During our initial orientation in Mariazell, the faculty had all of us fill out a survey about ourselves.  It was one of those surveys that you think is incredibly silly at the time, and at orientation it seemed like just another piece of paperwork to fill out.  However, as our semester is coming to a close, the faculty had us fill out one last survey- the same one we filled out at the beginning of the semester- to map out how we have changed, and to self-reflect upon that.

I found it really interesting to read that in my initial survey four months ago I had written that I didn’t want to change as a person.  It’s entirely clear now, however, that the changes one makes while studying abroad are an absolute gift.  Obviously I can only speak from my own experiences, but studying abroad is not only about experiencing a foreign culture, traveling, eating, and sightseeing- although it is, of course, all of those things as well.  For me it has also been about taking risks, trying new things, putting myself out there, and learning about myself as a person away from everything that is familiar.  It sounds cheesy, but being away for four months in a country where everything is different- the language, the culture, the food, the people, etc.-  gives you the opportunity to examine yourself in a brand new setting.

Only after reading my initial survey have I really realized how much I have changed over the past four months.  Changed for the better, that is.  I am infinitely more self-confident, and have developed much stronger opinions about many aspects of life.  I’ve also realized that I’m much less afraid to offend someone when sharing my opinions .  I have a much firmer understanding of my strengths and weaknesses- and am less afraid of publicly acknowledging my strengths and admitting my weaknesses.  Studying abroad makes you realize who the important people are in your life, and who the type of people are that you want to be surrounded by.

Overall, I’m finding that I’m a much more adventurous, self-confident, and open individual.  Some people don’t view change as a good thing- especially when it comes to something like your personality that has changed.  I, however, view it as one of the best parts about my study abroad experience.  I feel like four months is just about the perfect time to be away from what is familiar.  Any less and your opportunities for change are lessened, and any more the adjustment back to your home culture is probably strikingly difficult.

My last week in Vienna begins today with our final IES concert.  I’m looking forward to performing with Ross in my trombone trio especially.  I love my trombone professor here, and he’s helped me to improve so much this semester- so it should be a fun performance.  And tomorrow I’m going to see Dudamel- conductor of the Los Angeles Phil and perhaps the most famous American conductor- conduct the Vienna Phil!

On Sunday, my German professor is throwing us a party in her home in Baden, Austria, and monday I have my two final exams.  After that, my week is open for my remaining exploration and souvenir shopping.  There are still a few things on my Vienna list, but I’m proud to say that I’ve done everything that I set out to do in Vienna, and more.  I won’t have any regrets about my experience here when I leave.

This semester has held so many phenomenal surprises that I never anticipated, and I’m going to miss Wien a great deal.  However, it does feel like the time is approaching in which I should return to the States.  It’s always revealing when you return to an old, familiar place and see how you, yourself, have changed as an individual.  I’m excited to return as an evolved person.