Makin’ Pancakes, Makin’ Bacon Pancakes

New post time! I have been in Austria for nearly a month now, and finally my classes are about to begin! Everyone back at home are almost ready to go on their Spring Break, and I haven’t even had my first day yet, which is very strange. This week has been more of the same old settling into classes, and I don’t think it was quite as exciting as the previous few weeks, so this post may be a bit shorter than the others.

On Monday I had German class on usual in the morning, and that afternoon I went with my flatmate to one of the public libraries to see if I could find anything of interest in the English section. In Austria, library cards aren’t free, but instead are a yearly subscription of some sort, which means I’ll need to take someone from Graz with me anytime I want to check out a book. Turns out this really isn’t much of a problem, as I pretty much checked out every book in the English section that interested me. All one of them. To be fair, they had probably 4 or 5 shelves of books, but I had either read them previously, or have no intention on reading them ever. After the library, we went to a coffee shop nearby and got frozen coffee, and then came back home for the evening. Each week I’ve found a new easy-to-make, inexpensive food to cook on the days I don’t eat out, and after getting tired of pizza last week, I’ve moved on to making tortellini. We’ll see how long until I’m completely sick of that too.

On Tuesday, I’m pretty sure I did ran errands or something sort of interesting, but I completely don’t remember. Oh well.

For lunch on Wednesday, I met up with my study abroad buddy, who I hadn’t really seen since my first week in Austria. We went to a “traditional” Austrian restaurant in the Old Town that was very delicious. I had the Wednesday special, which was basically meat and potatoes, although cooked up in a fancy way. We talked about how my time in Graz was going, and she gave me a lot of information about cheap housing and transportation for when I want to travel around Europe, which was very much appreciated. After lunch, we wandered around the nearby shops for a bit, before parting ways and heading back home.

This this was the final week of my 3 week German course, I had my final exam on Friday. This means I spent most of Thursday night looking over notes trying to remember whether carrots are male or female, and other strange things. The exam was on Friday morning, and was in two parts: a written test, and then an oral portion. The oral portion consisted of us babbling to the teacher for two minutes about anything we could think of to describe ourselves, and then a dialogue between a waiter and customer that we came up with a partner. The written part of the exam went fairly well I think, but I got full marks on the oral part of the exam, which I was pretty excited about. I, surprisingly, really enjoyed learning German, so much so that I’ve enrolled in the next German course – German Level A1 part 2, which will be starting pretty soon. As an end of the course celebration, a number of the students wanted to go to the big hockey game being held that night, until we found out it was sold out except for seats in the team facing Graz’s section. Instead, we decided to go to a local pub and watch the game on TV… Until some people arrived and couldn’t get through the door. So instead, we went into a pub with no television, and then went and got kebabs for dessert. A meaty, delicious dessert.

My flatmate is really into American culture and all that stuff, so this weekend I promised I’d make her American pancakes, as she’s never had them before. She invited a few other Austrians who had never had them either, so I was cooking for about a half dozen people this morning. Turns out Bisquick isn’t a thing in Austria, so I made pancakes from scratch, and even though we didn’t really have any proper measuring utensils, they turned out pretty good. The concept of ‘flour is a solid, but we don’t measure it by weight, we measure it in cups, which is a volume’ was also something that the Europeans couldn’t quite grasp. Nevertheless, I had pancakes for the first time in a month, and even though the maple syrup was a bit… Austrian, the Europeans didn’t know what to expect, so they were an easy crowd to please.

I almost forgot to mention that on Monday I also went and met with one of the physics advisors about what courses I should take. He said that it was perfectly fine for me to take the master’s level physics courses, and even claimed that I would have no trouble taking physics courses in German, as the professor would be happy to help me along. While, I don’t doubt that the professor would help me, I think I’m still going to stick to English for the time being. Classes here are rather strange though, I’m used to having about 4-6 hours of classes a day, Monday through Friday. Here, each class meets for about 1.5 to 2 hours, only one day a week. I’m signed up for 6 classes right now, but only go to school 3 days a week, and even then for only about 3 hours a day. How on earth they get their degrees in only three years is beyond me. I’m going to have more free time than I know what to do with. They were amazed that the American students thought the workload was so low, and one girl from Australia mentioned that this would be the highest workload she’s ever had. I’m going to college in the wrong country I think. In any case, I’m now officially signed up for these super exciting classes:

German A1/2
GIS Fundamentals
Literary Studies Seminar: The Beatles (Although I’m only on a waiting list)
Astrobiology
Practical Experience in Astronomy
Sun & Space Weather
Number Theory

Full disclosure though, when I first signed up for Sun & Space Weather, it said that the course would be in both English and German, but with an English textbook, so I thought it would be okay. However, now the course says it’s only in German. I guess I’ll show up this week and see if I can understand the professor or not. If not, I have enough buffer to drop it, so we’ll see!

That’s about all I have for this week. Next week is my first week of classes, so I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk about then. However, two of my classes don’t even start for another week, so if you’re excited to hear about the Beatles course or German, you’ll have to wait. I’m still waiting on word for when I go to get my visa, as I’m more or less living in the country illegally. So until next week!

Acht sechs sieben fünf drei null neun

I’ve learned this week that it’s very easy to relate to the Austrians, thanks to American television. With several different people now, I’ve had the exact same exchange:

“So where are you from?”
“Oh, I’m from Nebraska, in America.”
“Nebraska? Just like Penny from Big Bang Theory!”
“Yeah that’s right!”
“And what do you study?”
“Physics.”
“JUST LIKE BIG BANG THEORY!!”

I had no idea The Big Bang Theory was so popular here, but now I can easily relate to people based on how similar my life is to the show, or something like that.

This week hasn’t been nearly as eventful as the week before, but I’ve completed my first week of German class, and that’s something. I’ve now expanded my vocabulary to the numbers up to 100, being able to ask random trivial questions to strangers, and a bunch of random nouns. All in all, not horribly practical, but at least it’s something. I’m actually enjoying my German lessons much more than I ever enjoyed my Spanish classes, although that maybe due to German being actually applicable in my life, as opposed to how seldom I’ve needed Spanish. I still have two more weeks of German to go, including a midterm exam this Wednesday that I am very much not ready for.

Apart from classes, I’ve spent most of my free time wandering around the various sights in Graz, and going to whatever events the university or other students have set up. Wednesday night I went to this gathering of the other study abroad students by the ESN (Exchange Student… Network? I donno.) at some pub on the other side of Graz. Turns out, while my side of the river is mostly dark and bland at night, the opposite side is very lit up and vibrant at night. However, while all the shops are lit up at night, none of them are actually open, as stores close before 8 here, which I found odd. The social gathering was incredibly busy, the pub was literally packed, people were stuck in the aisles between tables and unable to move back or forth. While it was a good time, it wasn’t quite the social meet-up they intended, as it was so loud you could only barely hear the people next to you, and I ended up leaving deaf in one ear.

Last night, I met up with some people from my German class and we went to this cool Asian restaurant where all of the food was on a conveyor belt, and you had to chase down any plate you wanted. It was actually really good, and I tried sushi for the first time, which wasn’t quite as terrible as I thought it would be. We ended the evening by going to this sports bar of sorts, which was filled with at least 8 pool tables, although I didn’t play any games. They were showing some sort of winter downhill ski racing event on TV, and by the time we left, the American had taken gold, and the Austrian had silver. Awkward.

I did find out that the power converter I bought in Chicago wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. I thought the device I bought would not only adapt my plugs to fit their sockets, but also change the voltage to something that my appliances could use. Turns out, I just overpaid for the simple adapter that doesn’t convert voltages. I guess I was more sleep deprived after my flight than I thought. So this morning, I went on an exciting bus riding adventure to find this mall that I visited on my first day in Graz. I ended up waiting for and riding the buses for an hour to go a distance I could’ve walked in 30 minutes, but I got there in the end, and found what I was looking for. I was honestly surprised with the mall here. Most stores in Graz are very “Austrian” and wouldn’t fit in in the US, but the mall was in a very American style, if that makes sense.

This next week should be a bit busier than last week was, as I will have the college’s “Welcome Week” in the afternoon on top of my German class in the morning. On Monday, I have to stay until 5 PM, but I should be able to pick out the classes that I’ll take starting in March. The weather is starting to warm up a bit as well, the snow is all gone from the ground, and it broke 40 degrees today, which is a pleasant change.

As for the blog, I’ll be adding a few more pictures to the gallery today (if I remember). In addition, I’ve tried to set it up so that a Facebook message is posted every time I add a new blog post, but I have yet to test that, so hopefully that works smoothly. Don’t expect too many posts during the week either, I really only have enough to write a post about once a week unless I do any traveling outside the city, then I might post several more during that week. See you next week!

PS – Two important things I learned just while writing this post. One: My desk chair is adjustable, so I don’t have to be sitting 2 inches off the ground anymore. Two: “Everytime” isn’t actually a word, it’s supposed to be two words, although I’m willing to believe that everyone else on the planet is wrong about this one.

An update on events so far

Three hours of work later, and I finally have the blog looking (somewhat) like how I want it. I don’t imagine it’ll stay that way for long, but for now it’ll do.

So quite a lot has gone on since I left Nebraska last Tuesday. I’ve travelled thousands of miles and dozens of hours to finally arrive in Graz, Austria, home of over 300,000 people. It wasn’t an easy journey though, after landing in Vienna, I had a series of misadventures while riding the trains to Graz, including having to run across two sets of tracks to make a train in time, and nearly getting kicked off of a train for accidentally boarding the first class car, but I made it here in the end. That same day, I travelled around the city with my university-assigned buddy, going to IKEA and other stores getting supplies to last me through my stay. Finally at around 7 or 8 o’clock, I made it to my new apartment, only to find my new flatmate as surprised as I was that there was someone else standing in the living room. The two of us hit it off well, but they left a few days ago, as February is the Austrian’s winter vacation. So for the next week or two, I have the whole place to myself!

Thursday was much the same as Wednesday. I had a meeting regarding the German class I would be taking in the morning, so I planned on taking the bus to campus, as I live about 1.5 miles from campus. Naturally, I couldn’t find the correct bus stop, so I had to walk to the meeting, only making it there by the grace of a kind Austrian student I met along the way. The rest of the day was spent running around town again registering me with the city (I’m now officially a resident of Austria), and setting up my very own Austrian bank account.

I continued the streak of making stupid mistakes on Friday, when I arrived on campus for a meeting to set up my Austrian health insurance, only to find out that the meeting had been cancelled due to illness, a fact I would’ve known had I checked my email at any point that morning. All was not lost however, as I met a group of fellow international students while waiting in line to receive an international student ID card. The group of students were planning a get-together that evening at a local bar, and I joined them, meeting a number of the fellow students that would be learning German along myself. Among them were students from North Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, California, Germany, Belgium, Australia, and many more that I’ve surely forgotten.

On Saturday, a few of the exchange students and I planned on visiting the Murinsel: a small coffee shop/amphitheater floating on the river that separates the two halves of Graz. They ended up postponing the meet-up until later in the evening, so I was free to explore the city by myself, which included a trip to the top of the mountain in the center of the city that serves as the main landmark of the town. Despite the stairs to the summit being closed off for the winter, a nearby guard assured any passerby that it was perfectly acceptable to scale the fences to get to the top, which I gladly did. The top of the mountain contains an old barrack and a clocktower, images of which I’ve included in the pictures posted in the ‘gallery’ page at the top. That evening, our group of students did finally make it to the Murinsel, and chit-chatted for a few hours before turning in for the evening.

Sunday and today were far less interesting than the previous days, apart from a trip down the street to do a little shopping, I spend most of Sunday spent in my apartment recuperating from the week’s events. Today marked the beginning of my German class, and now that I’ve mastered the Graz bus system, I arrived sharply at 9 AM as expected. German is interesting to learn, but difficult, as I haven’t gotten which letters you need to gargle on and which you don’t. Some of the internationals that I’d spent time with early this week are in my class, namely some of the students from Argentina and one from Texas. There is also a pink-haired girl from Nebraska in my class, but I wasn’t able to talk to her or ask her where precisely she was from.

That mostly concludes the events of last week. This next week I have German class from 9-12:15 every morning, so I may have time to post some pictures and a description of my apartment complex, as well as any events of the week. Until then, I’ve been assigned German homework that I haven’t even started on, and need to think about what I’m going to eat for dinner.

Ich spreche nein Deutsch.

After being badgered by my parents and family, I’ve decided to set up a blog to chronicle my semester abroad at the University of Graz in Graz, Austria. I’ve been in Austria for just under a week now, and today began my 3 week long German course. After my first lesson, it’s very clear that my attempt at learning German will go about as well as my attempts to learn Spanish (not well at all). Still, I did learn a few things today, and I’ve already been given pages of homework to complete by Monday morning.

I’ve never used WordPress before, but I’m going to see if I can keep a gallery of pictures that I’ve taken, or if not, I’ll include all of the pictures I’ve taken thus far in a future post.

More to come!