Saturday, June 30, 2012

And the semester comes to an end...

Hello all!

Me, Aunt Nancy, Jennifer, Uncle Alan, and Roger
I thought I would just give you one last, quick update from Linz. I did not update you all on one trip I took about 3 weeks ago; Switzerland. I was there for about 5 days, and got to meet and visit with some family who lived there. I was able to visit Lausanne, Geneva, and Zürich in that short time. It was a really relaxed and easy-going visit that involved cooking, watching the French Open, and the start of the Euro Cup.

Me and Charlie
Additionally, I got to tour the United Nations, check out the city of Lausanne from the top of their cathedral, and taste traditional swiss fondue. I apologize for not giving you all a more comprehensive recap of the trip, but I figured there wouldn't be too much interest the the vegetarian shepherds pie that I cooked while there or the naps I took. I enjoyed my week there, but that doesn't mean that everyone cares to read about it. I think the part I liked the most about the trip is that I got to have family time for the first time in four months. It helped prompt eagerness to get back home (which, by the way, happens in 16 days).
A sailboat on lake Geneva

Me and Jovan at the entry to JKU

As I mentioned above, this will be my last update from Linz. I will be checking out from my student dorm here in about an hour, and then heading on to the train station to begin my post semester travels. I will be visiting 1) Berlin, Germany, 2) Gdynia, Poland, 3) Hamburg, Germany, 4) Dublin & Belfast, Ireland, 5) Woodstock, England, and finally 6)Munich, Germany.
Tori, Tara, and Jovan

     When all is said and done, I will have traveled to 12 countries this semester.... I am kind of astounded with myself and the fact that I was able to go so many places. I will come back dirt poor, but so rich in experiences and memories. Really, you just can't place a monetary value on the effect this semester has had on me.  I will truly miss so many people, and I hope we can meet again somewhere in the world one day.
Matteo and myself.

Dinner with my mentor group (+ a few)
       My last week here has been more than incredible: lighting lanterns and sending them off into the night sky, a dinner with my mentor group, stargazing, playing on playgrounds, making up new games (ask me about "Limeball" in two weeks...) buying pizza just because it is from a vending machine and that is cool, times at the lake, etc. Really, the only things I disliked about this week were the fact that I had class every day, had two finals, and I especially disliked the fact that I have had to say goodbye to so many people. Some I know I will never see again, but there are so many where I truly hope we reconnect in the future.

All in all, I am incredibly thankful to have had this experience. Thank you so much to everyone who played a part in it; whether you were physically here with me going through it or just a support system before and during this journey I truly appreciate everything you have done.

Here is to two more weeks of traveling!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do

Salzburg, Österreich

Date of Trip: May 27
Traveling Companions: Tara, Jovan, Emilia, Asha, Michael, Vito (Canada)
Nina, Dane, Mark (Australia)
Charlie (Spain), Daniel (Croatia)
Means of Transportation: Train
(L to R) Vito, Daniel, Me, Emilia, Tara, Mark, Nina, Jovan, Asha, Charlie, Michael, & Dane

Let me just say that Salzburg was absolutely beautiful. I think it may be my favorite Austrian city so far. It is difficult to say that though, as they are each so different and have their own unique aspects.I think it is definitely important to note that we had practically perfect weather. Seriously, it was incredible how nice it felt outside.

12 of us from 5 different countries went on this trip, and it made for a really enjoyable day. Three of the Canadians had a friend from Croatia (Daniel) who studied abroad at their University who happens to live in Salzburg now. We really lucked out because he was essentially our free tour guide for the day.We did not do too many things during the day, but it was a good time regardless. We visited the house where Mozart was born (Mozart's Geburtshaus), grabbed some lunch, and then headed towards the main attraction: the fortress.

Before we actually went to the fortress we had to make our way through this really big and well kept garden that just so happened to be featuring a full ensemble band (I will add that they played some Queen and we all sang along merrily). After a few photo ops in the garden we walked up to the hill to go tour the fortress.

Because we were a slightly large group, we of course got a bit split up. I spent a decent amount of time trying to find the others in our group and therfore I did not get to see all of the fortress. However, my favorite part was the view of the city from the top...absolutely gorgeous. The Salzach River looked so incredible running through the city, the slightly green color of it actually looked really nice next to the rooftops of many of the buildings.
After we spent most of our time in the Fortress, we left and got tasty Gelato that was (surprisingly) cheaper than the super cheap prices here in Linz. We were all very excited about the Gelato, and even happier about the fact that we got to eat it while we roamed through a market along the river. I absolutely adore markets, and this was no exception. A large number of vendors set up tents selling clothing, bath supplies, children's toys, teas and herbs, jewelry, chairs, and much more. I will mention that I picked up a few things for family back home (particularly Laura and my Mom... so you two better get excited!!) and refrained from buying out the whole place...barely.
The hills are alive?
We tried to find our way up to a church that we thought looked pretty, only to find that the gates to it were locked. All was not lost, though, as there was a playground immediately next to it! I did get a picture of me running through the hills (kind of)... after all, a trip to Salzburg would not be complete without some type of Sound of Music reference; I figured a picture was more acceptable than singing loudly in public all day. After a good hardy play on the play ground, we got a delicious meal of Subway (first time eating subway since last semester, oh my!) and headed home. We were all rather tired when we arrived home, but it was definitely a day well spent.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Life is Wonderful

So I realize I still haven't posted about my day trip to Salzburg, but that will have to wait. I wanted to take a second just to look at how wonderful life is, and say thanks to everyone that has been a part of it (especially the friends I have made.)

One of our friends Katarina (the girl I went to Copenhagen with) only has two weeks left here in Linz; I believe she will be the first member of our friend group to leave. Two or three evenings ago Vito sent out a message to about 15 people, asking if he thought it would be a good idea to surprise her and take her out to dinner to show her how much we will miss her and have appreciated her cordiality. We all thought it was a wonderful idea and jumped on board immediately. The plan was to meet in the lobby of our dorm, and then sneak up to her room and surprise her. Little did we know that the surprise was on us. When we went to her room, we found that she was actually in the kitchen with a fully cooked dinner for all of us.

It was without a doubt one of the best evenings that I have had here in Linz simply because we all just got together, laughed, and enjoyed delicious food. It sounds cheesy, but it was a really lovely evening. Between the delicious chicken, potato and salad entrée, nutella crepes for desert, and unplanned fireworks over Pöstlingberg, the evening just can't be beat. I have been overwhelmed with kind and genuine people during my brief stay here in Austria, and I will miss everyone so much. Home is always home, and nothing will be able to fill that spot in my life like Tennessee will. That being said, Austria and all of my friends on exchange here have absolutely stolen a piece of my heart.

 I only have 4 weeks left in Austria, then 2 weeks of travel. It is hard to think that I have such a small amount of time left here. As time continues to progress I keep thinking one thing, It's not goodbye... it's see you later. The closer I get to going home, the more convinced I am that I will come back one day. I have made some of the best memories here, and honestly some of the best friends. I have become so close with some people in such a short time and it is painfully surprising. It already hurts to think about leaving friends here, but I know that I will keep in touch with the people that count. That is how things work.
I am so grateful for all of the wonderful times that I have had here, and for all of the memories we are sure to make in the coming 4 weeks. Words cannot express how blessed I am to have this experience. Well maybe there are words, but I can't find them right now.  So instead of trying, I will just say thank you to everyone who has played a part in this study abroad. You  mean more than you may realize.

Life is wonderful. Y'all are wonderful.