A Chance to See Beyond Oneself
Life in Austria

After one and a half months in Germany, I moved to Austria (in the middle of September). I have been living with family friends for the past three weeks in a small village outside Salzburg.

It's quite a unique house that is set into the rock of a hill overlooking the region, backing up to a serene forest; next to the house is some of the remaining foundation from a fort that was here in the 1700s. On the bottom floor of the house is a traditional Austrian restaurant that is owned by the couple who live on the second floor, and on the third floor is an attic room where I reside. There is a second building that is detached from that house that is used for additional restaurant guests as well as an old church that is used for special occasions like weddings and holiday masses. The house is set on a hill with a beautiful view of the neighboring region and villages (see photos).

I feel very fortunate to have such a wonderful room to live in with such hospitable and generous hosts. Though I really enjoyed the camper I lived in in Germany, its nice to have a room that is insulated with a heater, where I can fully stretch out my arms, and have a bathroom right next to me.

Language Learning in Salzburg

I am taking a German course three days a week in the beautiful town of Salzburg, the other days I study German alone or with a partner from the class, and also work remotely part time for the language school I attended in Germany, helping them with marketing to US students. Salzburg is the fourth-largest city in Austria and has an incredibly rich history. The two things it's most known for (at least internationally...or maybe just for Americans) is being the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music, which most Salzburgers have never seen nor have any interest in ever seeing. The town is stunning. It is set between two hills, one with a castle on it, the other with a monastery. The city is filled with lovely baroque architecture, has a river flowing through the center, and has a spectacular view of some alpine scenery (see photos).

To get to Salzburg I take a 5 minute car ride to the local commuter train station, a 20 minute train ride to the city, and then a 10 minute bus ride to the school. Because it takes some time to get to town, I have been fairly introverted lately, just doing my own thing - which means a lot of German studying. The German course is incredibly difficult for me, as the other students are all more advanced, and I typically only understand about 30% of what is being said by the instructor. I'm considering switching German schools when this course is complete in two weeks as I often leave class more frustrated and confused than when I arrived.

This has been an important challenge for me, as I have to continually find ways to stay positive and keep myself from getting discouraged. At times it feels like I am completely incapable of learning this language and that no matter how hard I try, my progress is so slow that it seems like its not worth all the effort. But fortunately some friends have been encouraging me by reminding that one rarely notices their progress and that it's important to be patient with oneself, not to mention forgiving when failure seems ever present. I'm trying to learn ways to stay motivated and enthusiastic amidst a constant sense of failure and though its tough at times, I am slowly seeing that it is a valuable process to experience.   

"A person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is." - Mark Twain

"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill


About three weeks ago, when I took the train from Germany to Austria, I first stopped in Innsbruck for a few days to see some extended family, some of whom I had never met before. I met with four cousins, an uncle and his family, and my half-sister and her family. It was so enjoyable to spend time with family members that I have had so little contact with over the years. They were all incredibly hospitable and generous in showing me around and being patient with my German. I had such a great time connecting with them and learning about their lives. It's a unique experience when you can meet someone for the first time, or someone you met only once as a child, and immediately feel a strong sense of trust and commitment.

I also had a chance to visit some friends and a cousin in Vienna, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. It was my third time in the city and it was fun to be back and see the places I had previously visited as well as explore new parts of the city. It was a pleasure to see friends who I hadn't visited with in a number of years. My parents also visited me in Salzburg a week ago, as my father tries to visit family in Austria every few years; it was fun to speak German with my father for the first time and learn more about what life is like in this country where he was born.

The Plan

Actually there isn't really much of a plan, which is somewhat disconcerting at times, but I'm trying to stay hopeful that the right opportunities will come my way in the right time. I plan to keep studying German, continue working remotely for the language school in Germany, try to make some friends, and continue sending out my CV when opportunities arise. In other news, my master's thesis is getting published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, which feels very encouraging!

And that's all. Please share any thoughts, responses, ideas, experiences that come to mind in the comments section below. Also, if you enjoyed this, please subscribe :)

Bis später!
(see you later!)

07/10/2010 2:53pm

Really inspiring post, Karl! Learning to be okay without a plan is one of the most useful things we can do for ourselves. It will re-calibrate us, give us the courage to trust ourselves, and help us discover our true inclinations. We are taught to rush and follow a schema laced with social and familial expectations which easily turn into personal expectations and can obscure these true inclinations.

07/10/2010 10:21pm

Hey Inna, thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Your words are indeed wise.

16/10/2010 2:09pm

this is really nice. I look forward to reading more.
Was Deinen Spracherwerb anbelangt kann ich nur sagen: Cut yourself some slack, es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen, zudem kann ich eh nicht glauben, wie irre gut your German bereits nach such a short time ist. Bewundernswert!

17/10/2010 3:14am

Vielen dank Steffi für deine Nachricht und Ermutigung. As you suggest, I do need to be more patient. Thanks so much for reading :)


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