Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pleasant Surprises

In my first couple weeks in a foreign country, the biggest problem actually hasn't been the different toilets, or getting by not knowing German, or a terrible host family. I've barely even gotten lost (I blogged about the one time). The hardest struggle I've had was adapting to a new group of people and trying to feel like I fit in.

Pre-Vienna, I figured there would be some adjusting but that it would end up fine: I would probably make a couple good friends and a bunch of "friendlies", and there would likely be some people I didn't really talk to. The actual story... is a mix of that and some surprises.

The first few days felt pretty crucial in determining the "social structure" of our group, and because I was feeling the jet lag for a few days, I didn't have the energy to be as social as I can be. That worried me, and I became afraid that because I didn't put as much effort in, I wouldn't make very good friends. That got me down, which worsened the situation. (Big hint: being tired makes EVERYTHING feel worse).

The days kept passing over our first week, and we stayed SO busy! When I finally got to bed each night, I thought "Did I really wake up this morning, or yesterday? It feels like forever ago." And so, little happenings accumulated which brought about an expected change. I started to feel less isolated in our group and like I was developing friendships. Things like one-on-one conversations with roommates late at night when we had missed the bus and had to walk home for longer than normal.

I think one of the biggest "happenings" was when our whole group went out to dinner one night. Our large group was split across 3 or 4 tables, and the girls I felt comfortable with had a full table. I ended up sitting with the girls who I had erroneously assumed were the pretty, popular, fun, socially-graceful, boy-crazy, exclusive crowd. I was correct about the boy-crazy aspect, but I was very wrong about the exclusive part. At times I felt like I didn't have much to contribute to the conversation, but I never felt ousted. Another day (the one I got lost), I was rescued by the same group of girls and really appreciated the time that I had in getting to know them better.

Overall, things have gone different routes than I expected, but are (currently) coming to the same conclusion: my roommates are my best friends in the program right now because I spend the most time with them. And surprisingly, our group as a whole isn't subdividing into factions as much as I thought we would; everyone is friendly with each other, even if we aren't all bosom buddies quite yet. I'm grateful for the humbling lessons I learned - don't assume things about people and always be hopeful - and I'm excited for the good times today and that still to come!

And, this post wouldn't be complete without talking about my Viennese friends. Like I said in my next-most-recent post, I've loved meeting and befriending them, and learning more about Austrian culture from their experience. They are fun, wonderful, and so inclusive. My experience here wouldn't be the same without them, and I know I'll be incredibly sad to leave them when my time here is over. For now though, I'm loving every minute I spend with these amazing people that I'm so blessed to have met.

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