Intensive Break

A big apology to all who have been waiting patiently for updates! I have been incredibly busy in the last few weeks with school, my internship, and travel that I have been neglecting this blog severely and I promise that I will have many more posts this week to fill everyone in on my travels and experiences.

So we were given a week off after the German intensive to travel and I used this time to see much of the southern coast of Europe and spent several days in Barcelona with my friend from high school Ktyall Malik. In retrospect it may have been a bit ambitious to travel by train all the way to Barcelona, but it proved to be a very interesting and rewarding experience if not slightly challenging at the same time. I left Vienna on the 4th of February on an overnight train to Milan under the assumption that I would be able to go directly from Milan to Barcelona which proved to not be the case. Instead I was advised by the clerk in Milan to travel down to Nice and get a connector from there and ended up staying the night at a very nice hostel in Nice called Les Camélias.

Nice has undoubtably been one of the most beautiful places I have visited so far and I was fairly disappointed with only being able to spend one night there. There are few places in this world in which you can be in direct sight of a beautiful sprawling beach and snow capped mountains at the same time and I will definitely return there at some point in the future. Along with that was wonderful architecture, friendly people, and some of the best sea food I have ever eaten.

I left Nice on that Wednesday and travelled by train through Marseilles and Montpellier with about a 4 hour lay over in each in which I spent most of my time just walking around and exploring what each city had to offer on foot. After a full day of train hopping I arrived in Barcelona around 9 pm and met up with Ktyall who I would like to thank again for hosting me and showing me around the city. Barcelona is a wonderful place for young people and trust me you can never run out of things to do there. We visited Las Ramblas (the main strip), the open air market La Boqueria (which puts many others I’ve been to to shame), Sagrada Familla, and my personal favorite the Nou Camp of the the best soccer team in the world FC Barcelona.

One of my favorite parts of the city was the intense pride that many there feel for being Catalan. I often got the feeling from many people that they believed themselves to be Catalan first and Spanish second. Every street you walk down you can see the famous red and yellow flag hanging from windows and balconies and although Catalan is often viewed as a dialect of spanish, Ktyall was quick to inform me that it was pretty much a completely different language what the majority of Spanish people speak.

In the course of about 5 days I travelled through 4 different countries, spent time in 5 different cities, and attempted to use 4 different languages. One of the most amazing parts of this trip was really experiencing how vastly different cultures can be in such short distances on this continent. I only went about the same distance as Columbia, SC to New Orleans, LA, but in this time I interacted with such drastically diverse people that it seemed like I had crossed an entire world instead of a few countries. For someone who has never been here, including myself of a couple of months ago, it is very hard to think about an entire country being about the same size as a state in the U.S. We all use the same currency, speak the same language, and share many of the same ideologies, but here it is not even close. It was incredibly humbling to be a lone foreigner trying to get by in many of these cities and really made me appreciate and empathize with those who immigrate to America and are expected to immediately adapt to our culture and way of living. If it were not for help from many nice people that I met along the way I may never have even made it to Barcelona and back and for that I am very thankful.

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Introductions and First Impressions

Grüße aus Wien! Greetings from Vienna and thank you for reading my blog. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Samuel Northrop and I am a junior English/Education major at Wofford that is already very happy to have utilized the study abroad opportunities that Wofford has to offer. There were many factors that contributed to my decision to come to Vienna including its course offerings, friendly culture, and most importantly its central location. Europe seemed the obvious choice to me considering the fact that when you come to this continent it is very easy to branch out from the country you are actually studying in and explore what other countries and cultures have to offer as well. Austria is nestled right in the middle of Europe and is only a two hour train ride from other wonderful cities like Munich, Prague, and Venice. I plan to travel as much as possible while here as I’m sure the others studying in Europe will be doing also.

Much to my surprise (I am not one to pay close attention to brochures) upon arriving I was only in the city for about thirty minutes before getting on a bus and being shipped out the pristine alpine town of Mariazell, Austria for orientation with the other hundred or so students that are in the IES Vienna program. This was very disappointing at first, but with good reason because it gave me time to meet many of the great people that I will be studying with over the next four months without many other distractions. In between the grueling meetings on how not to get your purses snatched and overviews on public transportation, I had the chance to bond with many new people from every corner of America and actually learned more about the country I had just left than I ever did before. It was a very great experience in a phenomenal setting and in retrospect I applaud the organizers of this program for it.

But at last I arrived to the beautiful city of Vienna the following Sunday to begin studying a wide array of courses ranging from an introduction to Viennese art and architecture to a teaching internship at a local high school (or so I thought). Like I said I am not one to read brochures closely, and therefore missed the part about the month-long German intensive period that is very much like a German Interim class would be back at home. It is set up to help hone everyone’s language skills before attempting to assimilate into Viennese culture, and considering my very limited ability to speak German (as in I had never so much as heard a word of it before coming here) it has been much appreciated and greatly needed. I have already seen my ability to get around, order food, and survive in a vastly different environment than the one am I used to at home increase tremendously. I was happy to find that the majority of locals here are very understanding and very willing to help foreigners who may be lost or just curious as to what is going on around them and if not for them I might still be wondering the streets looking for my apartment.

I have had no problems adjusting to the diet, which consists primarily of vast arrays of meats and vegetables, or to the heavy cultural interest in the arts and nature. We were told that the city of Vienna alone contributes more to the arts than the entire entire United States and has more museums per capita than anywhere else in the world. Vienna is also the birthplace of greats such as Beethoven and Mozart which has produced a huge interest in music of all forms but especially those of classical and traditional genres. We were asked to be reflective in the summaries of our experiences and this is already one of the major gaps that I would like to see closed in the U.S. Literally every night of the week there is a different performance by an orchestra or a new exhibit being opened which I have found to be very enriching and enjoyable. I am positive that I will continue to utilize these opportunities as much as possible and to also post as many pictures as I allowed so that all who are interested can get a glimpse of the wonderful things that are available in this city. I am very excited to begin my other areas of study at the beginning of February and I promise to keep everyone updated as much as possible. Thanks for reading and Auf Wiedersehen!

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