I've been home for two months now, and this distance from Vienna has made me consider many things about the past two years.
What have I learned in Austria?
1. Things on one side of the world are often very similar to things on the other, except for the expected linguistic difference.
2. Germany German and Austrian German are not the same.
3. A big city is not a small town.
4. The Alps are magnificent. Alpine culture is fascinating, but not for everyone.
5. I can keep a blog better than I can keep a diary.
6. I should probably keep both a blog and a diary so I do not inadvertently over-share.
7. High schools students, re: #1
8. Certain cultural experiences are unavoidable.
9. Certain cultural differences are inexplicable.
10. The cultural differences that are both unavoidable and inexplicable will change you forever. They may also drive you crazy.
11. Americans claim to know nothing about Austria aside from schnitzel and Schwarzenegger, but if Americans actually knew what Austrian things have permeated our culture, they'd be a little freaked out.
12. Things that ALL Americans know but don't necessarily know are Austrian: apple strudel, Red Bull, Lipizzaner horses, the Austrian Alps, the Trachten, the croissant (yes, really!), the coffee house.
13. Once an Empire, always an Empire.
14. The farther east you go in Europe, the tougher it is to be vegetarian.
15. Even obstinate and independent gals will eventually miss their family.
What will I miss about Austria?
Well, I haven't been having any major waves of reverse culture shock. The scenery is a lot nicer in Austria, but the people are friendlier here - nothing beats good old American enthusiasm, though it does get annoying. I've lamented already about the overwhelming wait staff at restaurants in Green Bay, versus the more subtle Europeans (though my parents prefer the former). I miss the Austrian sense of historical perspective, the good food and - though I have noticed drastic changes in the marketing and distributing of "eco-friendly" products in the USA since my departure - the eco-consciousness of Austria as a whole.
Leaving Austria was not as sad as I had anticipated. It sort of felt like breaking up with someone you know isn't right for you anyway, even though they're a great person. Yeah. I'll leave it at that. After all, I'll always have my memories.