Saturday, November 17, 2012

Living the Life..

I realized that it's been about a month since my last blog post...and a lot can happen within a month! So let's begin...

I am finally getting used to my teaching schedule, as well as getting up before the sun. I have also figured out how early I need to leave my apartment in order to make it to the bakery  before catching the train. hehe...of course. Something I'm still getting used to though is that almost every teacher has different expectations of what I should prepare for classes and handles their classes differently. For example, some teachers are really strict and will make their class more or less "shut up" when they get rowdy, while other teachers will laugh and let the students do whatever they want. It's interesting. I know for a fact though that I don't like it when students are talking while I'm talking.. Usually all it takes is a 'look' and they will be quiet :) It's not an evil look, just a look that says "hey, let's pay attention to this very interesting lesson on exam anxiety..."

The students are overall really great. Somehow I have classes ranging from 10-19 year olds...It can be a little difficult to plan lessons for the younger ones because their English isn't as developed. Also, I have to speak very slowly and clearly. It's good practice though, working with students of all ages. I feel bad though, because a couple of times last week I got a little bit frustrated with the 'rowdy' class. It's really annoying when they just will not listen, roll their eyes at the subject you're talking about, and continue to talk ABOUT you in German. Meanwhile, their teacher is just standing there.. So hopefully I can figure out how to better manage those classes where the students are a little crazy. Thinking back to jr high/high school, I feel bad for some of the teachers we had lol. Oh boy..

So today marks 2 months since I moved to Vienna. It feels like so much longer, though. A lot has changed in my life since I moved here, including the people I hang out with and every my diet! Poptarts are too expensive to be a regular part of my life ;) But really, I only eat whole grain bread and am finding how rewarding it is to cook rather than eat out/buy pre-made meals. It tastes better, too! Something I'm  very glad to have on-hand is peanut butter. Pb&j sandwiches are amazing, and always will be. The Austrians, however, do not agree. I know someone who eats Marmite, so yeah, I can have my pb&j. The holidays are coming up (quickly!) and I'm starting to think about Christmas presents. I already started some shopping online, and am excited to see what will be for sale at the many Christmas markets here in the city. I also hope to do some traveling during the winter break, and spend the holidays with some special people. Next month, 4 days before Christmas, I'll be moving into a new apartment. I'm really excited about it and I think I'll be much happier living there. You could say that many things are starting to fall into place in my life right now. My life for the past year has been a constant change, but things are finally starting to calm down. :) I am making my home here in Vienna and even 2 months later, I still can't believe I'm lucky enough to live here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

First Week of Classes = Success

So I survived my first week in an Austrian high school. I had a total of 11 lessons this week. My students ranged from ages 15-20, and all with varying levels of English. The earliest I had to get up was 5:30am, which seems early, but in reality is pretty normal for a "real-life" job. I'll get used to it, along with my little commute out to the village. Since this was only the first week, I mostly introduced myself to the students, showed them pictures from Oregon, and talked about America in general. One of the activities I did in a few classes was aimed at finding out what (exactly) the students think about when they think of America/Americans in general. I got some interesting responses:
"Shades of Grey, California, big fridges"
"Hugh Hefner, Navy SEALS"
"Cape Canaveral"
"American Dream, the worst health care system, Victoria's Secret :)"
"Snoop Dogg."
"fat people, skyscrapers, Spongebob Squarepants."
And last but not least: "Las Vegas, American Pie, BIG PARTIES, and American football."

When I asked if anyone had questions for me about America, one kid in the back of the classroom asked "Is soccer still considered a secret communistic tactic?" um.....what??! No comment, sir.

All in all, the students participated in the discussions, though sometimes it was very very difficult to get anyone to talk. It makes sense though; all of the sudden a girl from America is making them talk in a language they aren't 100% comfortable with. On another note, the faculty is very friendly. All of the English teachers so far have been helpful and excited to have me in their classes.

I was placed at two schools, so I'll be starting lessons at school 2 on Monday. I have only corresponded with these teachers through email so far. I have received very interesting lesson topics including Abortion Pros and Cons, Scientology in the USA, Binge Drinking, Health, Friendship and Drugs, the World of Work, and Political Incorrectness. With that said, I will be learning a lot about my own country this year haha. I think this will be fun though :) I'm excited though, because I found out that I have two classes of 10 and 11 year olds. Our lessons will obviously not be so complex, and they will be telling me about their hobbies, friends, families, etc. Should be fun.

I think that about sums it up for the school-aspect of my life. When I'm not at these schools I'm usually hanging out with fellow Americans, drinking coffee, and drinking coffee. Coffee here is just so good. I really don't even miss Starbucks anymore. Starbucks seems...weak. And yes, that is a bad sign hehe. Autumn has definitely arrived here in's a lot cooler and the leaves have already done most of their changing.

It's Saturday night here in Vienna, and I have no plans. I already printed out materials for Monday lessons, so I'll have to find something fun to do.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

All Settled In; And more!

Looking at the date today, I realized it's been 30 days since my last blog post. That's unacceptable.. :)

There is so much I can write about that I don't know where to begin. I'll start by saying that my flight(s) to Vienna from Honolulu were bearable. My luggage arrived with me in Vienna and I took a cab to my residence. I'm living in the 18th district in Vienna, and to my surprise I really like the area I'm living in. Everything I need is within walking distance. Which is something I'm definitely not used to! I have my own bathroom and little kitchen, so that's a major plus. These past 2 weeks have been packed with all sorts of errands and specific outings.. So far I've had to register with the district I'm living in, finalize my residency permit, open a bank account, purchase a sim card + phone, purchase kitchen accessories, groceries, and figure out other random things.

I have met many other TAs (teaching assistants..) here in Vienna, and also at the orientation seminar that took place in Graz. I haven't spoken as much German as I'd like so far, but once I start working and surrounding myself with more Austrians I'm sure that will change. One thing I love (and on some days really look forward to) is the fact that Kaffee und Kuchen can literally be found on every corner. Austrians love their coffee, and there are more cafes here than I can count. As a matter of fact I will be getting coffee tomorrow with my new Austrian friend, Jörg.

This week will be interesting for sure. I will be meeting with my teachers for the first time and figuring out what my teaching schedule will be like between my two schools. So far my teachers have been very helpful, informative, and flexible. Since orientation I have gotten so many neat ideas for possible lesson plans. It all depends on what the teachers prefer - if I follow their specific instructions for lessons or if I can bring my own into the classroom. We shall see, but either way, it will be fun and interesting. On Tuesday will be when we figure out my schedule, and I'll sign the contract, along with giving them copies of documents and stuff. Then on Wednesday I'll be giving my first lessons. I'm pretty nervous for it, but I'm sure it will be fine.

Fall has definitely arrived here in Vienna. The leaves are starting to change color and fall to the ground. It's also a little cooler out than it was a couple weeks ago. I'm slowly accumulating winter clothing...I want to be prepared! Well that just about sums up the past 2 weeks. I'll be writing again this weekend about my experiences in my schools this week. :)


Friday, August 31, 2012

Pre-Departure Thoughts: 2 Weeks To Go

Austria is just around the corner :) So much has been on my mind lately. Here is a glimpse:

The past couple of weeks have mostly been a blur. I feel like I've been prepping for this journey for the past 5 months straight. Oh wait, I have! I can finally say that everything is in order. My residency permit has been processed; all I need to do is submit fingerprints. Receiving that news was probably the biggest relief. Flight itineraries, housing confirmation, receipts, dozens of e-mails, forms,'s all organized into two folders that I will be taking with me on my flights. Now it's time to get serious about packing. I'm used to packing for up to 2 months of being away...but not 9 :)

Let's face it, us girls like our clothes and shoes. For months I've been envisioning what I will wear while in Austria. It's kind of like going back to school in the fall. You're excited to have a few new outfits, meet new people, integrate. Except this excitement is much bigger. I'm going to be living in the 9th largest city of the European Union, the capital of Austria. Since I grew up on a farm in a very rural community, this is a big deal. I'm currently deciding what clothes I'll take with me. I'm trying to take as much with me as I can, winter-clothes wise, so that I won't have to do a lot of clothes shopping when I get there. I also might have my sister send some winter clothes to me once I arrive. Having lived in Vienna a few summers back, I do know that the H&M near Stephansplatz is fantastic. They have way more choices than the H&M in Portland for example. The prices there are surprisingly reasonable. I'll find out from the locals what a typical winter is like there before I do further shopping. In addition to winter clothes in general, I have to think about clothes I can wear on the job. I have the impression that the dress code for my schools is casual to semi-formal, but I will find out soon enough. Something I'm excited to bring with me: My cute pink Dirndl. :)

Since I'll be arriving on a Sunday, not many stores will be open (if any). I'm planning on bringing some snacks with me, as well as anything I'll need for my first day there. On Monday I'll make my way to the local authorities to register, and then to the immigration office on Wednesday. In between I'll have time to explore my new neighborhood, meet people, buy some groceries, and hit up IKEA for some bedding. I'll also need to purpose all necessary transportation tickets for Vienna as well as my commute to Gänserndorf. The following Monday through Friday I'll be in Graz at the Orientation Seminar. I'm really looking forward to meeting other TA's and getting started on this new adventure. As you can see, there is a lot to do upon arrival, but it's all manageable. Luckily I've spent a good amount of time abroad, and know (somewhat) what to expect. This will be my 6th international trip (my 5th trip to Europe). I honestly can't believe it. I feel very lucky to have had many opportunities to see the world and experience other cultures. There is not a doubt in my mind that living and working abroad is something I can do.

One thing that I haven't had much time to work on in the past year is my German. During winter term of 2012 I took a German translation course which helped, but I have definitely been out of practice. However, I have been reviewing old course books, listening to deutsche Lieder, and doing whatever I can to keep it fresh. Being the curious nerd that I am, I decided to research the German that's spoken in Austria. Similar to Germany, Austria has many different dialects which are spoken in different regions. Most Austrians speak "Standard German" (Hochdeutsch) but it is often times mixed with some dialect. Last summer I spent some time in Obersalzburg with family friends. I was able to speak Hochdeutsch with them easily, but as soon as they got into their dialect, things got complicated. I recently did some research on "Viennese German" (Wienerisch, because Vienna in German is Wien), the dialect spoken in Vienna. I'd like to learn some of this dialect, and I'm thinking it shouldn't be too difficult, since I'll be there for 9 months. Between the German spoken in Germany and the German spoken in Austria, in general, there are many differences. Vocabulary is one of the biggest differences, as there are different words used for the same thing in both countries. Some of the most obvious differences I caught a few summers back were the words used for potatoes: Kartoffeln in Germany vs. Erdäpfel in Austria; bag: Tüte in Germany vs. Sackerl in Austria, and stairs: Treppe in Germany vs. Stiege in Austria. Those are just a few differences in vocabulary. I'm not even going to touch on grammar lol. I'm still learning German, and people say that learning a language is a lifelong journey. I can't wait to practice German and only get better at it.

I can't wait to live in Vienna. After (barely) getting to know the city in 2009, I always dreamed of one day returning for a longer period of time. This city is so beautiful, and holds so much history in every corner. It was also the first European city that I lived in alone (meaning without family along - other students from my university lived near me). I cannot wait to visit my favorite restaurant in the Museumsquartier with the best Wiener Schnitzel I've ever had. I'm also looking forward to visiting the little Eis stand near Stephansplatz where I would always get zwei Kugeln: Erdbeer und Zitrone. And don't even get me started on the Sacher Torte at Hotel Sacher. Thinking back to that time, I had so many unfortunate yet funny things happen in Vienna. I can't wait for more :)


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

30 Days Until Departure...

It's crazy to think that it's almost time. The years, months, weeks, and days seemed to go by so slowly. I can say with excitement that I'm ready for my next adventure.

For those of you who know me well, you are aware of my interest in German. This interest has taken me to Europe already a few times, allowed me to meet wonderful people, and have fun learning a foreign language. It has also enabled me to begin a new chapter in my life, which will take place in Vienna, Austria. Ever since I was a freshman at Western, sitting in German Language 101, I have always wanted to teach English with the Fulbright Commission. Several others from WOU had done it before me and I wanted to do it too. A couple years before I could even apply for the position, I kept track of application materials I would need and deadlines I would meet. With planning, determination and hard work, it all came true. Starting October 1st I will be a Teaching Assistant for the English classes at two schools in Gänserndorf, Austria. The town has roughly 10,000 inhabitants. Something very exciting about this transition is that I will be living in Vienna. This city is very special to me and I feel lucky to have lived there already. I'm looking forward to meeting many people, including other TA's, and allowing myself to have a fresh start.

So the job... my title is technically "englischsprachige Fremdsprachenassistentin." It's a mouthful, I know. English-speaking foreign language assistant is what I will be. It's funny, because I spent the past 4 years learning German, and tutoring others, and now it will be switched. I will be helping others learn my mother tongue while setting German aside. Not to worry though, I plan on using German every chance I get. In terms of language learning, it's fun to think about how far I've come. Entering college at 18, I had no idea what was in store for me. Yeah, I signed up for German 101, big deal. "Wie heißen Sie?" "ich heiß heißt Emily. I mean, ich heiße Emily!!! Why are there 6 conjugations for every verb....there's how many verbs?! Oh yeah, I guess we have that many verbs in English, too. Wait, what's the difference between "du" and "Sie"... Nominativ, Akkusativ, und Dativ... eh whatever, I'll focus on those later. Right? Oh.. Nevermind! Prepositions... What if I accidentally use du?? How do I say "advise" auf Deutsch... What in the world is a Bügeleisen? I accidentally left my dictionary somewhere...maybe? 

Okay, so that was a big exaggerated. In all seriousness, I had no idea how much work learning a language would be! Luckily for me though, I find it to be very fun. Just like a math nerd might find word problems and quadratic equations to be the highlight of  their day...   There will always be mistakes made when learning another language. The important thing is though to learn from it, accept that it will probably happen again, practice, and keep a positive attitude. 

I have 30 days left here in Hawaii until I depart for Austria. The difference between the two places will be huge. In addition to weather and overall climate, Austria will have the greenery that I'm missing so much here. Yes, Hawaii is green, but I'm talking about forests and rolling hills, pastures with cows, mountains that gather snow in the winter... Since I have been to Austria before, I have already witnessed the beauty of it. To witness it for 9 months...well, that will be a privilege. In all, I am beyond excited for this journey to begin. All I have left to do before departure is pack (yikes!), get all of my paperwork in order, finalize a couple things, and get on that plane. I will without a doubt miss the U.S. and my family and friends. Maybe you all will have to come visit my new home :) Always remember that the possibilities in life are endless, and if you really want something it will come to you...some way, somehow.