Growing up in Steubenville only a few blocks from Franciscan, I never really left for college. True, I did pack up most of my belongings and cart boxes and boxes into my dorm room, but I never left “home.” Franciscan was as familiar to me as my backyard.
Leaving Steubenville for four months at first didn’t seem too intimidating. But as my flight to Vienna crept closer and closer, the actuality of what I was doing started to become real. It was like I would be a first-year freshman, and this time, I would be ocean away from all that was familiar.
Additionally, many of my closest friends were staying behind on main campus, as they had already traveled to Gaming or decided not to go. The idea of meeting a whole new group of people was not too appealing (especially to an introvert like me who thinks hibernating is an acceptable winter option). I then decided to apply to be a resident assistant, as that would allow me to meet new people, as well as try something I had never done before.
I interviewed, got the job, and then, with the other RAs, flew over to Vienna a week before the students arrived to help set up the Kartause.
That was a week ago. Today, we are making the final preparations, organizing the rooms, making sure cleaning supplies are in place, and setting up check-in desks.
However, not the whole week was spent working. Our RDs, Scott and Sarah, made sure there was time to rest, relax, and get to know each other. Sunday was spent at the Gaming pool (a place that looks more like a resort, framed against the Austrian hills, than a municipal park). We then got kebas–a beautiful arrangement of meat on a roll–and topped that off with a beer straight from a well.
Beer from a well? Yes! The Austrians have a wonderful system where someone will stock a refrigerated well with bottled beer, and when other people come along, they crank it up and pay on the honor system. Pair the beer with a kebab and you’ve got the perfect Sunday lunch.
Throughout the week, we continued to get ready, starting the day with morning prayer with the TOR friars, Father Matthew Russick and Father Timothy Harris. We then cleaned, moved boxes, stacked boxes, moved furniture, counted beds, and cleaned some more. Mass was celebrated at noon in the Kartause church, and we were joined by many of the Kartause families, making the building feel more like a home parish than a college chapel.
Finally, the day the students arrived came. The whole place was turned upside down. The first two busloads of students (about 90 people) rolled up at 11:00. Everyone filed through the Franciskushaus lobby, signing their town form, collecting ID cards and room keys, and some picking up household boxes. Many of the students were exhausted, blinking slowly when asked what their name was, and then slowly recalling it.
The evening ended with a social in the Bibliotek–a beautiful library in the Kartause. Many students got to try the Kartause brew for the first time, the legendary Dunkel and Helles, a dark and light beer. My personal favorite is the Helles, which has a pale yellow color and a fresh taste.