August 10-24 (Language Camp/Sprachkurs):
In the morning we drove to Hollabrunn where I met with Facundo from Argentina and Sydney from Utah to take the 3 hour trek from Hollabrunn to Wien to Atnang Pucheim to Altmunster. We got settled into our rooms and met with all the other exchange students. There are 55 of us total from all over the world; we are representing the USA, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Japan, and Taiwan. I love everyone and I can’t wait to see them all again on September 19th for a hiking weekend in the Alps! There are also around 35 other exchange students here in Austria that were not at the Sprachkurs, who have been here in Austria since January. They are from the southern hemisphere and mostly come from Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, etc. We will meet them later!
Life at Sprachkurs was as follows: wake up at 7:20, breakfast at 7:30, class at 8:30, 30 minute break at 10:00, lunch from 12:00-1:00, and then Deutsch lernen again until 2:30. From 2:30 to 6:00 we have complete free time, 7:00-8:00 study hour, snack at 9:00, and bedtime at 10:00. Class was, of course, mostly boring but I did learn a LOT of German and I now understand much more. Our meals were actually very good most of the time and we got to taste a lot of Austrian dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel (<3).
In our free time we walked to Altmunster to buy chocolate, sit in cafes pretending to be European, buy more chocolate, swim in the Traunsee, and then buy some more chocolate. We would also walk to Gmunden, the neighboring town, which was much larger and had more sights, shops, and things to do. On the 17th, we drove to Hallstatt in a double decker bus and got to see one of the most beautiful and famous towns in Austria. If you don’t know what Hallstatt is, google “Austria” and it will be one of first few pictures you see. In Hallstatt we rode up a huge mountain to tour the oldest salt mine on earth. There is evidence of salt being mined there since prehistoric ages. In the salt mine there are long wooden slides that were originally used for the workers to get from one level to the next, but are now used just for tourists. At the end of the tour we sat on a little train and rode out of the mountain. We then ate lunch at the top of the mountain with a five star view, and then hiked all the way down to the catholic church. We visited the graveyard of the church with is very famous because long ago, they ran out of room in the cemetery and had to start exhuming bones and putting them in a tiny bone house with the name of the person written across the forehead of the skull. It is now a great honor which you can only apply for if you were originally born in Hallstatt. We then had some free time to walk around the town, feed the swans (which are everywhere here), and finally return to Altmunster. The last night there, we went to the old catholic church to a concert performed by the choir kids age 8-18 who were actually sharing our boarding school with us at the time. They are unbelievably amazing and so well trained. They serenaded us for an hour and half with mostly older hymns but also some traditional music as well.
Anyways, those were the highlights of Sprachkurs. It was extremely nice to be around people who spoke english and who knew exactly what you are going through in this crazy new place.