By Caroline Mitchell |
As American study abroad students, we have many of our excursions planned and our needs catered to. We do not have to worry about transportation, currency or residence, and we have a guide to answer questions or translate for us when we are confused.
This weekend we had the opportunity to venture on our own to a country of our choosing without professors or guides to show us the way. We were responsible for booking our trains and living accommodations while navigating our way around the city.
A few of us decided to take a quick train ride to Vienna and discover what life in Austria is like. The trip was easy and we saw much of what we wanted.
I learned while on my own this trip I am too content with others catering to my needs when they really have no reason to make me more comfortable. With many of our meals planned as a study abroad group, we have not dealt with foreign menus because the agency often chooses a traditional meal for us to enjoy. Most restaurants have an English menu for us monolingual students or have pictures for us to simply point to our order.
With this simplicity of English menus and planned meals, I have not considered once the entire month that these countries have created this ease for people like me.
Before our trip back to Budapest, my friend Isabel and I wanted to have a relaxed morning with coffee and a nice breakfast. After a long, sweaty walk we arrived at the café we planned to visit all weekend. Upon arrival we were disappointed to discover the café was closed because of the Pentecost holiday.
Isabel and I were in a part of Vienna we had not seen yet and seemed to be more of a local spot. Hungry, hot and tired we quickly sat down at the closest open breakfast spot. After glancing over the menu for a bit one thought crossed my mind: “where is the English?” This is the moment I grew disappointed with how accustomed I have become to things being handed to me without reason.
The entire menu of the café was in German: no subtitles, pictures or somebody to translate. I kept looking around at other diner’s plates thinking about how delicious the food looked and wishing I could figure out where on the menu I could find them. To my dismay google translate was not working, which made the process of figuring out breakfast feel a lot more complicated.
After about 30 minutes of looking at the menu with a blank stare I simply told the waiter I wanted eggs, a croissant and yogurt because I saw all of these items on other people’s plates.
I am sure many of the breakfast options on the menu were a lot more extravagant than my order , but I simply wanted food because breakfast time quickly became lunch time after spending pointless time staring at the menu.
The waiter thankfully spoke English like many of the other locals in these countries and our breakfast was delicious. This made me reflect on the fact that we travel all over and expect everybody to understand our English, yet we make no effort to understand the local language.
I appreciate the restaurants offering English menus but understand this is not a norm I should expect. I need to learn to manage public transportation and understand currency without the help of a study abroad organization. A large part of travel is integrating oneself into the culture and navigating day-to-day life, which can sometimes be difficult and uncomfortable but also necessary.