Not many kids my age (sixteen) can say that they have been to a foreign country for six weeks without their parents, but I can. During the summer of 2010, my brother and I traveled across the world to visit Vienna, Austria for six weeks, no parents allowed. That was seriously the best summer ever.
Before my brother's and my adventrure, I had been to Italy, Croatia, Norway, England, China, and Canada, some of those multiple times. Navitaging through Terminal 5 in London's Heathrow Airport comes as easy to me as going to school every day. Regardless of my experience, being on my own was scary. Being half way across the world from my parents with only my brother in a country where the language makes it seem like everyone is yelling at you was terrifiying. The first night, I cried becuase I didn't know what anyone was saying, where to go, what do to and honestly, I just wanted my mom. Needless to say, I got over that quickly.
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A week after we arrived, Mac, my brother, and I got to visit our host mom's school, Bernoulligymnasium, where she teaches English. The moment I walked into the school, I was swarmed by 8th grade girls. They were so exctied to see me and my Americaness! Instantly, I was showered with questions about Justin Bieber and the Jersey Shore. My brother and I seemed to be celebrities in the school before we even arrived. Over the course of three weeks, I went to class with 9th and 8th graders and sat in on classes. I gave English lessons about American culture and cheerleading. I even brought my cheerleading uniform and school yearbooks for them to look through.
Sprinkeled throughout our six weeks, we visited various historical sites, like the Castle Luxemborg and Prince Eugene's summer palace, explored Wien, ate plenty of gelato and schnitzel, took a side trip to Mondsee, St. Wolfgangsee, and Salzburg with our host family, and a day trip to Slovakia. I loved every second of that trip from the horrendous mosquito bites I gathered (25 at one point!) to the amazing voices projecting from the stage at Vienna's Opera house. Looking back, I was so nervous about traveling by myself or being put in a situation were I was extremely uncomfortable and had no clue what to do. I always wanted to be in control of whatever was going on in my life and I wanted to know what was going on, but waking up on a gorgeous summer day in a german speaking country were I had absolutely no control over what was going on forced me to get over those fears quickly. At one point, I travelled all the way across the city, which took about 45 minutes, to go out for gelato and play tennis with one of the students I met. That was one of my fondest memories and I still talk to him to this day. The only thing that I would have changed was the use of my cell phone. I wish I didn't have internatinal phone service on it at the time, only the ability to send e-mails. I was constatnly on Facebook if I had any down-time and I could have spent that time going on a hike or exploring the city. That 's my advice to anyone who is travelling, just leave your cell phone behind. Sometimes it is nice to disconnect and be on your own for a little bit.
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