Dürnstein Ruins!

Dürnstein Ruins!
Where King Richard the Lionheart was held captive during the Crusades!

Some music to enjoy as you read!

Quedlinburg, Germany!

Quedlinburg, Germany!
Sehr Schön or very beautiful!

About ME!

My photo
Hello and Welcome! I am the West Virginia IFYE this year and I am honored to be representing my state. For those of you that do not know me, I have just recently graduated from WVU with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Medical Technology (Laboratory work!). I decided to apply to be the IFYE this year because I love to travel and meet new people, as well as give something back to the extraordinary 4-H program that I have been in my whole life. I am 23 years old and believe that this will be a life-changing experience! I am planning on posting blogs every week or so and hope to have pictures as well. So, I will to keep you up to date with my activities! I am new to this "blogging business," but it's worth a shot...here goes nothing!

My Timeline!

  • June 23rd-29th-Arrive in Germany and get oriented with the German IFYE Coordinators-Edith Schröder & Bettina Heinemann.
  • June 29th-July 19th-Familie Röhr 1st host family in Reinfeld, Germany
  • July 19th-August 11-Familie Bär-2nd host family in Hofheim, Germany
  • Aug. 11-Sept. 3rd-Familie Saudhof-3rd host family in Nelben, Germany
  • September 3rd-Flight to Cambridge, England to visit my mom's college friend as well as my friend to!!!
  • September 12th-Train trip to Willington, Derby to visit my grandmother!
  • September 19th-Flight to Austria!
  • December 8th-Flight back to the U.S.A!!!!! :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

I was "On Tour," I felt like a Celebrity!

Well, I am coming up on my last two weeks touring throughout West Virginia educating and molding the young impressionable minds of this beloved state. I have been going pretty solidly since the beginning of February and am scheduled to conclude on the 21st of my, although I might have one here and there over the summer. As I near the conclusion of my tour, I look back and feel so much. I have presented to countless schools, community events, CEOS groups, 4-H clubs, Boys & Girls after school programs, and even Girl Scout Troops. I am surprised by nothing these days, after even being the keynote speaker in Wood County at a 'Model United Nations Conference!' I have pretty much done and seen it all and learning the 'tricks of the trade' along the way...slowly building up my technology with added speakers, laser pointers and have become quite a prepared machine; I walk into a venue and can pretty much use anything available to my benefit. I have sometimes needed to improvise with 'screen materials,' I have used white walls, curtains, boards and at one CEOS luncheon I had to simply tape a few flip chart pages to the wall. The phrase,"Go with the flow" has never been so true as my experience as the 2008 WV 4-H IFYE!

Now as I come to the end of my year experience I think how wonderful it has been from start to finish. From my initial meeting of the IFYEs (USA & other countries) in Detroit, to getting to know different families and people from different parts of the world, to my first hostel stay in Berlin, my first horse burger in Vienna and now to all of the highways and byways I took through West Virginia to get to the county extension office locations. What a truly wonderful ride it has been. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been chosen to represent my state and to have been one of the few ambassadors from the United States and show by actions to how wonderful a place I come from and have lived my life. I know that I stated, on my return from abroad, that all of this felt like a dream and now, a year later and after being back for a few months it still feels like I have just awakened from a long sleep and that it didn't happen. Life at home is pretty much how it was before I left, my little brother and sister are a year older, my mother is piled up to her ears with activities and things for work as usual, but one thing has definitely changed...I was an IFYE (International Four-H Youth Exchange). It has enriched and helped mold me into a pinnacle 4-H member, not only community and stately minded, but I have increased that to the global level that can be awarded to this unique and ultimate honor, the IFYE.

Even though I look at the conclusion of my tour in the next few weeks, I am not only exited for the next stage in my life, I also have some sadness and longing to be rewinded back to the beginning of my trip abroad. However, I find much satisfaction to know that even if my 'tour' is over, my experiences and opportunities as the IFYE will never be concluded. With the contacts, families and friends that I have made over the past year, I will be able to continue communications and provide the families I stayed with with their own American Host,if/whenever they wish to come and visit me. I also plan for many future trips throughout my life, back to where I had been during my year as the IFYE. So, I guess you could say that my IFYE Experience has just begun! ;) "To boldly go where no 'IFYE' has gone before!!!!"

Monday, March 2, 2009


Hello Everyone,
I apologize for not writing more frequently since I have been back in the U.S.A. However, in future I hope to report as often as I can on the status of my tour and interesting events/adventures that I take or that find me. So, I began my tour through WV 3 weeks ago (Feb. 16th officially) and have been quite busy. I began with YAC (Youth Adult Conference) at the end of January for my opening presentation, which went really well and my audience seemed to be quite entertained and enlightened. At least I thought so ;)

Then, as I stated, I began my tour on the 16th and have visited Braxton, Webster and Barbour Counties as well as given presentations to 4-H University and Teen Leader Weekend at Jackson's Mill. All of which have been great and I have received good feedback. So, I guess you could say that I have become completely immersed in presentation giving encompassing all aspects; the set up of all my computer 'gadgets,' microphones, clickers, speakers and of course the infamous projector. Therefore, all has, up to this point, been running very smoothly without any major setbacks. I have become well adjusted to my current life of travel as well as a rental car, which has been fabulous with the dubious weather and 'winding roads' of West Virginia. I have had the opportunity to meet many, many new friends and contacts throughout WV as well as to live (for a night or two) with different host families; which, you might think, I am a master of from my experience abroad. Well that is partly true, however the drastic change in my favor is of course the fluent English speaking ability of those around me.

I am scheduled to go to Wood, Tyler and Kanawha (Girl Scout Troop) Counties this upcoming week and the following weeks will be concentrated toward Southern WV. Then, in April, I will be in Monongalia, Marion, Harrison as well as Ohio and Marshall and then when May approaches I will be nearing home with Preston, Grant, Hampshire, Mineral and Pendleton Counties. I hope to attach more specific dates in the near future. However, a news release has been created and should be in your local papers with my presentation schedule and details. I look forward to meeting, presenting and discussing my trip with those of you who have kept up with me and my blog as well as to initiate new interest through my tour. I would like to thank my readers, I have now had lots of feedback in relation to my blog from those that I have met during my presentation schedule and casual encounters and am very grateful to know that I have a larger fan base than my mother (even though she is an essential fan, it is nice to know that I have other supporters ;) More to come from your WV IFYE!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vienna Boys Choir!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reverse Culture Shock...Hmm....

Well my supportive readers,

I have been back in the blessed USA for almost a month and my exchange trip seems like a distant memory. I feel as if I have just awoken from a long sleep and never really went at all. Some may ask, 'Why do I feel this way?' I think a large part of it would have to do with the plain and simple fact that life here at home, although six months in the future, is still the same. I am not implying that people decided to stop what they were doing and wait for my return...nor that I expected a huge difference in Hampshire County life when I got back. I guess, I had heard stories of previous IFYES and other exchangees who had such an experience abroad that they changed their whole way of thinking and their life's plan. I know that I have changed and grown as an independent, free-spirited youth into a more conscientious and mindful global citizen. I feel much more connected to the world as a whole, instead of how I used to look at things as only on the county, state and at most national level.

This is quite an interior switch, which I am sure is just as important, if not more so than the picture I had in my mind of me stepping back onto West Virginia Soil. I keep replaying the last 6 months in my head and all those distinctly made memories have become one giant blur. I look through pictures of my travels and have to stop and think for several minutes on the name of that town I visited in Styria or what was the name of my 3rd host sister again? Those details that, at the time, were spoken from my lips daily and used so often in that 3 week span I could almost spell them in my sleep. I almost feel ashamed, as though I have not done them justice or have failed at my experience in some way. But, as time passes and I am home, I know that it is just the usual order of life. I applied, accepted, planned, participated, returned and filed it away. Like a categorized album in my life's scrapbook.

I am glad to be working on a my West Virginia Tour presentation because it is allowing me to refresh some of those closed memories I made in the beginning of my exchange. I want to remember, I don't want to file this trip away like Senior Year Soccer Season in high school or Prom 2003. I shall bring those photographs to the forefront, so that I know that it was no dream. After all, how many people in their lifetimes are given such an extraordinary opportunity as I have just returned from. Well, not many by my estimation. Therefore, I will look forward to sharing my time and expressing the importance of such an experience.

As I look back over my life and remember those key moments that stand out above all the others, I find that most, if not all, of those memories usually begin with one of these 3 phrases..."Through 4-H , During 4-H Camp or when I was an IFYE..." That's a lot of moments, all with one unifying theme 4-H!!! Now that's some powerful stuff right there!!!:)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Real Men on White Horses!

My Day with the Lipizzaner Stallions in Vienna:

On Friday November 21st 2008, I took the opportunity to spend the day in Vienna and see a performance by the world famous Spanish Lipizzaner Stallions in the Hofreitschule. I initially arrived in Vienna at about 10 am, so I had the day to explore the other city sights since the horse show wasn’t until 7p.m. My first stop was the Belvedere Schloss, with its beautiful grounds and all within the city of Vienna. It was raining pretty heavily, but I was sure to take my new, trusty Landjugend Umbrella, so that wasn’t a problem. I wanted to be sure to pick up my ticket for the Lipizzaner Show early, so stopped by the store before I walked over to the Rathaus for my first ‘Christkindlemarkt’ experience. Luckily, the heavy rain took a breather when I arrived at the market. It was a wonderland of little huts selling anything from chocolate and sweet breads back to ornaments and jewelry. I enjoyed it so much and what made it even better was walking around with a nice hot mug of Glühwein while par oozing through the endless rows of huts. I noticed, before I bought the beverage that a majority of the shoppers were holding a blue mug and I am here to experience as much as I can, so…as they say, ‘When in Rome…’ therefore, I mingled with the locals holding my own blue mug of deliciousness! ;) Fear not, those that visit the market with their car, they sell alcohol free punch, which is also quite good. I was at the advent market for a few hours and then it started to rain again, so I took refuge in a local church, it was nice to rest my feet as well as to get out of the wind and rain. Then I, once again, braved the weather to revisit Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral), which is the city landmark basically and quite lovely with its tiled roof and gothic style architecture. I shopped a bit along the Kärntner Straße (one of the main shopping streets) until I decided to make my way back to the Hofburg for the venue. It was about an hour before the performance, so I stopped at a little stand by the ‘Lions Club,’ which is similar to a ruritan club; so I decided to support them a bit by having a cuppa Glühwein. A very nice couple was running the stand and the husband spoke English well, so we had a great chat until I had to leave for my performance. Then, when I was shown to my seat (which was right in front=perfect) the couple next to me were Americans currently living in London and the wife was an MLT (Medical Laboratory Technician-Associates Degree Level) which was extraordinarily coincidental; needless to say she and I were excited to speak about our work…etc. The time flew by and the music began to play signaling the start of the show. The Master of Ceremonies was a bit long-winded, but other than that the performance was amazing. The Lipizzaner Stallions are bred in Piber (where I went with my 3rd host mother) and then trained and brought up to Vienna for the shows. The Hofreitschule is the ONLY location in the world that still practices the original forms of dressage (the art or method of training a horse in obedience and in precision of movement). The Lipizzaner Studs are born black an then, as they age, turn to pure white…very cool! Throughout the performance there were different levels of dressage, a few horses did jump-kicks and one could stay in the ‘rearing position’ for a good length of time. With Mozart playing in the background and several horses moving in unison, it was just a great atmosphere. The lofty ceilings and the white columns combined with the instrumental music reverberating in the gallery added so much to the mood of the show. One of my favorite parts of the performance was seeing the different personalities of the horses, even though they are in complete unanimity, there are still subtle hints as to each individual horse’s disposition. The best horse in the show would hold each pose longer and stronger than the others and, in doing so, adding his own little twist, would blow air out of his nose loudly on each step; I liked that horse best of all, it had the most outward and forceful personality (perhaps there is a correlation there, maybe we are kindred spirits). Who knows…but the show was an absolute treat and, even though it was rather expensive, I would recommend it to future travelers visiting Vienna. Two thumbs WAY, WAY UP!

When the show ended at 8:20 p.m, I rushed on the metro back to the Südbahnhof (train station) where I had previously checked that 3 trains were running back to Münchendorf that night; However, I was very unenthusiastically told by the information desk, “There are NO more trains to Münchendorf today.” I was a little upset, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, I thought quickly and jumped on the next train to Mödling; which is only about 10 minutes drive from my host family. Luckily, my host mother had suggested I borrow Irina’s (9 yr. old host sister) Handy (cellphone) for the day in Vienna, so I was able to call them to pick me up. Even with that little mishap at the end of the day and my umbrella breaking from the extreme wind at lunchtime, I was still on ‘Cloud 9,’ smiling from ear-to-ear on the train home. It was a magical day with the Christmas market and my lovely ‘Men on White Horses!’

(Note to the ladies: MOST of the trainers/riders were ‘cute-as-a-button,’ or rather a more appropriate phrase, ‘STUD MUFFINS!’ ;) It was a super night and quite visually stimulating!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How to make an IFYE Happy = Chocolate!

My new host family, lives in Münchendorf, a small village on the outskirts of Vienna. I was delighted, that upon my exit from the train I was greeted with a BIG smile from my new host parents. I am always a bit nervous whether or not they will recognize me, since in the picture I sent I am rather 'made-up' and usually during my train trips between families I have just been many hours on the train, so am not looking the greatest. But, I guess it is always a pretty large hint, when I am the only one with lots of luggage, so I really have no need to worry. We packed the car and my host parents took me on a little tour of Möding. I was able to eat Castanian Nuts again and had my first experience with Glühwein, which is a hot mixture of wine, rum, cinnamon and other delicious ingredients put to a boil and the creation is utterly delightful; especially since it is much colder than where I was in Styria. My new host father calls most things medicine, so our Glühwein was not only medicinal it was also very satisfying on a cold winter night. I am looking forward to many more meetings with my new-found, Austrian Traditional Christmas Beverage. ;) However, as my new host father Peter so wisely puts it, it is good medicine with a little bit and too much has the reverse effect. We had a nice family meal and at the end I was surprised with a lovely Sachertorte cake (Austrian Cake sent all over the world) to welcome me into their household (pictured above). So, that is a great start to my family and final days in Austria!

We then drove about 15 minutes to Münchendorf, my new home for 2.5 weeks. I was introduced to the rest of the family; being Michael (11 yrs), Irina (9 yrs.) and the grandparents. They have an energetic dog Riki, which is a girl by the way and the typical lazy cat that coincidentally is named Garfield! I am staying on the 2nd floor with Oma and Opa and my room is entirely decorated in shining, frilly, lime green material. I am not, the girliest of girls, otherwise I would be in heaven...but I can't help but laugh everytime I enter my room. The bed is quite large, which is fabulous and I have plenty of space, but even so I do have to chuckle a bit. The house itself is U-shaped with a large courtyard in the middle which, for some reason, reminds me of Tuscany (even if I haven't been there yet, it is on the list though). My host family have many hectors of Sugar Beets, Wheat, Barley, Sunflowers and own a large compost business. On Tuesday, I helped with a few bookkeeping things and used a calculator, which had been many months since I had had one in my hand, quite a strange sensation. So, I do do a little work now and then with the families that host me; on Monday I cooked lunch for the workers on the farm and it turned out quite well. I am looking forward to sharing some of my new recipes when I arrive home for Christmas. As far as future plans, I am excited for Friday because I have bought a ticket to see the famous Lipizzaner Horse Show in Vienna. They are Spanish Horses that perform the best dressage in the world and it is the only school left in the world. For those of you who aren't familiar, dressage is the art or method of training a horse in obedience and in precision of movement. My mother told me that I couldn't leave Austria without seeing them, so I am scheduled to this Friday at 7 p.m. I am extremely excited and hope to have a video clip and lots of pictures to share. Then, on Saturday my first host family is picking me up to go to a 'Devil Fest,' I know...I was a little dubious in the beginning as well; but, in Ausria Kampus (The devil) is part of the Christmas Tradition, on the 5th of December St. Nikolo comes to bring every good child a gift and then, on the 6th Krampus visits the not-so-good children. I know that I am not explaining it as well as I will be able to at the end of the festival on Satuday, so more will come when I am fully educated! I am enjoying myself, but must confess that I am counting down the days until I am home with family and friends for the holidays and, as of today, I have 19 days! So a, not so subtle hint, everyone mark their calendars for my return on the 9th of December so you can start planning the 'Welcome Home' parties!!! ;)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Now a little information about Austrian Fall Traditions starting in November:

* All Saints' Day (also called All Hallows or Hallowmas), often shortened to All Saints, is a feast celebrated on November 1 in Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Western Christian theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. Specifically, in the Roman Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls' Day, commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. In Austria on Nov. 1st, the custom is for people to light candles and bring flowers to the graves (Friedhof-Graveyard) of dead relatives. The priest says a few words and then proceeds to walk throughout the graveyard dispersing holy water, during which all others present (except me because it was in German) pray together. It is quite a sight to see and very educational.

*Starting at the end of November lasting till Christmas Day you can find "Christkindlmärkte" on nearly every corner of most Austrian cities. Small huts provide you with potentiall christmas presents, food and most important hot punch and "Glühwein", sweet and heated mulled wine.

Christmas in Austria revolves around a number of traditions, the first is on December 6th when Saint Nicholas comes to bring the good children gifts.

On December 24th when the city is frantic with last minute shoppers, the countryside is a refuge for quiet traditions. Farmers chalk the initials of the Three Wise Men on the archway of the stable door to protect the herd from sickness in the coming year and Christmas trees are lit.

In the snow-covered Alps, families descend from their mountain homes to the valley below, illuminating the night with torches held high to light their way in the darkness. Carolers gather in church towers and village squares to guide the people to Christmas services with their melodies. All shops, theatres and concert halls close their doors for this is an evening spent with only with family.

Following church services, families return home for their more intimate celebrating. First Christmas Eve dinner is served, often with ‘Gebackener Karpfen’ (fried carp) as the main course. Dessert may be chocolate and apricot cake called ‘Sachertorte’ and Austrian Christmas cookies called ‘Weihnachtsbaeckerei’.

Afterwards presents are given, but in Austria, there is no Santa Claus. Children are taught that their presents have been brought by the ‘Kristkindl’, a golden-haired baby with wings, who symbolizes the new born Christ.

This is also where the ‘Christkindlmarkt’, or Christmas market gets it’s name. Early in December these Christmas markets open in towns and cities all over Austria, with rows of booths and stalls selling colourful ornaments and decorations, gingerbread, Advent wreaths, candles, small gifts, and even Christmas trees.

Silent Night was first sung in 1818, in the village church of Oberndorf. There is a story told of how Christmas was almost spoiled for the villagers that year.

On Christmas Eve, the priest went into the church and found that the organ was not working. The leather bellows that are used to pump the air through the pipes were full of holes. Christmas without music would not do so the priest showed the organist Franz Bauer a new Christmas hymn he had written. Franz quickly composed a tune for it that could be played on a guitar. So Oberndorf had music after all.

Well, that is definitely something I will miss during my exchange...all the Christmas bustle. Although, I will be able to participate in the Christmas Markets over the last weekend in November when they begin. I am extremely eager for that, I just love Christmas! So, those are a few of the traditions and history in Austria.