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Journal 1, May 2nd 2018
When I first arrived to the airport in Detroit, I was definitely excited, but also more nervous than I had anticipated. Although I have flown by myself multiple times before, I knew that flying abroad and being in a different country would be a unique experience. I generally had no issues during my flight from Detroit to Amsterdam. My nerves did prevent me from sleeping, but I was surprised by how comfortable the aircraft was and how friendly many of the staff were that I encountered. Luckily, my plane from Detroit landed early and I was able to make my short connecting flight in Amsterdam. As I stepped foot in this airport, I immediately knew I was in a different country. It was a bit overwhelming to be surrounded by people speaking foreign languages and to see signs that were not translated in English. Once I got on the plane, I tried my best to sleep and relax on my way to Vienna. Again, this flight had no problems. I thought it was interesting how the flight attendants knew to use English with me compared to a different passenger. Many passengers would also respond to one another in English and their native language. Seeing these interactions made me feel a little more calm because English seemed commonplace to everyone and I knew I could ask for help if I needed it at any time.
Once I arrived to the Vienna airport, I was much more confused with what I was doing. The signs in the airport mostly used pictures to explain how to get luggage. I followed people from my flight to the baggage claim and through the rest of the exits. I then waited for another student from our trip to meet me, so we could taxi to the hotel together. At first we attempted to use an Uber, but the driver was not showing up to our location. His accent was heavy and we struggled to communicate clearly via phone. We called the driver multiple times, but we ended up cancelling this Uber. We then noticed how many people were lined up for a taxi. Seeing this made us feel comfortable enough to use the taxi service. Our biggest concern was making sure we did not get scammed by a transportation service, but this did not seem to be an issue. It was an interesting experience to drive into Vienna. I felt like I was in a movie when we were driving because I had not quite processed that I was officially in this other country. Everything seemed beautiful and alive even before we entered the heart of the city. The buildings looked just like they had in all the pictures; they were massive, gorgeous, and endless. My excitement grew when we finally made it to the hotel!
Later in the evening, the rest of our 2018 class arrived! I was extremely nervous to meet everyone and felt a bit pressured to make friends. However, everyone was friendly and chatty. We all walked through a bit of Vienna for our first class dinner. I was surprised to see how equal English and German was displayed along the streets and on signs. I am sure I will eventually come across individuals who know little or lesser English, but I feel confident that I will be able to navigate the language barrier when I need to. The restaurant chosen for our first meal was quite nice, but so much smaller than American places. The staff knew English very well and were able to assist everyone in ordering. I chose a rucola salad and carinthian cheese pasta. Both of these dishes are considered typical Austrian foods. The rucola was not my favorite, but the pasta was amazing! I am thankful we had this first dinner right after our trip because it kept everyone awake and we were able to meet the group. I am already beginning to settle into Vienna. I am excited to start exploring the culture in more detail as the course progresses!
Journal 2, May 17th 2018
The History of Art Museum today was fantastic! Before we began, I was unsure of what kinds of collections an art history museum would have. Because I know little about art, I figured that all art was historical in some way. The tour guide explained that there are different kinds of art in the museum that represent trends in different historical periods. We officially began the tour by looking at historical artifacts that were made of various kinds of materials, including gold and ivory. A lot of the pieces in these collections did not have actual purposes except to showcase a wealthy status, which is why many rich families would request these items to be made. My favorite piece was a giant ship made of gold that sang two different songs, moved along the ground, and shot off canons; it still works perfectly to this day! I can only imagine how amusing this must have been for the owner and their guests to see such an intricate object guiding itself across a table. The tour then headed upstairs to the picture part of the museum, which contained most of the famous paintings throughout history. We viewed a lot of amazingly detailed works of art.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the museum was that they had historical artworks positioned next to more modern pieces so that viewers could compare and contrast the two kinds of work. I loved an art piece where a woman in the painting was posed confidently naked next to a piece where the male gaze had been imposed upon the female in the painting. I also really enjoyed the photographs by a lesbian artist that were situated amongst such traditional works. Although the photograph was not actually in the museum, the tour guide pulled up one of this artists more radical pictures where the photographer actually etched the words pervert into her bare chest. This was such a powerful statement and extremely relevant in our current era. I honestly wish they had put this photograph in the museum. I understand how some of the patrons would have disliked the image, but I think that provocative art is some of the best work and the point truly is to stir emotions, negative and positive, within the viewer. Nonetheless, I appreciated this piece and that the museum acknowledged the need for diverse artists.
After the art museum, a group of us decided to check out the museum on Sigmund Freud. I have taken a few psychology classes in the past, so I knew the general details about Freud’s theories. The museum itself was situated within Freud’s apartment that he was forced to flee during World War II. As I walked around his home, I saw a lot of pictures from his lifetime and important objects that were dear to him. I thought the museum was interesting, but it really only focused on the items in his life and not his actual theories or life history. My favorite part was probably the section of the museum on his daughter, Anna Freud, who became a child psychologist and developed a great deal of important psychological theories throughout her life. It was stated that Anna was clearly Freud’s favorite daughter, probably because she loved psychology like her father did. I was disappointed that the museum did not acknowledge the theories Anna actually provided to her father, who then stole Anna’s work and claimed it as his own. I have noticed that in many museums women are definitely underrepresented or dismissed more easily than the male artists. This observation is one of the downfalls of Viennese art. However, I can’t believe we have so little time left here in Vienna! I have grown into the culture so easily that it has begun to feel like home.
Journal 3, May 21st 2018
It is the final day for us all in Vienna, which is truly bittersweet. The first thing I decided to do was meet a couple of other people to get breakfast at Aida, my favorite cafe, one last time. I was finally able to try my eiskaffee, which is espresso with ice cream and whipped topping. As we sat outside, we watched the people pass us by and thought about all the buildings and individuals we will be leaving behind in less than a day. Finished with breakfast, we decided to visit a famous cemetery where many Viennese composers are buried. Specifically, we visited the graves of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. This visit created a bit of a somber mood, which was probably not the best choice for our last day. Nonetheless, it was nice to pay tribute to such famous composers who we had been listening to over the course of our program. My roommates and I then headed back to our hotel, where we made a traditional Austrian lunch of meats and cheese and began to gather our belongings together.
Packing to go home was definitely a challenge. I only had 5 available pounds to fill my suitcase with things I have bought and I think I might be hitting the 50 pound limit pretty closely. If I am able to travel for such a long time again, I think I would need to bring a second suitcase that counts as a carry on. Once I packed all that I could for the evening, I hung around the apartment a bit. I didn’t want to overexert myself the day before we fly out, especially when we are leaving so early in the morning. I don’t think I want to attempt navigating international airports even more exhausted than I will already be. Later on in the evening though, I met up with the everyone that stayed in Vienna for the day and had dinner as a large group. This was a quite saddening because we have grown so close as a group. I feel like I have just begun to open myself up to more people in our class. Frankly, it sucks to be leaving everyone I have developed friendships with. I don’t think I mentally prepared myself for going back to a home without all my Vienna friends!
As I reflect on these past three weeks, I am truly stunned by all I have experienced and learned here in Vienna. When we began to learn about music, I felt very overwhelmed because I had little musical knowledge leftover from my middle school band years. I remember worrying that I
wouldn’t be able to enjoy performances due to my lack of knowledge and understanding. As the class progressed, I picked up on many of the concepts we discussed. I noticed my view of classical music and art begin to change and develop into a deeper appreciation of works made from artists many years ago. I now am able to recognize the different periods that music was created and identify the kind of music being played. This is an ability I never thought I could ever achieve. In addition to learning about the class, I have experienced a completely different way of life in Europe. Being surrounded by a new culture and language has given me changed perspectives on how Americans live and what I am missing out on in the world around me. I have also made friends with people I would never have met had I not taken this course. I have grown close to individuals from a variety of backgrounds who contributed to such an amazing three weeks! I am going to deeply miss Vienna. I hope I can come back someday and see how the city changes in the future. I also want to keep in touch with all the people from our class. Some of us have already talked about having a reunion at Cedar Point this summer, so I can proudly declare that I have made lifelong friends! It may be cliche, but I honestly have to say that studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my life!