As this semester in Austria is winding down I’ve realized that there a lot of things that my fellow students and I have learned. So instead of listing off places I’ve traveled, with the help of my peers I decided it’d be more fun to make a list of rules that we’ve learned and lived by while living here in Austria.
1. Everything Begins and Ends with Christ.
The first and most important rule is that everything revolves around Christ. If you put Christ at the center of your Austria experience, He will permeate every part of your life. I first learned this in Ireland during the retreat I went on in Cavan. My fellow classmates also continue to surprise me everyday with their devotion and yearning for spiritual growth. Maybe my favorite example of this is at the end of a night of fun, no matter what time it is, you can be assured that a slew of people will make their way to the chapel. Between daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and “Brosaries” (which is when you pray a rosary with a group of “bros”), life in Gaming truly starts and ends with Christ.
2. Underwear Comes First.
When traveling a lot you learn to pack light. You learn to make a couple pairs of underwear and two shirts last a weekend. This is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned since I’ve been here because no one likes to carry around a heavy travel bag.
The habits you make at the beginning of the semester will be easier to continue during the rest of the semester. This seems like a pretty universal rule, but in Austria it is even truer. Also, if it snows, be mindful of small children with snowballs. Kartause kids (professors’ children) tend to ambush students as they come out from Mass.
It is so easy to forget that you’re actually in Europe to learn. Because of how much you travel and because you’re living in Europe, it sometimes feels like a long vacation, and you might be tempted to turn your brain off. Don’t do it! The professors in Gaming are so personal and loving, and through them I have learned things that will stay with me the rest of my life.
5. Go Take a Hike!
Gaming, Austria, is a beautiful place surrounded by mountains… you have to go climb one! There are so many ways to have fun outdoors here: jumping in the freezing cold creek, hiking to a waterfall or up to Book Mountain, exploring caves, and even doing the outdoors stations of the cross.
6. Try new things.
It’s almost impossible to avoid trying new things in Austria because everything is new, and yet there are those people who close themselves off to new experiences. Try new foods, talk to new people, travel to new places, even try to learn a new language. The more new things you’re open to, the more you will experience and the more fun you will have.
7. Lederhosen Brings People Together.
It may feel silly to dress up in traditional Austrian garb, and you may look even sillier than you feel, but it is so much fun. This past Thursday we had a Thanksgiving Ball at which we all dressed up in traditional Austrian clothing, shared a joyful Thanksgiving meal, and danced until we couldn’t dance anymore. Lederhosen may seem silly, but in Austria, Lederhosen brings people together.
8. Travel when you can.
This rule was given to me by my household brother Chris Pagano, who told me whenever you have a chance to go somewhere new, do it. There are times when traveling somewhere can seem burdensome and tiring, but it is always worth it once you get there. Just recently I had the opportunity to travel to Prague. We had just come off of ten days of traveling, and I was tempted to stay back. But I decided to listen to my friend Chris and go anyway. Needless to say, Prague ended up being one of the best places I’ve visited. From seeing the statue of The Infant of Prague to strolling along the city streets of Old Town and enjoying good food, I enjoyed every moment of the trip. That being said, if you can’t travel as much as you’d like because of money or other reasons, it’s worth it to go travel to Austria just because of how beautiful Gaming is. Even if that’s the only place you can travel to, it’s worth it.
9. Trains are for sleeping.
You can sleep when you’re dead… or at least when you’re back in America. But if you must sleep, make sure you sleep on trains or buses. You find out soon enough that your time in the places you travel to is precious, and less time sleeping means more time to enjoy a city.
10. Enjoy every second of it.
The last and maybe most important rule is to enjoy every moment of it because it all goes by so fast. It seems like just a couple weeks ago we all arrived here, and now in just a couple of weeks we’ll be gone. Now more than ever, everyone here is trying to make the most of our time, as our stay here in Europe comes to an end.