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Tales from Innsbruck

| Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Hallo from Innsbruck, Austria! It’s been a whirlwind three months abroad. I’ve been learning to successfully navigate a new city, new classes and a new culture as well as adapting to being separated by an ocean and seven hours from the people and places I consider home.

Even after these three months, there is still a part of me where every cell of my body is screaming at me telling me that I don’t belong here in Innsbruck — that where I belong is back home with my family and friends. I call this my flight response. This response arises with mistakes I have made, such as forgetting my passport and not being able to board a Flixbus back to Innsbruck from Munich or just generally when I am feeling lonely.

But then there is this other part of me. The part that comes to surface when I do things I never thought I would feel capable of doing by myself like taking two trains and having to switch lines in order to get to my former host family’s house in Bavaria; taking a bus to the Munich airport; flying to Madrid and then navigating an unfamiliar airport in an unfamiliar language to find an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years; and arriving at the wrong terminal while trying to get back to the airport, then jumping back on the metro to find our correct destination.

This other part of me is also the feeling I get as I wander around Innsbruck, alone, watching tourists take photos and residents having coffee. No one will ever know what this experience is. I can certainly try to describe it, as I am doing now, but only I will ever truly understand. And depending on the day and my mood, that fact feels either empowering or isolating.

The Christmas market opened this weekend in Innsbruck. On my way to Mass Saturday night, I meandered through looking at the various vendors, dreaming about what I am going to buy my people for Christmas. My mind wandered as my senses absorbed every detail of the night.

I see the massive Christmas tree in front of the Golden Roof in the Altstadt. I hear children’s laughter and screams of delight as they ride the Merry-Go-Round that has been placed in the Marktplatz right next to the Inn River. I smell roasted chestnuts and sugar coated nuts and hot Glühwein.

I can’t help but look around and breathe in slowly, breathing out the thoughts. I can’t believe this is my life right now. And, in the theme of Thanksgiving, I can’t help but be so damn grateful that I am having this experience, both in terms of each present moment and my entire year abroad.

Even though I am sure that the part of me that is saying I don’t belong here will last until the minute I land in the United States next year, but the part of me that is growing and changing and learning always always will end up winning.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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