Freelance Writing · Travel Writing

How Learning Chinese Motivated My Study Abroad Year in Austria – Part I

The summer of my sixteenth birthday, the Berlin Wall fell. Okay, not fell. It was taken down stone by bloody stone. Families and friends who’d been separated for far too long were once more reunited and another part of the world opened up to us all.

A Bit of Background

In high school, I was the quiet kid who sat in front. The quiet kid who wouldn’t raise their hand, but knew the answers, and during the early years of Jeopardy in its heyday, I discovered I would more often than not find symmetry in what I was studying in school and in the answers posed as questions. I was the kid afraid of my own shadow until a 5-judge panel interviewed me for a student ambassador trip to the USSR the summer after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In an effort to mend fences, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. created a student ambassador program called People to People, and I was selected to participate. In hindsight, I think filling out a college application was easier! I couldn’t get through high school fast enough so I could get on with my traveling life.

What Will I Do With a Life of Travel? The Road is Laid Out Before Me

I’ll be an interpreter, a translator, a world traveler, Ms. Jane Bond even (yes, I even applied to the CIA in university). Would you believe they advertised in a newspaper? I wondered later if it was some sort of covert plant I’d simply stumbled upon and I was just the fly in their ointment, an unintended side effect of a too inquisitive nature.

Or it could just be that my grades weren’t up to snuff and oh yeah, I had this damn heart conditions that followed me around on paper like a lead balloon.

Salzburg 1992-93

“She’s got a medical file nearly a foot thick; she may not be the most viable candidate to help us keep our country’s secrets safe,” I imagined they said.

Though I’m long past these political aspirations, thoughts, and once imagined desires, well…that was…then.

These were just a few of the rambling thoughts of a jilted and jaded prospective recruit who had read one too many Sidney Sheldon and Robert Ludlum stories in her school days. The truth may be stranger than fiction, but sometimes fiction is just…made up.

Buried in Books to Break Free

My husband calls me his fighter and laughs when I crazy idea, often exclaiming, “Wow, you really shoot for the fences don’t you?” To which my reply often is, “Well, the one thing I’ll claim from Texas is its mantra to ‘go big or go home.’” And so, swinging for the fences as my junior year of high school came to an end, I ratcheted up my courses and when everyone else went home to study, practice, party, or relax, I took two more correspondence courses.

Ah, the forerunner to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), my correspondence courses would be sent snail mail. I would answer questions or write essays typed up on my basic box style word processor, print, and return an envelope thick with experiences and answers. I still take classes like this, but in an online format, and it’s a long way from Eastern Washington Correspondence to UC Irvine brushing up on the basics of Grammar.

From Eastern Travels to Far East Dreams and Landing Squarely in Western Europe

Salzburg travels at the fountain

But, back to the wanderlust incited by a long ago visit to Europe, my boundaries pushed toward the former Soviet Union to see for myself what other parts of the world looked like, and how a semester of Chinese became a year and I moved to Austria instead of Beijing.

 

Check back to tomorrow for Part II how studying Chinese in Missouri motivated my study abroad year in Austria.

If you’re enjoying these snippets from my upcoming memoir Three-Part Harmony, let me know if you’d like to be added to our email list for upcoming pre-orders of the book which will be available Fall 2019 and available just in time for the holidays.

As much as I’d love you to connect with me via social media – you can find all the ones I’m on in the bar to your right – I’d much prefer a review of my book currently available on Amazon, “Reflections: The Girl in the Mirror & The Letter”. Currently, it’s got one lonely review. And for less than a cup of coffee, it sure could use a friend or two or ten…. Oh, and we’re on Goodreads too!

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Break a Pencil!

© Lisa Street Rogers 2018

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