I wanted to save my last blog to thoroughly reflect on my time abroad, but I know that finals are coming up for me and things are about to get hectic, so I figured I’d take time to reflect now! I know that whoever actually reads these is sick of me prolonging my long-awaited cheese blog, but it will have to wait. I will definitely get to it before I leave! I also plan on writing another blog about a trip I took to Mauthausen, a former concentration camp, so stay tuned.
For now, I have a lot to say about this semester as a whole. I am extremely lucky to have had this opportunity to explore a new place and culture. I don’t think I immersed myself in Viennese culture as much as I could have, and I think that, because I have had a lot of mental health issues during the past few semesters, this was the right decision for me. Really getting to know a new place can be a very exhausting and uncomfortable process at times and I chose instead to have a more lighthearted experience. I have met some amazing people during my time abroad, seen some incredible sights, and have felt much more in control of how I allocate my time.
Academically, my program has been incredibly easy compared to Whitman and this led me to some surprising realizations. While I appreciate the culture of high achievement at Whitman and have always been a very academically driven person, I do not think the expectations at Whitman are particularly healthy. I know a lot of people who live with anxiety and/or depression at Whitman and sometimes academic rigor can exacerbate preexisting difficulties. I have personally struggled to balance self care with course work at Whitman and having less to do this semester made me realize how much happier I can be as a person. Having free time also allowed me to do things I was passionate about. I spent about two hours a day working on various musical endeavors and for the first time in my college career I had enough time to read a book for fun! Granted, I didn’t finish the book because it was kind of weird and I lost interest, but I still enjoyed having the time to read most of it before I called it quits! Having so much agency over my time is completely foreign to me, but it has been incredibly beneficial for my mental health. It was also nice to get out of the Whitman bubble for a little while. I think that being on such a small campus can be a little suffocating after a prolonged period, and having even a slight sense of anonymity in a group of new people has been incredibly refreshing.
There are a lot of things I’ll miss about Vienna. Aside from the fact that the city is architecturally stunning, I think I have most enjoyed the widespread cultural appreciation of music and the arts. The ability to buy cheap student tickets for incredible concerts has been one of the highlights of this semester. Similarly, I am lucky to have had access to some top notch practice rooms and recording equipment (which is fun to play with). I’ll also miss being surrounded by so many dedicated musicians. That being said, my musical ventures are far from over! I hope to share some of my compositions at Whitman when I return and I am strongly considering dropping my psychology major to take more music classes. It’s a big decision to make and I’m still mulling it over, but we shall see.
I will most miss my housemates. I don’t know who put the six of us all together during housing decisions, but I’m grateful that someone did. I have felt more at home here than I ever expected to, and I owe that to the wonderful women that I have had the privilege of living with this year. Especially my roommate for sharing my terrible sense of humor.
Although leaving will be hard, I’m excited to come home! Aside from being able to see family, friends, and pets, I will again be able to buy plantains and black beans at reasonable prices, take baths, see Mount Rainier, and order food without stressing about my accent.
In the interest of nostalgia, here are a few more pictures of Vienna that were taken throughout the past few months: