Excerpts of a letter from an exchange student in Austria….


Hello all! One month ago I arrived in Europe and a lot has happened since then!


First thing is first, my arrival. I left Newark airport sad, but excited. The plane ride was smooth, but I didn't sleep. When I arrived in Zurich, I waited for 1 hour for my luggage to arrive. It didn't. So, I proceded out to meet my host family. They are wonderful people. At the airport to meet me was my host-mom Martina, my host-sisters Kathi and Julia, and Martina's friend Connie. They had a sign with my name and a bouquet of sunflowers. Voralberg (the "state" I live in) is amazing and beautiful. I love it. The food is great; everything is picked fresh from the garden. And there are so many chocolate and sweets!


I spent 5 days with my host family before I had to go to language camp in Altmuenster. (My luggage did arrive, btw). There were 29 girls and 10 boys at language camp, and only one boy from America. For the whole 14 days, I walked into town everyday with friends, played table-tennis and foosball, and jumped into the lake (the Traunsee) on one of the nice days. At the end of the two weeks we had a talent show and it ended with everyone waltzing!


Several days later, I was in the south of Switzerland camping with my host family in a region called Tessin (German) or Ticino (Italian). Camping was soo much fun! I went rock climbing every day. Rock climbing is by far my most favorite thing to do now. The view from the rocks it beautiful no matter where you are. I love it. I showed my family how to make s'mores and my host dad Guenter loves them! On Sunday Martina and I attended mass. We couldn't understand anything (not that I can understand a German mass anyway) because it was in Italian. It was beautiful though!


Two days after we returned home I went hiking with Martina and 4 of her teaching friends to the top of two mountains, Schillers Kopf and .....(i forget the name). It was really hard work, but I did it! I saw the cross and signed the book! (they mark the highest point on each mountain with a huge cross and in a metal box there is a book you can sign). The next day we went rock climbing again. I also watched Fireball (James Bond) in German. Today Martina and I went to the Voralberg Convention in Dornbirn and I watched (live) my first ever fashion show.


Which brings me to the thought that in one short month there have been many "firsts." This is my first time: being in Europe, rock climbing, depending on public transportation, and going to the bathroom in the woods, amongst many other things. Being in Austria and so far away from home has also made me realize how much I miss certain American, Philadelphian, and family things, like Barnes and Noble, cheese steaks, the Eagles, American barbecue, softball and baseball, Thanksgiving, the shore, pitzels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and of course my family and friends. And while I am not counting down the days until I return, I am looking forward to enjoying the things I miss.


My master plan is to send an e-mail telling of my adventures once a month. If you respond to my e-mails and I do not respond back it's not because I don't love you, it's because I am out rock climbing or on a train or learning to cook or trying to do my homework or at a cafe, you get the picture. I know as soon as school starts (by the way, it doesn't start until the 15th!!) my free time will shrink. Thanks!


Much love, hugs and kisses, Mariadina



Books for Students
The Exchange Student Survival Kit by Bettina Hansel


This is an excellent book for anyone who's going to be an exchange student, as it gives the reader a realistic view of what going on the exchange will really entail. It covers settling in, homesickness, culture shock, making friends, learning the language, getting ready to leave, and "reverse culture shock" -- coming home again. Although not every exchange student may experience the stages in the exact order or extent the author describes, most exchange students will be able to identify with what she's saying. I found it very informative and comforting to read this book before going to Ecuador for a year, and it was also helpful to read during the exchange, simply to know that what seemed like bizarre feelings were really fairly normal for exchange students. Do yourself a favor and read this book before you go, you'll be glad you did. It'll leave you feeling a whole lot less in the dark about what's going to happen during your exchange.