Finding Wanderlust

Graz Austria

Written by Reilly Woehler

When I was 12, my mother took me to Europe to visit our friends who were living out there at the time. People warn not to waste Europe on the young, but I say it’s not wasting when it is necessary for young people to learn and grow through experience.

(Schloss Eggenberg:  There are peacocks wandering about in the summer!  There is also a cafe in the courrtyard outside with coffee and ice cream.) 

When I got back to the States after the trip, people would ask me what my favorite part was. I always answered the culture and the people. At the time, I thought that was a lame answer compared to “seeing the Mona Lisa in Paris” or “visiting my hero Anne Frank’s annex in Amsterdam.” Those things should be much cooler to a middle schooler, right? But for me, the food, the buildings, the transportation, the architecture, the devotion to God, were what had the biggest impact on my developing brain. The culture.

I credit that trip to expanding my perspective on the world. I remember becoming avidly more interested in history and explaining to myself how important understanding people are to the developing world. I became more interested in maps and reading and looking at pictures. My “wanderlust” was born and would never stop growing, even to this day.

(Schlossberg: Graz's most famous attraction.)

In my junior year in high school, I heard about a study abroad program through Indiana University. It is a complete-immersion program for foreign languages. I speak German, and, dying to fly in a plane to a far away place, I applied without even knowing every detail about what the program entailed. I was accepted, and the summer before my senior year, I flew to Austria for six weeks to live with a host family. I was alone and only able to speak German. After a few days, I quickly made friends with the other students on the trip and tried my best to adjust to the Austrian culture.

Throughout our time abroad, we went to school to fine-tune our German skills. We learned to operate the transportation system by ourselves. We ate the traditional food. We bought ice cream almost daily. We walked by the river. We swam in natural lakes. We ate the fruit right off the trees. We did all this because our time was limited and we wanted to make the most of our experience before returning to the real world we called Indiana.

(Mur River: Take a nice walk alongside the river on the neighboring path, or grab coffee at this fun spot right above the river!)

On the trip, I grew more than I ever thought possible. I am happy about that, for the reason I applied for this was because it scared me. I wanted to experience raw moments that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I wanted a lifestyle different from my own. I truly believe nothing is more valuable than learning from experience because nothing really is more undeveloped and unedited than that. Upon returning from Austria, I felt like a foreigner in my own country; a feeling commonly referred to as “reverse culture shock.” I was mad at how many roundabouts I had to drive through again. I was mad I had to drive at all instead of walking or biking. I missed the big cathedral I went to church in every Sunday. But, most of all, I missed my friends that became family.

(Hofbaeckerei : The oldest bakery in Graz)

I once again found myself answering the “what was your favorite part?” questions with the same answer as I used when I was 12: the people. I could not shake their lasting impact on my heart or my feelings. They created the culture of my time abroad through trying new things and learning right alongside me. Because of this new found wisdom, I decided upon working abroad as a career. I am still undecided as of right now, but I do know that I want to experience different cultures and, in return, help people to better understand mine.


What to do in Graz Austria


  • Schlossberg: Graz's most famous attraction.
  • Mur River: Take a nice walk alongside the river on the neighboring path, or grab coffee at this fun spot right above the river!
  • Hofbaeckerei : The oldest bakery in Graz
  • Rathaus and Hauptplatz : City Hall and a festival spot sometimes.  Good place to eat lunch.
  • Kunsthaus: Modern Art Museum in a funny looking building
  • Hofbaeckerei : The oldest bakery in Graz
  • Eis Greissler:  There are many ice cream shops in Graz, But this one is the best
  • Marten Auer: Has very good sandwiches and coffee.