This past month, I have spent most of my time away from the hustle and bustle of Hamburg and have found peace and quiet in the rural suburbs of Vienna. Unfortunately, due to the ever-present Omicron variant spreading rapidly around Europe, my last four weeks of university classes and events have switched completely online. Naturally, I was a bit devastated to hear that our classes would, like all semesters prior, come to a conclusion through computer screens.
While the situation is less than ideal, I figured that I could spend my last month of the winter semester in a new environment: Austria. About two years ago, I was fortunate enough to live with a host family for five months just around 45 minutes outside of the capital, Vienna. Though much time has passed since I last departed the country, my host family and I have managed to stay in touch these past few years and they invited me to visit.
Reconnecting with my host family has not only been fulfilling but being away from the city has also given me time to explore new surroundings in nature. Like many of my fellow Temple students, I find that living in the city can be both exciting and exhilarating. From art museums to unique clothing stores to diverse eateries and diners, city life truly offers everything. Living in Hamburg these past five months has made me appreciate how accessible and walkable city life can be. Nevertheless, spending some time away from Hamburg, and from my dorm room, where I have been cooped up in the last two weeks, has also helped me gain some perspective and has helped me zone in on my goals in the coming months, like mentally preparing to write two research papers in German while also figuring out a study schedule for the DSH, the German-proficiency language test.
Though Austria is far from free from Covid’s grasp, I have learned to truly love the environmental and natural aspects the countryside has to offer. Whether taking midnight strolls with my host sister and gazing at the clear, dark sky or even climbing old ruins on cold, windy days (yeah, abandoned castles are everywhere in Austria), taking some time alone to reassess my goals and feelings in the next few months was essential. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this pandemic has truly thrown a lot of us off course. Online classes have not only shattered my motivation but have also contributed a bit to my tendency to wake up late and then go to bed right after class ends. Recently, it feels even more difficult to push me to be the best version of myself, both physically and mentally. Anxiety about future plans, feelings of self-doubt, and all-around tiredness are common during my December. Such feelings are most likely intensified by the freezing temperatures, short days, and curfews that are present throughout Germany.
Despite the negativity that has seemed to loom over my head for the past month, simply stepping outside and exploring the natural world around me, whether that be with friends or alone, has made me feel more appreciative of my situation. Yes, it sucks that two years have passed and an end in sight still seems so far, but at the end of the day, I am so grateful knowing that I am not alone. Studying abroad is hard enough, but doing it during one of the 21st century’s historical events makes it that much more difficult.
Though I struggle with self-praise and confidence, take some time to step away from the screen and actually be proud of who you are. Whether you are still at university in the United States, thinking about studying abroad, or are a student abroad at this moment, just know that you are doing a great job, that your hard work will pay off, and that you have so much to give. Though I say this, or write this now, I know feelings of doubt and negativity will always crawl back in. But next time they do, I know that closing my laptop, stepping outside, and simply breathing in the nature the world has to offer will give me a chance to distance myself from these real yet deceiving thoughts. I hope you can do the same, no matter where or who you are.