Study Abroad

From Vienna to Paris to Atlanta – DAY FOURTEEN

Waking up in Vienna, especially in my homestay’s flat, is normally a very joyful, exciting experience full of the promise of a new day and the possibility of adventure. However, today as I woke up, a somber feeling filled the room. I was acutely aware that it was my last morning in Vienna. I turned off my alarms so as not to wake up my host mom, sat up, and immediately went to the window. I opened it and looked out at the street below. It was early– about 6:00 am– so there was little to no activity on the street. The park that is normally filled with kids playing was empty, and– except for the occasional car– the normally busy and bustling city was still and quiet. Such a quiet and somber feeling outside allowed for personal introspection and reflection about how the last two weeks have gone. I can’t believe the trip is already over!! It went by so quickly… I would absolutely stay in Vienna if I could, which I think is major progress from a girl who knew practically nothing about Austria before arriving two weeks ago.
This trip has been absolutely incredible. It’s made me think a lot about what I might want to do after I graduate or, more importantly, where. Before this trip, I had always thought that it would be nice to live in a foreign country, but I didn’t know if it was something I would be able to do or not. Now, I can absolutely see myself in Europe, and, what’s more, I can see it happening soon! It would be unbelievably hard, but I would love to move to Vienna after I graduate. Maybe I could go to graduate school there or find a job somehow. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do, but it somehow seems more possible now.

After waking up, Najeeah and I finished packing our bags, said our prayers that they were under the weight limit, and left for the institute where our group planned to meet. The institute served as our central meeting ground for most of the trip because our homestay houses were all located in different parts of the city.  From the institute, we left for the airport via charter bus. (We were on a Dr. Richard bus once more! This time without our favorite bus driver, Denis.)

About two hours after we departed from Vienna, we arrived in Paris at Charles de Gaulle. I was hoping to have a little more time there so I could speak French with more people, but we had to go through border control and immediately board our next flight to Atlanta. This flight was probably the most difficult because I wasn’t tired.  (Well, I was tired, but I wasn’t sleepy so I felt like I could use sleep but couldn’t actually fall asleep.)  I remember that it was 8:45 pm in Austria at one point during the flight when it was 1:45 wherever we were. I didn’t feel sleepy, perhaps because it never got dark outside since we were traveling backwards through timezones, but I was tired– physically tired, emotionally tired, and tired of traveling. The plane had a feature that would countdown the hours and minutes until we landed, and I kept checking that because I was so ready for the flight to be over. I slept for a little bit, but not as long as I had hoped. I had hoped to sleep most of the flight so that the time would pass by more quickly, but alas…
After arriving in Atlanta, we went through customs, picked up our luggage and brought it to another area to be checked back in, went through security, and found our gate.  We then had time to grab something quick to eat before boarding the plane again.  Najeeah and I had trouble boarding for some reason.  They needed to rescan our passports and then our tickets wouldn’t scan.  The problem was resolved quickly though and we each had a row to ourselves on the flight back home, something greatly appreciated as all of our other flights had been completely full.

We then left for Little Rock. I was so excited to finally touch down.  Najeeah and I hopped up, grabbed our backpacks, and waited to leave the plane.  As we waited, we spoke to a man who was waiting near us.  As it turns out, he was a Marine who had been stationed in Japan for two years and hadn’t seen his wife in a year.  He was coming home to surprise her, and he would only get to be home for twenty days.  It was so cool getting to speak with him, thank him for his service, and see the pure excitement on his face to surprise his wife later that night.  I know that I can be guilty of taking the work that our military does for granted, but to be gone for two years and only have twenty days back home with your family must be excruciatingly difficult.  He said that he still had three years to go.  Thanking him for his service didn’t seem to do justice to the sacrifice he was making for me and my family, but it was all I could think to do.

My dad greeted me just outside security and we grabbed my bags.  I was so excited to see him! We picked up my car from the University where I had left it and then went to our hotel. (I live a few hours away from my school, and I was too tired to make the drive after all that traveling and jet lag, so we stayed in Central Arkansas for the night.) I had hoped that my mom would be able to come too, but because my return flight plans had changed, she couldn’t make it. It was symbolically interesting to note, however, that my dad was the last face I saw when I backed out of my driveway the morning I left for Study Abroad Orientation and he was the first face I saw returning back to the States.

I’m tired and a bit bummed to be back home and not in Vienna, but it also is really good to be home. This trip I discovered that although I love to explore new places, I hate to travel to get there. Long flights and train rides exhaust and bore me, but the pleasure that comes from being in a new place makes it all worth it. I miss doing new and exciting things– authentically Austrian things– in Vienna already, and I have many hesitations about resuming ‘normal’ life. For example, I’d much rather be swimming in the Danube than going back to work next week, but I know that it is hard work now that will allow me to do the things– nationally or internationally– that I want to do in the future.
This trip has been incredible. There were so many times that I wished my family had been with me so they could have experienced what I was experiencing (it’s true what they say about pictures not doing the beauty of Europe justice). I wish everyone could travel, not only for the beauty but also for the lessons learned, personal and global, while abroad. It gives you a better perspective on yourself, your home country, and what is important to you in life. I’m going to miss my life in Vienna a lot, but I think that a part of me will always stay there.

Until I can return, auf weirdersein Vienna.

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