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Zoe Newman's Exchange to Austria

 Beautiful mountains and beautiful cows. I’d been in Austria for three weeks when I made that my definition of that beautiful country. Because that’s what’s Austria was for me so far - amazing scenery with a bloody amazing agricultural background. But I’d already been there three weeks, what more was there to see, there couldn’t be too much, could there?

 It’s such a hard feeling to describe, leaving the country to go on exchange. Not knowing what I was really getting myself into. I knew I’d be staying with host families and I knew a little about them, but not enough to really know who these people were.  I mean, they’ve just invited me into their home with such open arms, with such little knowledge of who I was and I guess all they had was the hope and the trust that I’d be this blonde smiling girl from Tasmania Australia, whose application form said she’d be interested in farming and learning about the culture of their country. That’s all I kept thinking about the 21 hours I was in the air and the 10 or so hours I spent in airports. These people trusted me with only the basic knowledge of who I was. These people sounded incredible.

 Karin and Martin Breitwieser, my first host family - I swear were actually super humans. With 1000 pigs, and about 100 hectares of land they raised 4 kids, the youngest being 18 months.  Markus who was 7 taught me many German words, like hedgehog, bus, tractor and so much more. Some of the words he taught me I used a lot while staying with the other families, especially the German word for tractor. Children don’t learn English in school until the age of 10 which I found really hard because I absolutely love kids and some days my job was to stay home with them while their parents were in the field. We had to figure out our own way of communicating but it was nice to have our own little way to talk, almost like a secret language. By the end of my trip I really enjoyed trying and learning the German language. Listening to the farmers explain their agricultural system became easier and easier, especially because a lot of German words come from the English language. I had learnt to count one through to ten, so when talking to a beef farmer about how much his cattle weighed, and things like that it made it a lot easier to understand. Majority of the farmers I met don’t speak fluent or any English because the just don’t need it and German schools only started teaching English about thirty or forty years ago. I was really proud of how quickly I learnt even the simplest German words. One thing every host family asked me was to say this really difficult Austrian German word oachkazlschwoaf which in English meant squirrel tail. To start with I wouldn’t even try to say it because it seemed way too hard. But by my fifth week with a lot of practice I pretty much had it.  My third host family Alexandra taught me a sentence that I found very useful, and when I said it my host families loved it as well. Danke fewr das gute essen, which means thanks for the good food. Because I certainly tried a lot of different but good food while I was away and I really wanted to find a good way to thank my host for the amazing food I tried, so I practiced and practiced learning this one sentence it took me a good week to learn.

 Austrian quiescence, wow where to start? From traditional food like apple strudel, schnitzel or even apricot dumplings I tried my hand at making, and I couldn’t wait to come home and show my family the amazing food I’d been trying. In Austria a meal of meat, cheese and bread is incredibly common and I probably ate it every day. The range of meat and cheese they have is incredible - one of my favourite times of the day was going to the deli section of the super markets just to see the range of meats and cheese you could buy. There are so many more experiences I could write about but we would be here all day.

 I really can’t put into words how amazing this experience was. the people I’ve met, the things I’ve seen, that wonderful  food I’ve tried and when I start talking about my time in Austria it’s hard to get me to stop. This experience won’t just stop here, the people you meet while you are away don’t just disappear when your exchange is over, they continue to be lifelong friends and even family. The things you experience help you develop life skills and really make you appreciate your own home and country. I hope to learn more about the world’s agriculture and I really can’t describe how much Austria taught me about farming and it’s something I hope to base my further education on.

Thanking my host families enough for hosting me was the hardest part - how do you thank someone and explain to them what an incredible experience they’ve given you. This all started for me because I hosted an exchange. It’s not like hosting someone from another country, it’s like spending two weeks with your new best friend and learning ten times more. I’d recommend hosting an exchange to anyone, it’s really one of the most life changing decisions I’ve ever made. You really never think giving someone a home for two weeks could give you so much. But it really does.

 In Austria they also have a Rural Youth but it’s called Landjugend Osterreich, (Rural Youth Austria), I’ve met so many of their incredible landjugend members and a lot about their landjugend program and how they run their Rural Youth. They have over ninety thousand members and I can’t wait to back and one day and meet even more of them. 

 But it’s not just the host families on the other side of the world that make this program go round, it is Rural Youth Tasmania as well. I don’t think they will ever understand what this experience gave me or what they are really giving to Rural Youth members of today and as Rural Youth members we are so incredibly lucky to have an organisation willing to put in so much effort and to find local businesses that are willing to support us and send us on the journey of a life time.

 My wonderful sponsor was Kennedys Welding Supplies and I’m so incredibly grateful for their trust and generosity. Without even knowing they’ve strengthened my passion for agriculture and given me life experiences that have really broadened my outlook of the world and I hope to use this knowledge to further my education and to teach the young children of today all about the agriculture from all over the world. Thank you for raising your hand to sponsor me to Austria, without businesses like you, Kennedy’s Welding Supplies, this program wouldn’t exist.

 Was my experience in Austria more than just beautiful mountains and beautiful cows? I’ll let you decide.