thousand miles away, and it wasn’t entirely always possible to pop home on a whim for a roast dinner on a Sunday.
However I’m jolly well pleased to say that it actually did work out in the end. Naturally there were highs and lows, but this was all to be both expected and more importantly accepted! There were days where I wandered around the city feeling like the happiest and luckiest person ever, but equally I’m not ashamed to say that there were days when I crawled out of bed for food and crawled back in again to binge watch TV series on Netflix IN ENGLISH!! – because really there is a limit to how much German you can take in order to maintain one’s mental stability. Trust me!
Over the year I’ve seen places I never thought I never would, fulfilled dreams I thought I never could. A few personal highlights for me..
- My first day in Graz being a lost tourist.
After following some sketched out directions I remember making my way to the supermarket and then walking round town in awe at where I was going to spend the next year living, little did I know how important this city would become for me.
- Staying in 5€ per night hostels.
Travelling on a budget is rather..interesting. 20 people sharing two showers and one toilet with no lock. Roommates who snore, those who stay up all night and those who lecture you all evening in a language you do not speak, all made for some strange once in a lifetime overnight stays.
- Getting sold cheese in a public toilet in Croatia.
Just one example of the many ‘culturally widening’ experiences that I could mention.
- Featuring in a group photo in Maribor.
Long story short, a group of Austrians, also on a trip in Slovenia welcomed a friend and I into a group photo in a wine museum, due to the fact that we could speak German. Oh how I would love to see that photo, or more like just our ‘what is happening here’ faces.
- Running the 5k Ladies Run through the city with my flatmate.
Now I am no olympian, 5k was an achievement! One thing I didn’t expect to be doing on my year abroad.
- Visiting and experiencing all things ‘Sound of Music’ in Salzburg & meeting a real Von Trapp Family member.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. A surreal dream.
- Taking a 10 hour overnight train from Milan to Graz.
The only reason this features as a personal highlight is to remind myself never to put myself through such torture ever again. Unless you can sleep sitting up, being fully aware that each one of your fellow travelling strangers are uncomfortably into the zone of your personal space, then please pay extra for a bed.
- Austrian life!
Dirndls and Lederhosen, the food, everyone greeting everyone, dialects (sorry, linguistics geek.), picturesque train journeys. Perfection!
Looking back over some past blog posts is really making me realise how grateful I am for all of this and I could write forever in a day about all of my wonderful memories. In a way I don’t regret that I was so scared for this year, because it has meant that, in all seriousness, I have surprised myself probably more than I ever could have imagined. Just over a year ago I was sitting second year exams in university and it was all too much at times, and today I just finished my end of year exams all done in German and all with a strange lack of stressing involved. Something that some people probably won’t actually be able to believe. My last exam today was a speaking exam for a geography class and I found out straight away that I had passed it, and it was a little strange, because if someone had have told me this would happen this time last year, there is no way I would have thought it possible to achieve.
Returning to the UK soon, which of course means returning to my home university as well. That is the next challenge I think. After becoming so accustomed to Austria, and making so many changes for the better it makes me wary, yet I am hopeful that the challenges battled will bring renewed positivity to my final year.
Almost 11 months away and it’s gone in a flash.
Austria, I thank you dearly. Friends, you have become family now; this is not goodbye this is see you again soon. Graz, you will always hold a special place in my heart. You won’t be able to keep me away for long I promise!