I had numerous expectations and preconceived notions of what my study abroad experience in Austria was going to look like. I thought I was going to find myself and become a completely different person. I thought I would be going, going, going every second of every day. I thought I was going to be blogging numerous times a week and documenting my every move for the whole world to see. This post is here to show how everything is not what it seems!
My month in Salzburg was hands down the best month of life, even though it was different from what I had originally expected. My study abroad experience, despite my expectations, was different but I would not have wanted it any other way. Upon reflection, I have discovered why my “preconceived ideas” were unrealistic and how I transformed them into positive aspects of my trip.
Misconception #1: Finding Myself in a Foreign Country
Almost everyone I had talked to about studying abroad said that it was the best experience of her life. I guess I equated this with the idea that they reinvented or found themselves during this experience. Because of this, I thought that I would discover who I truly was or find something deep inside of me that I didn’t know I had. This turned out not to be the case. I did not find something in myself that was new to me, but instead I grew to know myself better. I learned so much about myself, such as that I have a strong tendency to take pictures of any and everything, and that I am really good at resisting buying souvenirs that I know I will never use. On a more serious note, I learned that I could be more confident in myself. I learned how to check out at the grocery store all in German, how to get from point A to point B on numerous day trips to little Austrian towns, and how to account for and keep track of my budget for a month complete with the conversion factor from US dollars to Euros! This trip gave me confidence that I know I will always have with me for the rest of my life.
Misconception #2: I would be busy every second of every day.
When I first learned about study abroad, I thought that I would be exploring the city or other cities every moment of everyday. Boy, was I wrong! I realized that you actually have to study during study abroad, and not just wander around the city all day. In addition, there were days when I would need to take a nap, or just relax instead of going out to visit a new part of Salzburg. Initially, I thought I was wasting my time and just being lazy, but then I was reminded that I was still a human! I wasn’t going to have energy 24/7, and there were some days I needed to take it slow. I tried to find the balance between taking care of myself and my schoolwork and going out to town and staying busy in the city! With this in mind, my friend Erin and I would often go to a café that Dr. Patterson found in the city which was catered toward American students. We would go there to grab a coffee and work on our homework and projects. This way, we were being productive and doing our homework, while spending time in a part of the city that ultimately became one of the hardest places to say goodbye to, since we spent so much time there!
Misconception #3: I thought I would be blogging about everything.
When I wrote my first blog post, I said that I wanted to write through a lifestyle lens, specifically talking about posts like “Top 10 things to do in a city” or the “5 best places to visit in a country.” As the trip progressed, I did not end up writing posts like that. I narrowed down my posts to just focusing on food, and I think that was a good choice to kick off my first travel blogging experience. It allowed me to stick to one central theme and really experience and observe Austrian culture through their food. I was able to see how community is such an integral part of the food culture in Austria. Most of their cultural foods are hearty and comfort food like, which means meals are eaten sitting down with family and friends at a table, taking as much time as needed or desired, and just breaking bread and enjoying time with each other. I really enjoyed learning about Austrians and their food; my stomach enjoyed it too!
Overall, my study abroad experience blew my expectations out of the water (or should I say across the ocean) and gave me memories and friendships that I will have in my heart forever! I would like to say thank you to everyone who has read the MSMU Travel Blog or followed along with the Instagram. It has been a great first run with Salzburg being the first trip, and I am excited to share that I will be writing for this blog next semester because I am going to be studying abroad again. This time, I will be writing from Prague, Czech Republic alongside some new bloggers that will be sharing their experience as well. See you in August!