Honesty Hour: Living Abroad is Hard
One of the things that I have realized since moving to Vienna is that it may seem like I am “living my best life” or that my life here is picture perfect all the time. Well, let me be the first to tell you that my life here is not perfect by any means.
Although it may seem like I am living the dream, which in many ways I am, life here is difficult. I have struggled with anxiety and depression while living in Vienna. Most of my days consist of working 9-5 and then heading to the grocery store and then cooking. One big struggle has been the grocery store (I know that sounds funny but bear with me). Going to the grocery store has always been something that I love doing - people never want to go with me in the US because I will roam every aisle and look at every product (because you never really know what you need, right?).
I got so excited when I got to Vienna and there was a grocery store basically right outside of my front door. Well it turns out that grocery shopping here is a huge area of anxiety for me and now something I dread doing. Everything is in German and the people who work there are not very friendly due to the fact that I do not speak German.
Funny story: I thought I bought falafel one day and I was so excited to pack it in my lunch the next day. The package was in German, but it looked like falafel and so I just assumed it was (mistake!). Well, the next day when I took a bite, I immediately knew it was not falafel but I was hoping it was just a meatball...turns out it was a liver dumpling. Was I defeated? Yes. Did I laugh about it though? Yes.
Another difficult adjustment has been commuting and the weather. It is HOT. I thought being from Texas I would be immune to the heat, but let me tell you, the heat is very different when you are commuting to and from work or using public transportation to get everywhere. Also, most places in Vienna do not have air conditioning - including my apartment. So although you see photos of me traveling and looking like I am living my best life - let me assure you that Monday-Friday are spent sweating on the ubahn, bus, tram, and in my apartment!
The heat has played a big part in my depression I think too. It is hard to find motivation to go explore when you know how hot it is and how crowded the ubahn will be. But alas, I have pushed myself to explore the city in ways that work for me - even if that is just going to a different coffee shop in different districts in order to see new areas of the city after work.
That is one thing I have learned while living in Vienna - you have to find what works for you. For me, that means going to the grocery store as few times as possible, buying more comfortable shoes, and making a huge list of coffee shops to go to. I have found that reading is very therapeutic for me here (as well as at home). I have had to make that a priority in order to get that rest and recharge that I need. I have also learned to be able to be open about what I am feeling and going through. Being open with Holly and Michelle about where I am at in my personal life has made work much easier. Being open with the amazing friends I have made here has made me feel much less alone in these struggles.
All in all - has this been one of the best summers of my life? Yes, 100%. Has this been one of the hardest summers of my life? Yes, 100%. And those 2 things are not mutually exclusive. Life here is hard, but that does not mean it is not worth it or that it is not also good. So yes, I have been in a depressive episode for a little over a week... but I have also seen a funny movie, hung out with friends, traveled, and gotten to do fulfilling work. Finding the balance and allowing myself to not be “on” all the time is how I am coping right now. I have three-ish weeks left in Vienna - so here is to making those the best they can be, whatever that may look like!
About the Author: Riley Gekiere
While here in Vienna, you can find Riley at some of her favorite coffee shops or cafes reading a book or hanging out with friends. Being in Vienna for only 8 weeks has taught her a lot about adjustment and the physical, mental and emotional toll that can take. The lessons that she learns and the ways she grows here in Vienna are something that she will be able to apply back in the United States (her home!) while she finishes her degree in Social Work. Riley uses her past experiences with mental and emotional health to relate, encourage and grow with other people.
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