A ship is safest in the harbour, but that's not what ships are for

remember this place?

In the summer, it seemed imposing and absolutely enchanting with a  prospective of a fairy tale. Nothing had changed, only that it was more of the former and less of the latter. 

My first day of school was probably one of the most scariest experiences of my life. 

Usually when I am nervous, I flutter and cry and talk anxiously. My stomach turns loops, I can't feel my hands, my fingers quiver, and my mind floods with "what if...?". But I felt nothing. I was absolutely calm and numb. It was a death march to school, walking silently amongst the mist and trees that I got to know so well during the light of the summer...only then, they seemed menacing and somber. 

I met up with Anna, a girl from my class, and she led me to class, introducing me to many Austrians along the way, many who did double takes after our retreating figures. "Ein Amerikaner? Ich glaube es nicht!" We finally made it to our class, 7c, and at the door were students. I was so tempted to turn back but Anna grabbed my arm and marched me to the door "Nein!" and began introductions again. Only this time, they were incredibly important because they were my classmates for the rest of the year. I didn't remember anyone's name. We went into the class and thus it began... All of my classmates had been in the same class, together, since they were 11. They instantly knew their seats (which had been the same since they were young) and so I was left with the only open seat which belonged previously to a AFS French foreign exchange student. I sat down...and imdediately the two boys near me struck up a conversation with me auf deutsch. I was completely dumbstruck and tongue-tied. Before I could muster up an answer, Anna saved me with a "Sie sprecht nur English!". All heads whipped around and stared. Staring was probably the most common thing of the day. Everywhere I looked there were...eyes. Curious eyes, disapproving eyes, blank eyes, friendly eyes. 

I've had a week of school now and I believe I'm settling in quite well. I've had victories and failures, as expected. Somedays I come home from school incredibly discouraged because I understood nothing in physics, and other times skipping because THEY talked to me and invited me out for coffee. On Friday, when I was greeted with a bright "Gute Morgan, Leeebee!" and the European kiss, it was the *ultimate* victory. My classmates are slowly getting used to their chatty American addition. My teachers...not so much. I have a few teachers that don't speak English at all, and communication is difficult. My classmates always post disclaimers on their English, but truly they are amazing. We get into the most hilarious discussions about America, and the questions I get asked are...umm, interesting. I laugh and cry and groan on a regular basis. Stereotypes regarding Austrians are false; Austrians are warm, friendly people. And not because of a hidden motive, no, they truly are there. When they ask how are you, they mean it. They also have quirky senses of humor. It's hard to keep up; they are so dry and sarcastic yet absolutely genuine. I truly don't understand how people can come out of this without Austrian friends when they are so willing.

School is very lax. Sometimes teachers are up to 30 minutes late; students can leave at anytime; they can pull out their cellphones in class and answer calls/text while the teacher is talking; the environment is subdued. For anyone who thought I should receive grades here...that is now ridiculous. My teachers don't expect me to do anything. I sit in silence, listen to my ipod, journal, and do page after page of elementary German grammar. I understand little, and then on top of that they are way more advance than what high school in the USA has to offer, even AP or IB. The only class I receive homework in is English and German, thank goodness...! I love English, because everyone regards me as the authority, even above the teacher. It's a lovely change. I am taking some of my German classes with the class 2d...which is for the 11 year olds. They are adorable and so eager to learn English and practice with me; it's probably my favorite class. 

My classes:

Chemistry, AustrianHistory/EuropeanHistory, English, French, Architecture, Philosophy, German, Math, Art, Vocal Music, Current Events, Religion, Physics, Sports. Worst class? Math and Physics are killer. English bores me to tears half the time. In Religion, I can understand the teacher, who speaks high German. Everyone laughs a lot, which is...slightly awkward, especially if they mention the word "Amerikaner". 

people in my class: do you see Alexandra? Everyone knows me because I'm staying with the Ugovseks'. I sit next to Tamara, Sophie, Dominik, Bernhard, and Victoria. They are lovely.

(is Wolfgang not the most hardcore name ever?)

class photo from last year. African student was an exchanger from France, no, we don't get any diversity here in Austria. Alexandra sits opposite from him. 

& my Rotary weekend!

I went for my first Rotary weekend here from Friday the 18th to Sunday the 20th in the Styrian Alps. It was my first opportunity to meet with the January inbound group (I'm apart of the August inbounds) and have some desired time with my friends from the August group. As expected, I had absolute loads of fun.

 I came home early from school, and hauled myself and my bulky luggage (I have not lost the tendency to overpack) through the Klagenfurt bus system to the train. There I waited anxiously until my train came and called the two other Carinthian exchangers who were already on it, stepped on the train, looking, and then Nolan (USA) stepped out into the aisle. Chantel (Canada) ran on to the train as it was departing, and after a reunion, I realized how much I missed exchangers. My classmates are beautifully Austrian, but they don't understand. They haven't left everything they knew behind...matured within weeks...said goodbyes to last a year... tried to fit into a society opposite of their own...sobbed over pages of German grammar and photos of family...realized they were more and less than enough...opened their eyes to a new world.

We were the last group to reach the meeting point...and when we did, it was a reunion to end ALL reunions. The floodgates opened. The Vienna, Bregenz, Salzburg, Graz, and Linz inbounds were all there and seeing each other for the first time in 3 weeks was incredible. Hugs were generous, laughing was necessary, and I could scarcely breathe between the fruitful conversations. It was...perfect. Like going back to your family.

The rest of the weekend was absolutely gorgeous. There were times I felt a void of home that Klagenfurt had helped to fill, and the gaping wound of the US reopened, but other exchange students kept my mind occupied. I feel that out of the inbounds, I have suffered from continuous homesickness that physically hurts and many are aware of this. I feel blessed to have so many people watching out for me; so relieved and assured. 

This was called a "Hiking Weekend in the Alps" and so we were prepare to hike...however not for 7 hours. It was probably one of the more difficult hikes I've ever accomplished. Many of my Canadian/American friends led the group...however I grew content with the easy going attitude of the slow group rounding up the back. It was desperately hot going up with the furious glare of the sun burning daggers at the mountains; the top of the mountain was positively frigid and scarce in environment. We climbed...and climbed...and climbed. I will never forget the feeling as we approached the bottom of the mountain. One word: RELIEF. Although many of us were exhausted, at nightfall we gathered again after free time for another Rotary planned activity which turned out to be a night hike with torches to a disco. Imagine the absolute most black of blacks, a curtain of glittering luminescent stars suspended in a web in the tranquil sky, the swish of flicking flames against this dark backdrop? It was unreal. Halfway through the weekend I realized I was in most incredible, awe-inducing location in the world to be able to see stars like no other. The Austrian Alps...so isolated from the beams of European city life. 

so much more awaits. Tschüss!


the grass isn't always greener on the other side

The spectacular Croatian sky

Imagine the absolute most pristine temperature, sun radiating a cozy glow on your skin, pine trees and their graceful boughs rustling in the wind, crystalline foam from the Adriatic Sea lapping at your feet, gelato in your eager hands...? Shopkeepers calling out "Molimo vas da dođete u!" as you stroll down cobblestone streets, kunas jingling in your pockets; the sounds of melodious German, Croatian, and Italian voices echoing in your ears, at your hopeful fingertips...? The perfect bite of baklava while sitting in a cafe in  Pula, bliss in the earthly form of honey and nuts...?

Croatia was heavenly. Simply heavenly. It came at a perfect time, right before school and a perfect close to a perfect summer. I could do this summer again, you know. Traveling, shopping, relaxing, spending time with beloved family and close friends, and then going to Europe? Ja bitte! It was a mental preparation for the upcoming school year and a therapy from emotional life of an exchange student...so is my life now. Croatia and Austria are completely different worlds. As soon as I crossed the border of Slovenia and Croatia at customs, the first thing I thought was "ohh goodness. I'm entering ghetto Austria." Croatia is definitely everything I optimized about Southern Europe. The coast of Croatia is very isolated and protected. The beaches: exquisite, rocky, and pine-fringed. You are a blissful tourist, basking in the company of other tourists and the sun. Once you make your way into town, the landscap changes dramatically. Ragged clothes hung up on  lines dangling dangerously in the skylights of the alleyways. A cracked and weather beaten apartment with a windowbox of blushing pansies. Tourists at cafe tables clutching their souvenirs and eating 10 Kuna gelato cones; meanwhile the seller of the gelato shouts at pedestrians slipping on cobblestone streets. They gape at the sea and the captivating window displays designed to lure, and telling by the immense number of shopping bags floating on wrists in the vicinity, indeed they work. An older woman stringing dried vegetables into a vivid pattern to sell at the morning market. She croons a inaudible lullaby; an olive skinned child lurks at her side and peers from the crook of her elbow at you walking by.  Children shriek in the streets and a car slams on it's brakes. This is Istria, Croatia. 

pictures in no particular order:

this barred me from many churches, darn shorts.
a croatian sunset
awkwardness near a church
extravagant dinner with Uli's childhood Croatian friend

I did a little bit of journal writing.
cliff jumping! ohh those Germans...
why yes I did go to a colosseum
let it be known: I WAS THERE

the typical.
the typical + a redhead
more colosseum. you could never get enough.

and a random temple. incredible history in Croatia!

Croatian desserts. They are amazing as they look.

red soil picture for daddy. 
plums = my fav

outdoor Croatian markets. Beautiful, yes?

Is the grass greener on the other side? Nein. Croatia was incredible...but only for vacation. As soon as we approached the Austrian border I suddenly realized that I missed my country incredibly and how blessed I was to live in such a secure place. In Austria, I can be out walking in Klagenfurt, a living, breathing city, at night and have no worries. I can be alone whenever and wherever. I don't have to carry my passport on me at all times. I don't have to always look behind my shoulder. Times aren't inexplicit. I don't have to cover up my startlingly pale skin. In Austria, my home, I lay my trust irrevocably and wholeheartedly. 


think the American state license plate game is entertaining? try countries. I challenge you to find Scandinavia on the  Autobahn. 

you've never truly felt like a tourist until you go to Croatia. No, really. Your pale skin will scandalize the townsfolk. How dare you go out without tanning properly...?

RIP International Redhead Day in the Netherlands. 

Having a single thought is enough to trigger an onslaught of tears or a bout of laughter. For example, Uli (my host mum) gave me cashews for a snack on the beach...I remembered the last time I had cashews was in one of my dad's creations: fried rice with steamed veggies, Trader Joe's teriyaki sauce, and cashews. We sat and watched a documentary (Daddy always would get documentaries off of netflix, having a que a mile long) and so was one of my last days. This does not make me homesick: only wistful. Very nostalgic. 

I'm proud to be an American more than ever, but not proud of what America represents to many Europeans: boastful, loud, tactless, and haughty. 

Relationships are more important than ever. Language is a barrier. Hand gestures are my chosen method of communication. Words, words that I previously thrived on, have lost their appeal. 

An Austrian once told me "quick decisions are good decisions." I am no longer indecisive to the point of breakage. This is a typical Austrian trait.

I am having the most difficult time eating European style! It's so unnatural to hold your fork and knife AT THE SAME TIME. I constantly feel the urge to drop the knife and put my hand under the table.

It's very odd to me that I am a foreign exchange student now...the exchange students back home were fascinating with their accents and unique senses of culture and worldliness. I am the first American many have met, and it's my duty to reverse negative opinions. I must be aware of the daunting fact that whatever first impression I give will stick with them for life. "Oh yes, Americans...I met one once, an exchange student, she was ____". It's a constant weight on my mind, reminding me first impressions mean everything and nothing. Nothing because there is so much more beneath the mask of appearance; everything...well, self explanatory. 

I am happiest when my eyes are bright, my mind inquisitive and curious, my feet heavy but my heart light, a new city to explore, and the prospect of tomorrow. 



the last days of a carinthian summer


Summer is quickly dwindling to an abrupt end. Already the days of sweltering heat and gelato are now ones of heiße schokolade  and  the pleasant warmth of being cozy and sheltered from the rain. Austria has awesome thunderstorms. Dizzying flashes of lighting, rumbles of thunder that make the earth tremble. It's lovely because I feel right at home. Everything here seems more beautiful and entrancing then at home. I finally realized why I find the sky so fascinating- it's because I'm so close to it! The clouds hang lower and the sky is more brilliant when you are at a higher elevation. Portland: 50 ft above sea level vs. Klagenfurt: 1463 ft above sea level. Incredible.


  1. The USA is Ooo Sss Ahh. I make it a practice to not say Amerika because I learned at Sprachkurs (language camp) that Canadians find this offensive. It's really difficult because what am I supposed to call myself? USA-ian?
  2. I love when people ask me questions about home. Yesterday, I got out my family photobooks because the Ugoseks' wanted to know what everyone at home looked like. They laughed when they realized 4 out of 5 of us have red hair because red hair is so uncommon here in Austria. I have heard the phrase "Everything is bigger in America!" constantly and now that I am here, I have to agree when I can't find everything in one store. Oh how I miss  Target and it's convenience!
  3. If there was to be a definition for an Austrian, it would be casual chic. 
  4. Ice cream here is an art form. It can be as costly as 8 Euro but it's well worth it: Austrians have fun with their Eis. My favorite? Erdbeer Eis (strawberry). It's more creamy and less dense than American ice cream and you can eat more of it! It's becoming a Klagenfurt tradition to take the bus to the Neuer Platz, get a scoop of Eis at my ice cream shoppe, and then stroll throughout the cobblestone streets of downtown, watching tourists and residents alike. Speaking of...
  5. I haven't decided if I'm a resident or a tourist yet. Can foreign exchange student have it's own catagory? I live here yet I continue to wear white socks, carry a camera everywhere, and stare longly at the McDonald's.

yes, there are several McDonald's in Klagenfurt. Have I been? Ashamedly, yes. My curiousity was too much. It's not worth it when gelato is directly across the street and 4 Euro cheaper than a Big Mac.
Cobblestones are occasionally my enemy. In the rain, they glisten and I suddenly feel in love.

my favorite alley to walk down. Hearing peals of German laughter, sidestepping around merchants, ignoring the tempting H&M in the corner, and feeling more at home than ever is what I live for when I enter the city. 

hiking in Styria. why yes, I am wearing appropriate clothing including hiking boots. whoaa nelly.

ski hut. you get beer and french fries with Wienerschnitzel here. It's traditional.
random horse on the path we took. okay then.
schwarzteich. (black pond) The water truly was black and the environment made me feel compelled to write a fairy tale it was so spectacular. 

o clouds! glorious glorious sky!

ski lift. at the top, there was this ride down to the bottom on a slide. 
in these. SO COLD but so much fun! As I got off, my lips nearly frozen and blue, all I could manage was a "Mir ist KALT!" and a stutter of danke danke danke!
well hellooo!

hiking party at the end. 

my room, now! I am no longer in the office. 
Second half of my room. Why yes, that is the map of the West Coast auf Deutsch. 
am I addicted? Maybe.
traditional Carinthian food: Kase Nudel. You will only find this here, in Carintha and it's delish. 

 I wish you all could see what I see. Bussi Bussi!