Headaches for Fun

Location: Wien, Österreich

Time: Start of week three, out of four months


German intensive= 3 hours of German class a day, every weekday, for three weeks. The first three weeks here. No other classes.

No English is allowed in the classroom. We discuss grammar to a large extent-refreshing our memories about all the wonderful particulars about the passive tense, and word order and the conjugations of each verb and which articles go with which nouns (there are three types and there is literally no system as to which article goes with each noun), plus their plural form. We also learn multiple pages of new vocabulary each day. Phrases, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. Flash cards have become my new best friends. That means I have hundreds of new friends. This is not an exaggeration since I buy them in packs of a hundred and have gone through perhaps five or more packs already.

We also discuss the politics of Austria, history of Austria and Vienna, a bit about architecture concerning the buildings in Vienna and a few famous artists’ life and works. Of course this is where a large amount of our new vocabulary stems from, since there are specific words and phrases associated with each new theme.

German intensive also includes field trips to listen to the Austrian Parliament in session (yes it’s in German and yes it’s very difficult to understand), the Rathaus and the Leopold museum. Plus, of course, a couple hours homework (readings, grammar worksheets, learning new vocab..) each night, plus tests at least once a week.


Everything else involved, so far, with living in Vienna:

-Talking with Austrians in German and trying to get them to slow down so that you can make out what they are saying and feeling fantastic when you actually uphold your end of an hour or two long conversations in German

-Living in a city for the first time

-Taking public transportation (it works amazingly well!)

-Remembering where my apartment and the IES center are located. And how to get to them

-Attending opening lectures and orientation meetings and guided tours of the city from the staff/faculty at IES

-Being far away from everyone I know and love and to whom I usually spill all my troubles and then feel better

-Getting to know new housemates and roommates and classmates

-Adjusting and re-adjusting my schedule for the regular semester, which follows the intensive period

-Finding grocery stores

-Eating at little Kebap stands for lunch bc I didn’t have time to make anything/buy ingredients myself

-Struggling with the concept of planning meals for the week ahead of time and coming up with three meals a day, seven days a week. Also, apparently shopping for just one person isn’t the easiest thing when all your ingredients are fresh and only last for a week, at best. (a whole head of broccoli? Really? I just need it for one meal..)

-Searching out where to buy detergent and finding when our apartment’s time slot is for the one washing machine in the building


The combination of so much new information about my environment and attempting to memorize and internalize hundreds of new words and phrases and grammatical rules and processing another language for a large portion of my day seems to require my brain to work in overdrive. This has given me an almost constant dull background throbbing in my head for the past two weeks. I can feel my brain protesting and sweating as I forcefully shove all this information into storage at an insane intensity. There comes a point when my brain finds even the most miniscule calculations or thought processes too much and my brain shuts down. I can’t focus on anything and anything that’s not a simple straightforward command just flies right over my head. It’s at this point that I decide I need to just get outside and walk around without interacting with anyone, maybe eat something (never knew working out your brain could use so much energy) and drink water.

Of course it’s also extremely exhilarating to be able to watch my knowledge grow day-to-day, gaining a better and better understanding of the German language and Vienna. Reaching the extent of my brain’s capacity to soak in new information. Realizing suddenly one day that I said ‘going home’ and it meant my apartment in Vienna. Being able to recall the map of the U-Bahn system in my head and being able to get to and from the IES center while being completely absorbed in something other than directions.

It truly is amazing to see how much I can learn and adjust to in such a short period of time. And now I am only more excited to see how the rest of the semester turns out. Time to learn new things, soak in new experiences, learn more about myself and give myself more headaches. Because it’s fun. Great fun.

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