Europe: Taking the opportunity

9 October 2019

I spent the fall semester of 2018 in DC with the Washington Community Scholars’ Program. I have the privilege of spending this semester in Europe studying art and theater. Theater is one thing that my two cross-culturals have in common. While I was in DC I worked as the production intern at Mosaic Theater Company. In Europe we are seeing theater and opera performances regularly, often multiple times a week. Now that we have settled a bit in Vienna, I have been thinking about how my experiences in Europe compare with my experience in DC last fall. 

One difference between my semester in DC and my experience in Europe so far is the number of places we visit. We will visit and live in at least ten different cities across Europe and northern Africa this semester. In DC, on the other hand, I was in the same house with the same people for the whole semester. Because I wasn’t traveling around so much in DC, you really get the experience of living there. Having an internship in the city and going in to “work” every day contributed to the feeling of living in DC and not just visiting. Because we don’t get the chance to truly settle anywhere in Europe, we are going to be tourists in every city we visit despite how much we try not to be. Even in Vienna, where we are staying the longest, we aren’t going to experience truly living here the way I did in DC. 

Johnny and Amber on a boat ride across King’s Lake

Another difference between my two cross-culturals is the way I viewed and approached experiencing new things. In Europe, the general consensus among the group has been “we are in another country, so we should take every opportunity possible to do something new and fun!” People are constantly eating at new restaurants, exploring cool places in the city, and finding interesting theater shows to go to. In DC, however, we had a very different approach. Even though living in DC felt just as foreign at the beginning as living in another country, no one felt the pressure to do things and try new things the way we have in Europe. People occasionally went out in the evenings, but most nights we stayed home and played games. This semester, we all know that we may never have the opportunity to travel to Europe again so we want to take advantage of as many opportunities as we can. The same just wasn’t true about DC. The knowledge that DC was nearby and easily accessible from EMU probably influenced our attitude without us even realizing. 

Although in DC I did not take advantage of all the things the city had to offer, I wouldn’t trade my semester there for anything. There is one thing I especially miss about my semester in DC. I miss the closeness that comes from living together for a semester. In DC, we cooked and ate dinner together practically every night. We hung out and played games together regularly. And even when there wasn’t a group activity happening in the house, there were always people in the house I could talk to or hang out with. Here in Vienna, we are staying with host families in various locations throughout the city. Even though we spend the day together, we are missing out on the bond that is developed in a group when living and eating together regularly. In Europe we are missing out on that because we all live spread out across the city. The house in DC was a “homebase” for us, a common area where we could always find someone to talk to or play a game with or just relax with. I miss having that central “homebase” where you can always count on hanging out and doing something relaxing with your friends. 

It’s fascinating to me how different my two cross-culturals have been so far. I am excited to experience more things here in Europe I am interested in comparing the two semesters in full once I am back home and have had time to process everything I’ve experienced and have yet to experience. 

-Amber Hooper

On the Mönchsberg with the city of Salzburg behind us