2023-24, Gaelyn outbound to Austria

May 30, 2024

Time for my last journal! Technically I’ve got a few months left of exchange, but it’s been so long since my previous entry that I just gotta close out at this point.

So, I’ve been really busy just living my life. Very recently I had a strange feeling come over me. And with it, I realized that I am not at all the same person that I was when I stepped foot in Austria. Not in a bad way. Not in a bad way at all. Over this past year I have done so much – visited countless cities (with more Vienna trips than I keep track of), learned a new language (partially), tried so many new foods, made the absolute best friends of my life, completely mastered my Spar deli order ;), and discovered so much more about who I am along the way. All while being on the biggest academic break of my life (thank god). I think there’s literally no possible way to remain the same through all of that.

As I get closer to the end of this chapter, I’m both excited and scared for what’s to come after. Part of me thinks: Damn, I just spent a year of hard work building a life here only for it to be over in one 13 hr flight. And another part is ready to get my ass straight to the nearest Publix so that I can order a Pub Sub and head to the beach.

In either case, can we just talk a moment about how ideal my life is. I’m not even trying to brag, but y’all just don’t get it. Austria Rotary is actually SO GOOD. The other Inbounds and I are always talking about this. It’s not even just the Rotary, but I mean our group of Inbounds in general is definitely the best in all of Rotary International (I’m not biased, Lol). Literally not one of us has been sent home or left early (knock on wood), and we all like each other. In fact, we’re literally each other’s second family. I just can’t imagine that it gets any better. And it’s so great having 35 friends all around the country (which is smaller than Florida and has THE BEST public transport) because I can make little mini-trips all the time.

I’m really struggling to think of what to fill you in on, considering that my last journal was in November… SOOO much has gone down since then.

I did say in that journal that I was excited to experience a real winter. Well, that was before I realized that the sun wasn’t going to come out again until March (a.k.a cloudy 24/7). Also, you would never guess that not having a lot of daylight hours would be an issue in Austria; but I’m telling you, the sun would rise at 9:00 am and go back down at 4:00 pm. On Wednesdays, I always have long school days (until 3:00 pm), and I’d literally be walking home during golden hour. I can recall one particular week early on where we had heavy snowfall, and that was an absolute dream. Otherwise, I’d say sliding my way down the icy sidewalk in the dark at 7:00 am trying to get to school was not a 10/10 experience. But at least it makes for a funny story.

On another note, I’ve officially become a nail girly. Before the big Rotary trip around Europe, I got them done and was obsessed. My nail tech is so good if I could kidnap her and bring her back to the U.S. with me, I would. Also, the fact that I can just take a train to Vienna to go get my nails done resonates really well with me.

Speaking of my trip… what an experience. Truly incredible. I genuinely don’t know that I will ever have another vacation in my life to top that one. We did not waste a single day and saw so much. My favorites were definitely Paris, Monaco, and Cinque Terre. And Jesolo (but only because of the beach, otherwise we didn’t actually do anything there). You know, I’ve heard so many people say that Paris is overrated. That once you see the Eiffel Tower, that’s it. WRONG. Paris is exactly as magical as it’s romanticized to be. There’s no debate about it. One of the most memorable parts of my time there was being on metro line 6 during sunset. The view was stunning. As it pulled out of the tunnel, I was just shocked. Shocked at the beautiful sky, the Eiffel Tower, the way that the light sparkled so softly off the Seine… it seemed like the city was drenched in a filter. Everything about that moment was straight out of a movie.

Life is so inexplicable, and that’s really all I have to say about that. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, and now I’m going to continue enjoying my life. Bye.

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