Two friends abroad in Austria

Posted on: 26 February 2024 by Teresa Pretismuir in 2024 posts

Teresa and Jakub at the Christmas Market
Jakub and Teresa at the Christmas Market on Rathausplatz in Vienna

This blog features part two of Jakub’s and Teresa’s Year Abroad in Austria. It’s about tickets or no tickets, unexpected homesickness, job placements and Jakub and Teresa's tradition of Schnitzel-dates.

Since being in Graz, I have not been checked to see if I have a ticket on public transport once. I don’t think there is a stronger show of the culture of ‘Schwarzfahren’ (travelling without a ticket) than that. One time I thought I was going to be checked, but so many people on the bus didn’t have tickets that they didn’t even make it all the way to checking me. That doesn’t stop Jakub from always buying a ticket anyway because he ‘supports public transport’ but is actually just scared of being caught.

The one place they do always check is the train. And I have taken many trains since I have been here, and many coaches. I’ve been to Munich on a trip, many places in Styria and of course have taken many trips to Vienna to visit Jakub, and he has done the same to visit me. We have spent most of our time together wandering around the cities we live in, finding fancy coffee shops to make Jakub happy, and going to Christkindl markets to buy Glühwein and introduce Jakub to Maroni (roasted chestnuts).

Unexpected Homesickness

Though I must admit, I can’t say I haven’t felt a little homesick at times. The day my Yorkshire Tea ran out was not my finest hour. It is odd being so far from the culture you were raised in. But the way the homesickness hit me really surprised me. I didn’t know what shops to go to when I wanted a specific item, I doubted what to say to someone in a shop when I was looking for something, I missed being able to have a Nandos. I also wish I would have brought some beans for beans on toast. The big, existential missing-British-culture-and-the-people never really hit me because I really love Austria. It was the debatably menial things that screwed me over a little.

Love my job – or do I?

Of course, I don’t spend most of my time crying in bed. I really, really love my job. I love being able to make lesson plans, execute them, get to know the students I’m teaching and make friends with the teachers. I hate the students calling me ‘Frau Professor’ and ‘Sie’ but that seems to be a necessary sacrifice. I decided to take this year as a language assistant to decide if teaching could be something I could see as a career and I am still miles away from a decision. Every time I have a good lesson and the students ask 30 questions and are super interested (usually the younger students) I see it as my life’s calling. Every time I spend a lesson telling all the students to be quiet or watch them try to stay awake I feel it would be my worst nightmare. The tricky part is that I only do the fun parts of the job. I get to stand up with the students, talk in my first language, have a chat with them as a knowledgeable peer and then leave them again for 2 weeks. I don’t have to set and mark homework and exams, deal with phone calls from parents, and all of the other tedious parts of teaching. It makes it even more difficult a decision knowing teaching is never mainly focussed on the students but on the admin. It has helped me realise that the school system in Austria is just as underfunded and stress-filled as every British school, which is not the best advertisement for entering the system.

I think overall my year abroad has just been a whole lot of change. The obvious change is a change of country, but it has also been my first ‘big-girl’ job and the first time I have been forced into total independence

The year will stick with me for many more to come, mainly as proof to myself that I really could do it.