University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign
Vienna is a beautiful city with a long list of tourist attractions, but throughout my semester abroad the Austrian capital served as much more than a vacation spot. By exploring and finding my place in Vienna, I was also learning more about myself.
One of my favorite local discoveries was the Vienna Clock Museum, a collection inconspicuously housed in the first district. Inside, an exhibit of nineteenth- and twentieth-century pocket watches was backed by a mirror, which allowed patrons to view themselves as well as both sides of the watches. Standing among the hanging time pieces symbolized my limited time in Vienna and, more importantly, the opportunity I had been given to look into myself.
For the first time I was on my own and in an urban environment, even wearing a scarf purchased at the market like a true European. The constant encounter with drastically new settings helped me overcome fears and gain confidence, and the chance to witness my responses to these unfamiliar situations provided insight which could not be gained at home. Just as the mirrors of the Vienna Clock Museum supplied the means for a self-portrait, Europe hosted my semester of personal reflection.