Thursday, January 18, 2018

Over The Past Month


It has been almost a month since my last update!

Time has been going by extremely fast as I approach the end of my time here in Austria.

Since it has been so long, I guess I'll start where I left off!

Christmas was so much fun.  Out here Christmas is actually celebrated on the 24th as opposed to the 25th.  The difference in dates didn't really make much of a difference other than my family and friends in the states wished me Merry Christmas on the 25th.  We spent Christmas quietly at home baking, cooking and just enjoying the day.  The following day we went to either of the grandparent's houses to talk and eat.  I had an excessive amount of Christmas cookies (worth it).

Once Christmas had come and passed, we made our way to Annaberg for the week to go skiing!

Annaberg is in Lower Austria and isn't too far from Mariazell.

The views were absolutely spectacular!  The mountains are so beautiful.

The skiing slopes

Some views from the top of the slopes

I loved skiing.  It was so much fun.  It took me a bit to get used to skiing again.  I don't remember the last time I went before this.

Aside from skiing, we also got to do some sledding on one of the smaller slopes!  The sleds they use out here normally are what would seem like typical old-timey sleds, at least to me they do.

Also, I think I found my new favorite Austrian food...

Austrian goulash soup.
Edit: I have been informed that is actually from Hungary... My bad

I ate a lot while we were in Annaberg.  Its warm, dense, and overall just the type of thing you would want to eat when you're tired and cold.

Toward the end of the break, one of my close friends (the other exchange student in my class that I mention sometimes) had a seizure on her way to go on holiday which ultimately lead to her being diagnosed with epilepsy and being sent home 6 months early.  

Shoutout to Jeannie for being an amazing person and friend!!!!  I miss you!!

She is so amazing.  We shared a lot of little adventures in Austria

This is also the reason I haven't updated in a while, my mind was just all over the place and I couldn't focus and write.

Recently, the town that my school is in had a local ball!  It was a lot of fun.  There were two main parts of the ball: 
A dance floor with a live band and pairs dancing away on the floor and
An area comparable to a club or party with modern music being played by a DJ.

Most of the older adults were where the live band was either sitting and talking or dancing, whereas most of the student-aged people were where the more modern music was playing (big surprise right?)

I have no clue how to dance with a partner, but I enjoyed watching others dance and listening to the music.  I mostly just followed around friends and the other girls in my class.  It was so much fun!

Speaking of classmates, this seems like the perfect time to introduce some of them!

This is my class!

I can't even begin to explain how amazing they all are.  Each of them is extremely bright and so nice.  They have been so welcoming to both Jeannie and I and so helpful in helping us with our not-so-great German (:

Each of them is so unique and interesting.  They could literally have their own TV show.  I would watch it.

I feel like I have so much I could say about them yet I'm at a loss for words.

Hannah, on the far right, is the fearless leader of not only our class but the whole school.  She always comes to school wearing something extremely fashionable.  I don't know how she does it. 

Carina just about always has a smile on her face.  We seem to bond over yelling each other's names in weird voices.  

Jaqueline and Lennart are my two desk neighbors and I am so thankful for that.  Lennart always makes sure I know whats going on and fills me in on jokes that I may not have caught in German.

Jaqueline has been my friends since the first week, which I guess she was kind of forced to be since she sat next to me (;
Both she and Jeannie kinda became my closest friends out here.  Jaqueline was almost our in-school host mom since we always turned to her when we had no idea what was going on.
I don't have a whole lot of pictures of people in my class and I don't have one of each person other than two class pictures I showed earlier.  

Dear 7a, I apologize if I screwed up any of your names...

There is Michi who sits in front of me in class.  She has such a cute and perky personality.  
There's Sonja, whose art skills are amazing.  She is so bright and has such a beautiful smile.  She also has some of the most relatable facial expressions.  
There's Katja who is so sweet.  She sits on the other side of the classroom than I do but occasionally we will look over at each other and laugh for some reason.
Christoph and David are the only other guys in our class other than Lennart.  They are both pretty funny.
Johanna is so cool.  May sound a bit vague, but she is so cool.  She has been really helpful with my learning German and she always has little cool stories about all the places she has been.
Anna is so smart and sweet.  She always has something good to say during classes.
Teresa also sits on the opposite side of the classroom with Katja.  She is quite witty and quite bright.  We mostly just say comments to each other now and then.

I am going to miss them so much.  I could not have asked for a better class.

Well, I think I covered most of the things that happened in the last month, at least the bigger things.

Hope you all enjoyed my update!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Holiday Season

Happy Holidays!

Christmas is coming up quite fast especially here in Austria since they celebrate one day earlier on the 24th.

I remember my parents telling me on my birthday that time would really start to fly and it has.  It seems like December just started the other day and now its well over halfway over.

I've been taking in as much of the Christmas market as I can, trying the different foods and drinks.  Unlike other souvenir shops and sights, the Christmas markets are only open around Christmas time.

Last week, we visited the Christmas market in Mariazell!

For those of you who don't know where or what Mariazell is, I have provided a small map:

Mariazell is a beautiful little city that lies near the border of the states of Styria and Lower Austria.

I don't think these photos do the actual scenery justice.  It is absolutely beautiful there!

We went by train and explored the Christmas market and the nearby sights that afternoon.

Aside from the popular Christmas markets in Vienna and whatnot, we also have a little one at home...

My host brothers enjoy making little crafts and selling them in their own little Christmas markets.  I think it is so cute and I've already visited (and bought a few things) already.

This past Sunday was my host mother's birthday!  We had a bunch of little surprises for her throughout the morning, including a stylish limousine ride wherever we went!

One of the things we did on Sunday was go on the Riesenrad, a giant ferris wheel in Vienna!  

It was quite cool, the ferris wheel has gondolas that you can stand and move around in, much like tiny rooms.

Being up high on the wheel made for some beautiful views.

This view in particular I think is a bit funny.  In the picture, you have modern buildings and a skyscraper, but you also have this much older-looking church (I think it is a church anyway).  It really sticks out and shows the differences of architecture in Austria with a mixture of old and new.

I have really been enjoying this holiday season.  I LOVE the Christmas markets and it has been cool to experience some of the traditions that my host family and Austria in general have. 

I likely won't write a blog next week because my host family and I plan to go on a skiing trip to a place not too far from Mariazell.

That is all I have for this week!

Thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Start of the Christmas Season


My apologies for not posting a blog last week.  It was a very slow week and nothing much happened, on top of that I was really tired and didn't think I could write a good post.

I'll just have to write for two weeks this time!

Last week, I spend Thanksgiving in Vienna with a friend.  We walked around the big Christmas market in Vienna.  Since Thanksgiving isn't celebrated out here, I was able to get a head start on the Christmas season.

We got our first snowfall of the season last Thursday (November 30th)!!!  It was quite magical being able to wake up to snow falling.  

It was also warm enough that the snow was perfect for snowman building!  So of course, my host brothers and I build a snowman.

I think the snowfall really started up the Christmas spirit, at least for me.  

This past week we made some gingerbread cookies!

The dough had already been made, but I think we all really enjoyed just cutting out (and of course eating) the cookies.

Today (December 6th) is the day of Saint Nicholas' Day.  Saint Nicholas is somewhat like America's Santa Claus.  He has a book that he checks to see if children were good or not throughout the year and he brings the good children gifts.  

There is also Krampus, who comes and takes away the bad children.  Thankfully, Krampus did not come to our house this year.

The celebration of St. Nicholas differs from country to country and possibly region to region.  For us, he came and read what good things my host brothers had done this year and gave us each a little bag of goodies.  I think my host brothers were all very excited, I don't think they stopped smiling the whole time he was here!  

This past Saturday makes 3/5 months of my exchange here in Austria.  It feels both like I have been here forever and that I haven't been here for that long at all.  Its hard to believe that I have less than 2 months left now.  I hope to make the most of it.

I go to Vienna a lot, especially with friends.  It is so nice living so close to such a big city.  A lot of times, the trips I take with my friends start out as little shopping trips and we end up in a part of Vienna we had never seen before.  I think I have discovered some of the prettiest sights, coolest stores, and nicest cafes just wandering than I have actually planning out where to go.  

I also love going to the Christmas markets in Vienna.  It is so pretty and there are so many opportunities to try "typical Austrian" foods and drinks.

Well, that is all I have for this week!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fun-Filled Weekend


This past weekend sure was an eventful one!

This past weekend, there was a small circus in our village.  I went with my youngest host brother and host mother.  It was small, but it was still pretty cool and very fun to watch!  The circus is put together by a family of 5 who all take part in and run the circus.

Saturday, I went to Klosterneuburg with a few other exchange students and some others from STS for Leopoldi Fest!  We checked out the church, slid down a really big barrel, and enjoyed the festivities.  The barrel that we slid down used to hold 1000 liters of wine.  You slide down the barrel and make a wish that will eventually come true.  

The whole event was set up like a carnival or fair with food stands, games, and rides.  The other exchange students and I walked around and enjoyed some of the food and rides!

On Sunday, I became a legal adult!  I am now 18!

 My birthday was this past Sunday and my host family really made it a good and memorable one.  We had cake for breakfast and I got some wonderful gifts from my host family (including a little Austrian dessert cookbook (; )! 

For lunch, we ate at the Donau Tower, which is a tower in Vienna with a restaurant at the top and it slowly spins to give you a 360ยบ view of the city.  It was so amazing and the food was fantastic! 

From there, we went into the center of Vienna and took a horse carriage ride around!  Very cute and very fun!  I saw some things that I hadn't seen before and enjoyed just seeing the city in a cute little horse carriage!

Afterward, we got some desserts at a little cafe then went to check out the Christmas markets that had just opened! 

The markets are basically a bunch of little shacks lined up in rows.  They are each filled with lots of different Christmas knick-knacks.

Overall, it was an amazing day!  I am so thankful for such an amazing host family!!!

My school peers seem to notice the improvement in both my and the other exchange student's German.  Things are kind of starting to fall into place as far as understanding the language.  Both my peers and my host family have been a huge help.  In my room, I have a bunch of German words and their English translations.  Sometimes, I'll try to pronounce them or use them in a basic sentence and my host brothers correct me if I'm wrong or tell me if I'm right.  It is so cute and very helpful (:

Well, that's all I have for this week!

Thanks for reading!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Halfway Through

Good day!

I believe that this week marks the halfway point in my exchange!  I've learned over this past two and a half months and I can't believe how fast it went by.

I haven't really stopped to reflect on the past two and a half months yet so my mind is kind of all over the place.  I do know that I feel a lot more comfortable here than I did and have normalized living so close to Vienna and being able to go there so often and just being in Europe in general.

Speaking of being in Europe, this past weekend we took a trip to Budapest, Hungary!  We went by train, which was only about three hours, and spent Saturday night there.  Most of the time we wandered and explored the sights that Budapest has to offer.  

We also took a little bus tour around Budapest and were able to see a lot and listen to some history as well.  Apparently, Budapest is two cities, Buda and Pest, that join together to make Budapest.  Buda is west of the Danube (Duna in Hungarian) and Pest is east.

Something funny that we learned when we got there, is that Hungarians don't use Euros, they use their own currency called Forints.

Hungarian Forints

However, most places in Budapest accept Euros as well as Forints.  Some places even accepted US dollars!  One Euro is about 300 Forints and a US dollar is about 265 Forints.

I was confused at first when I saw prices for stuff everywhere because the abbreviation for Forints is Ft, just like the abbreviation for feet.  I thought everything was about distances.  I had to remind myself that 
1. That's the currency and
2. They use meters anyway.

I really enjoyed exploring Budapest.  It is absolutely beautiful!!

In school, I've found that I am able to understand more and more German.  If I really focus, I can get the main idea of what someone is talking about or I can read a children's story.  It does get tiring sometimes but I try.

My peers enjoy hearing the other exchange student and I speak German.  They also speak to us in German slowly and correct us when we say something wrong, which is really sweet!

Today we had school off because of St. Leopold's Day.  Only Lower Austria (the federal state that I'm in) and Wien celebrate this day.  We just spent the day relaxing at the house (:

Well, that's all I have for this week!

Thanks for reading!