Arrival and First Day in Austria

On August 6th, I said goodbye to my family, got on a plane, and left basically everything I’ve known and called home for the last 16 years of my life. As terrifying as it initially was, it has already proven to be the best decision I’ve ever made.

I had a total of 12 hours from my departure from Minneapolis to my arrival in Vienna. My flights went well and I successfully made my short 1.5 hour connection in the CDG Paris airport with time to spare. In the days leading up to my departure, I began second guessing myself and all the decisions I had made that led me to where I was–packing my bags and saying goodbye for an entire year. However, the day I left and all throughout my flights I felt mostly at ease. I felt ready, prepared, and excited for the new adventure ahead of me. All of the uncertainties of the next year of my life that previously terrified me, I now saw as memories and adventures waiting to be made.

My second flight from Paris to Vienna was probably the longest 2 hours of my life. I had my travel journal out in the last hour, documenting the checkpoints that brought me closer and closer to my new home. At 11:18 AM, I looked out the plane window and saw the Alps, and then cried a little. At 11:26, I felt the first drop in altitude. At 11:40, I saw Vienna and got chills all over. The last thing I wrote in my journal before I landed was “My adventure begins now.” in German.

I had an initial struggle at baggage claim with my checked suitcase being broken, but I bought a trolley and wheeled more than my own weight past the “Welcome to Vienna” sign. I immediately saw the smiling faces of my host father and younger host brother Johannes. At the time my other host brother Max was on vacation in Portugal, and my host mother who is a flight attendant had a long distance flight to New York, so I met both of them later on. After the initial hugs and small talk about my flight and the bags, my host dad asked me if I wanted to see Vienna or go straight home and sleep. I slept for most of my international flight, and I was too excited to be tired anyways, so naturally I chose Vienna. We drove to the 1st district of Vienna, which is the center. My first time in Vienna felt so unreal. It was even better than the pictures. We stopped at an outside cafe for lunch, where I had my first meal in Austria: Wiener Schnitzel. Definitely one of my new favorites, and probably one of most Austrian meals possible. After that we got some Italian gelato and made the drive home, the three of us talking and singing to the songs on the radio. After only maybe 20 minutes, I was finally at my new home for the next year of my life. I live in a very small town called Seebarn, with a population of only 300. A few miles away from Seebarn is Korneuburg, a city of about 12,000 people. That is where I’ll be going to school.

My home is so beautiful. My bedroom is so big–it has a work area, a huge couch, a piano, a TV, and a staircase that leads up to a loft area that contains my floor bed and is quite literally Ashlyn-sized..My head just touches the ceiling when I stand up. The rest of the house is just as nice. In the basement there’s a sauna and wine cellar, which apparently are both normal in Austrian households. Outside there is a beautiful garden, terrace, trampoline, and pool. I think I tried to get situated by starting to unpack my suitcases, but I gave up and joined my host dad and brother in watching a soccer game (Go Rapid Wien!).

After Rapid won 4-1, the three of us took a walking tour of Seebarn, my small town. Directly next to my house is a beautiful trail that leads to a road of dozens of wine cellars, each separate little buildings. We visited my host family’s wine cellar. We took stairs that lead down to a dark, cool, underground cellar filled with bottles of wine. These wine cellars were built between the two world wars. It took only 45 minutes to walk through Seebarn before we made a full circle. I love Seebarn just as much as I love Vienna, even though they are so different from each other. It’s so nice to have 3 cities here that I can call home- The tiny but beautiful little Seebarn, the middle sized city of Korneuburg, and the huge city of Vienna. I’m getting a taste of three totally different environments and cultures with the different city sizes.

After our walk, we had a small dinner of bread (the food that I have found to be a recurring theme in this country) and I asked my host dad the First Night Questions, which are essentially just basic questions that exchange students ask their host families such as “what time is my curfew on weekends?” (which I guess happens to be 2 or 3 AM if you were wondering). Overall my first day in Austria was overwhelming but so great. I love my host family, my town, my house, and this beautiful country.

I have been so busy but I will try to post more soon about my language camp and my first week in Austria!

Liebe Grüße, Ashlyn

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