My year abroad is over in eight days and I realise that my blogging during my time in Austria has been almost non-existent. It has now come to the point that if I were to tell you everything I have done I would have myself my first ever novel. Well maybe that is an exaggeration, but just take it as this means I have been so busy enjoying myself and working that everything has been absolutely fine.
Maybe what would be more interesting is to tell you the countries I have visited in my three and a half months here instead, and also the things I have learnt about Austria.
1) Graz, Austria
2) Vienna Austria
3) Salzburg Austria
4) Ljubljana, Slovenia
5) Lake Bled, Slovenia
6) Maribor, Slovenia
7) Budapest, Hungary
8) Prague, Czech Republic
9) Zagreb, Croatia
10) Split, Croatia
11) Dubrovnik, Croatia
12) Zadar, Croatia
Apart from Maribor being just average I loved all of the places I have visited. If I had to say which were my favourite places they would be Ljubljana, Salzburg and Prague. Ljubljana was a pleasant surprise. We do not often hear much about Slovenia, but being so close to it here in Austria I wanted to explore it. Vienna is a beautiful city and it is full of Grand and cultural buildings, such as Schönbrunn Palace which is my favourite palace I have ever seen. Prague was not a letdown; it is one of the cities which people rave about so my expectations were particularly high and so now are my recommendations for you to go there. Budapest was another place on my list of places to go and visit. In Nijmegen I had made friends with a girl from Budapest so I really did not need another reason to go. What I have enjoyed the most about the places which I have travelled to is being able to explore a bit of Eastern Europe. Before this I had not done any of this side of Europe, and it was interesting to see the differences. There are always more places that you want to see, but I think that I have done okay for the time I have been in Austria.
Maybe I should mention a bit about Güssing. From my first post you would have figured that Güssing is not an ideal place for someone like me. However, it does prove the point that something is what you make it. When I first arrived I thought that I would never like being in a small town. But I can truly say after my time here that I am glad I was given a small town rather than a city. I can go to Vienna any day (if I want), but Güssing I wouldn’t. I feel as though I had a true Austrian experience and I feel as though I have got to know people a lot better than I would have if I were in a city. You soon recognise faces and surroundings, and I think that it has been a far more valuable experience for me and my German being here. I have made the most of travelling at weekends because I know that staying in Güssing would soon become boring if I were to be here for the whole weekend. In this sense it has encouraged me to travel and I am not sure whether this would have been the same if I were elsewhere. I then appreciate coming back to a small town after tiring myself out travelling. I have come to love the town mainly for its simplicity and sense of community. I don’t think that I have ever been in a place quite like this. It is kind of how I imagine the olden days to be like, with the independent bakeries and shops, the vast land, the quietness and the beautiful houses which all look different from one another- not to mention the castle on the top of the hill. Maybe these are the things that I like the most about it.
So it is my last week in Austria and what would I say I will miss the most about living in Austria? Here are a few of my favourite Austrian things 🙂
- The coffee here is amazing and it has made Starbucks seem just ordinary ( this is big news for anyone who knows me)
- I will miss being near so many countries when I am back living on an island.
- The Austrian food is amazing and is responsible for any sort of weight gain. I love the Manner wafers a lot I stuffed all varieties in my bag for home so that I can spread the love to my family.
- I did not realise how big and diverse Austria was: I was ignorant to the diverse accents and dialects and this was interesting to see.
- I love how they give you a glass of water with your coffee which is perfect if you can’t decide whether you want a coffee or a cold drink.
- All the cities are so beautiful!
- Last but not least the (mostly) very friendly people in Burgenland that go out of their way for you.
Tschüs Burgenland! It’s been a pleasure!
I realise it’s been way too long since I last blogged and you may be, but probably not, wondering how I have been getting on. It’s been the busiest, most stressful but equally most insightful few weeks ever. I have seen new places and I have started my new Job as a British Council teaching assistant. I apologise in advance for the boring standard update of this post, so I shall leave it up to you to read on!
After my two weeks back at home it was time is set off on my next European adventure in Austria. I did not feel ready at all to go again but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it really. The second part of my year abroad has now begun and I must make the most of this while it lasts. For the next 3-4 months I will be a British Council teaching assistant at the two schools in Güssing (yep, I’m guessing you have never heard of this place either!). Well it’s a small town situated in the region called Burgenland, very far East of Austria. If you type the town into google you’ll find out that it has a very small population, no train station but it does have the oldest castle in Austria! So it isn’t really a happening town but it is beautiful and I almost feel like I am living in a fairytale- accept that I am not living in the castle unfortunately. To get here I flew from London to Bratislava in Slovakia, then an hour coach journey to Vienna before the 3 hour coach journey to Güssing. Needless to say I was very very tired because I had been up since 2am. However, I was kindly greeted by one of my teachers Renate, who was very helpful taking me to my apartment and also taking me and my mum for dinner. What is great is that I do get a whole apartment to myself, however its not as fun when you can’t invite anyone round, and seeing as though most of the people I know in Güssing are students or teachers this will take a bit of working on!
The fact that Güssing appeared to be a very small town with limited transport links certainly did concern me, and this was not made any better by the fact that many of the teachers at the school refered to Güssing as ‘the end of the world’. Also, last week at my fitness class a member joked about how I have been sent to Güssing as a punishment- It’s lucky I saw the funny side of this really. I guess you just have to make the most of what you are given and I may rather be in a bigger city like Vienna, however I can’t change it. Being in a smaller town is good because you soon get to know the place, the people and the school , like any small town. So in this sense it was less overwhelming at first. It also means that I will make the most of travelling at the weekends which I have made a good start on. I went to Graz the nearest big city two weeks ago to meet some other British Council assistants and also one of my uni friends. It was great to meet other people in the same position as me and to also hang out with people my age again! Also I had a great tour of Slovenia last week visiting Ljubljana, Lake Bled and Maribor. I was pretty lucky that I meet another girl on the train going to the same place as me, so I had some company and it was the first time that I had properly traveled solo.
Being a teaching assistant has been a very interesting experience so far. I was just thrown in the deep end without any observation lessons, but I’m sure that I am not the only one that’s had to do that. I have mainly just done introduction lessons telling my students about where I come from, where I study and some stuff they may not know about the UK. Other than that it’s mainly been lessons on Tourism and advertising. However, I am looking forward to doing my St. Patrick’s Day lesson this week and next week too! Most of my classes are lovely; however I am still yet to learn how to deal with silent classes. Some classes it’s like trying to get blood out of a stone, but I am hoping that this will get better with time, it’s still early days!
I have had a very quiet weekend this week but next week I am of to Vienna to see some uni friends and then I hope to do Budapest-which is next on my list!
Until next time,
It’s about time for an update on the Year Abroad and also time to kick start my blogging for 2014, which is already looking to be as good as last year. However this will be my last blog of my time in the Netherlands as it is sadly coming to an end this week 😦 my time here, although stressful in places, has been one of the best and most valuable experiences, and it is something which I am so glad to have done. We went out with our mentor group on Friday that we were assigned to for our time at Nijmegen University, truly ending things just as they had begun.
Anyway, the last time I had spoken to you I was about to go home for Christmas. I cannot explain how nice it was to come home after over four months away and knowing that everything is exactly the same as when you left (well you hope) . My Christmas break was perfect the only complaint was that it was far too short, but I am going back home again for two weeks before I start my teaching assistantship in Austria in February, so it’s not really that bad. What is strange is the small things that you miss whilst being away. For example I missed the TV so much that I spent my first day watching Eastenders greatest cliff-hangers, despite not actually watching Eastenders normally. Living in another country means that it’s a lot harder to really speak to friends and family from back home. I was happy that I got to catch up with a lot of my friends over Christmas as it was more than overdue. It was nice to hear what they had been up to whilst I had been living in The Netherlands because; believe it or not Facebook doesn’t actually tell you everything. I sort of felt like I had been living in a different world, so it was great to be surrounded by some familiarity. I manage to spend New Year’s Eve in Brighton as it was one of my friends 21st the next day, so we thought it would be nice to organise something for that.
And then before I knew it, it was time to travel back to Nijmegen for one last time. January is always one of the dark months for a student because of the exam period and essay writing. For me I was scheduled for 4 exams and 2 research papers- so no fun at all. Plus, for me studying in another country is nearly impossible. I said I was meant to have 4 exams but unfortunately one of the exams had been postponed for two weeks. It’s pretty annoying because it means that I will be in England then, and they didn’t even let us know. We had all turned up ready to do the exam and waited for a while with no appearance from our professor- how crazy. I am putting it down to how the Dutch seem to be so laidback as a county because it just doesn’t make sense otherwise.
So, I am leaving on Friday and heading back to the UK for two weeks before the next adventure. I am quite excited as I have planned a couple of trips for my time at home. I’ll be travelling to Birmingham next week to stay with my sister at her uni house in Stafford. Also, I will finally be returning to my university city, Sheffield- I haven’t been there since June! It will be great seeing a few of my uni friends, some who I have also not seen since the summer.
Well, apologies for this very boring, typical, update! I’ll leave you with my top 5 best things about my time in the Netherlands:
- Being able to get a train that’s not delayed.
- Recognising the effectiveness of having a bike.
- Learning more about myself
- Being able to visit so many beautiful cities.
- And last but not least: having the chance to meet so many people from all around the world
Evening! First of all, I do apologise for my cheesy title but it is how I actually feel! Well, in three days I will be back in the UK after four months for my two weeks of Christmas. That thought has been enough to distract me all week, despite having a stupid exam. Nevertheless the idea of sitting in front of a fire, with endless cups of teas and the opportunity of a proper country walk and pub seem like the closest I’ll ever get to heaven ( I have been a student for too long). My time so far in the Netherlands is proving to be a great experience but there comes a time when you just need to go home for a while and be surrounded by familiar people and places. Also, on a more selfish note it means I can have my hair re-coloured, buy more clothes & take over SKY TV, I can’t wait! It will be so nice to see all my family and friends from back home, it seems like forever. I am quite disillusioned with how quickly August to December has gone- it’s scary because it means that I am half way through my year abroad. I have just three weeks left in Nijmegen after Christmas and then I will be teaching in Austria.
Anyway, It may have only been two weeks since I last spoke to you all, nevertheless it has been a VERY busy, but equally enjoyable two weeks. Two weekends ago I went to Den Bosch (Or Hertogenbosch officially) to do some Christmas shopping with one of my Dutch friends. It is a small city, not too far from Nijmegen- I think it was roughly 25 minutes by the train. I met my friend at the other end, and we wondered round the shops and markets. The city conventionally had the classic canal situated at the heart of it. The sun was also shining and I managed to make a great start with my Christmas presents for the family. However, I think the rest of the presents will have to be bought online because believe it or not I would like to take some of my things home for Christmas!
Last weekend I took my first trip to Belgium visiting Brussels and Antwerp. I went with my friend Lucy who is also studying in Nijmegen and we stayed in Brussels on Friday night in a lovely Belgian house, slightly outside the center of Brussels. The following day we headed to Antwerp, to meet two of my friends, Maisie and Stephanie. I had a good feeling about Antwerp it was a beautiful city, even though it did rain, it had such a festive atmosphere. I also had the first opportunity to drink my first glass of Glϋhwein, which is definitely one of the best things about Christmas. We spent the day wondering round the touristy places and Christmas markets etc etc. The evening was spent in a nice Italian restaurant and then later we ended up in your standard Irish Pub. But we were all pretty tired from travelling, so headed to bed early as we would be getting up to go to Brussels the next morning.
Brussels was equally as nice for a tourist coming to visit, and we explored the Grand Palace and the surroundings nice and leisurely. What was strange to me, as a language student, is how you can come from a city like Antwerp where the majority will speak to you in Dutch and then you go to Brussels and everyone will speak French. Of course I knew this before, and I have experienced a similar sort of thing when I went to Luxembourg- I just find it hard to get my head around which is probably because I’m British and we just speak English. So as a whole Belgium was a great trip and I personally liked the country. I had heard some mixed things about it, especially Brussels, but my first visit was great and I think it’s a place you have to go to if you are in Europe (and they have the best chocolate).
It is also the time where we are beginning to say goodbye to everyone as some people will not be coming back after Christmas. I hate this part because the moment you settle in and meet friends, you have to say goodbye and move to another place. But we had the Farewell ball last weekend where I go to see a lot of my international friends from my time here, and I also have a few Christmas meals and gatherings this week to look forward too!
But I shall leave you now. That was my brief update on the Year Abroad & the next time you will hear from me I will be typing from the comfort of my home 🙂 I wish you all a Merry Christmas & A Happy New year, I hope it’s a good one for you all- and for those who I won’t see in the New Year Good Luck!
So I only have until 23rd January in The Netherlands, and with exams and other trips, I think I will have to choose between Rotterdam or Maastricht! Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated, for those who have been to both cities, or even one of the cities.I think it would also be a crime not to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam before I leave too. I believe I have done pretty well in the time I have had so far in the country, especially seeing as though I am meant to be studying too. Also, I have visited Germany & will have visited Belgium in that time. Hard to believe its all coming to an end in The Netherlands 😥
I have just got back from a kopje koffi ( a cup of coffee for those who do not know Dutch), with one of my Dutch class mates. And I really and truly feel blessed, and nonetheless content with how things are going during my time in the Netherlands at this moment in time, so much so that I want to share it with the rest of you. Although my Dutch is certainly not perfect, the fact that I managed to hold a so called ‘meet- up’ in Dutch, really showed how much my Dutch has progressed. The conversation just seemed to be a bit easier than it did two months ago, also I felt like my effort to try and speak the language has slightly paid-off, even if only slight.
A couple of weeks ago it seemed like the world was going to end, I had received some not-so good exam results, and was suffering with a horrible ear infection. That toppled with being in another country really seemed TOO much for me. I had the feeling that it would be so easy to just go home. But thank heavens I didn’t listen to that absurd advice. Its’ amazing what time can do to a situation and I can now look back and see that my feelings at that time were only temporal. Plus, were things even that bad actually? I should consider myself lucky, I have the opportunity to live in another country and go and visit so many beautiful places- not everyone has the chance to do this.
A valuable life lesson is: if something is not going right then do something to change it. You are the master of your own happiness, and only you have the power to do something about it. This week I made the effort to go an see one of my tutors about my exam. This not only made me feel better about passing my courses here in the Netherlands, it also made me see why it happened in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I believe that everything happens for a reason, and only now can I see the good out of a situation, which I had considered all so bad at the time. When you move to another country or even another place, you always think ‘oh it will never be the same as home.’ Although this is true to a certain extent, I feel blessed at how at home I feel in Nijmegen and at the University here. I have made friends so quickly, and friends which I can speak to so easily, and in just the same way as I can speak to course-mates back home. For me that feeling is so precious. I noticed that today, more so than any other day. It’s just the small things, like what the picture below illustrates. For me I think it shows how quickly you can feel comfortable in a new place, and this is naturally helped by the friendly people that you meet. I am certain that some of my friends from my time in Nijmegen will be friends which I will keep in contact for a long time, and for that I feel truely grateful.