My first thought on touchdown at Salzburg airport was: Fuck. There’s nothing here.
My second thought was: …it’s quite peaceful, actually.
Having left at the ungodly hour of 3am, I’d made it through my goodbyes almost entirely without tears. Ruth came to the airport with me because she’s the world’s most wonderful person, and it was around this time that I started to worry about the fact that it took two of us to get all my luggage to St Pancras, yet I was going to have to get all of it to the arse-end of nowhere entirely on my own. Hmm.
I’ve always thought that I wasn’t a very capable adult, but my arrival at Salzburg airport changed my mind. I’m not capable of doing very many adult things myself, but I am very adept at finding people to take care of difficult things on my behalf (and by difficult, I mean things like cooking and organising travel plans). One such person was Bryony, who, on identifying me as a fellow teaching assistant (about the same age, travelling alone with a bag the size of a small car, looking lost), navigated the entire bus journey to our training course in the Alpine skiing town of Hinterglemm. Shout out to Bryony for being bae.
It was the most calming and beautiful bus journey I have ever made. As someone who gets overwhelmed very easily, I was expecting a bus journey to the middle of nowhere in an entirely new country whilst dragging a 24kg suitcase, a carry-on bag full of books and a handbag to be fairly stressful. But no – the bus was smooth, quiet, on time, with a TV that showed you the names of the next four stops so that you always knew where you were. The driver even got out of the bus to come and help us with our luggage! Maybe I’ve got too used to Roman buses, that change destination without telling you, stop halfway through a journey and refuse to go further, or don’t turn up at all – but so far, Austria was a dream.
Everyone had told me Austria was beautiful, but I hadn’t expected anything like this. I’ve never seen water this colour, or grass this green, or the sky this blue. The air was so fresh and clean. Everything was incredibly beautiful and I felt like I’d walked into a pre-loaded computer background. So far, so gut.
We arrived in Hinterglemm and met the other British and American teaching assistants before being divided up into rooms. It felt exactly like a school trip and I almost fell over myself in excitement when I realised I could sleep on the top bunk. The joy soon subsided when it dawned on me that the tiny ladder was clearly made for children under the age of 5 and so didn’t exactly make for a graceful descent each morning, and that there was nowhere to charge your phone up there… but I’d made my bed (as it were) and now I had to lie in it.
What followed was a week of workshops, lederhosen, cheap wine, stereotypes, heated discussions about Brexit, trying to make the wifi work, potatoes, dessert for dinner, ‘little walks’ that turned out to be hikes up a mountain, Austrian dancing (feat. me being surprisingly not shit at waltzing and the Polka), an extreme overuse of the word stunning, and inappropriate photos printed on bottles of alcohol.
Ooops we accidentally hiked up a mountain
I learned a few things on the trip:
- As teaching assistants, our job is not to take small groups of students out for 10 minutes of conversation practice like our teaching assistants used to do. We will be planning and teaching full lessons to classes of up to 30 kids. An interesting development, as none of us Brits have any real experience of teaching or crowd control.
- My German is more terrible than I had imagined.
- I am the only teaching assistant in my tiny town, which is an hour’s bus journey away from pretty much anything.
- I swear too much and I need to stop. Most normal people don’t use phrases like ‘shitting hell, here we fucking go’ every other sentence. Especially not Americans. (Sorry mum).
This is most definitely going to be The Year Abroad™ 2.0. Brace yourselves for level 2, and let the yodelling begin!