Austrian Adventures: Reflections under lockdown

Theresa Balick
Austria Correspondent

It finally happened: the unvaccinated in Austria have gone into lockdown as COVID-19 cases skyrocket throughout the country.

For the unvaccinated, like myself, this means that we can no longer take public transportation or go into any stores that are not considered “essential.” We are restricted to the Kartause property primarily, but we can also go on hikes and go to the local Spar grocery store.

It also means that travel anywhere for the last two weeks of the semester is impossible.

Honestly, it’s a blessing in disguise. The news was not met with cries of outrage and dissent. In fact, at the emergency meeting called to relate the news, students, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, sounded excited about having to stay solely in Gaming.

We cheered when Brian Kissinger, director of student life, and Tom Wolter, director of the Austria Program, told us that we would make the most out of our last two weeks by playing games as a community and relaxing as finals approach.

Students immediately began planning events. In the past three days, junior Rachel Mohr planned a campus-wide game of Assassin, junior Wyatt Singleton and other members of the Veritas Society planned a Veritas Debate, and other students have organized midnight frisbee games, a coffeehouse and potentially a Kartause Olympics. There are also fun talks nearly every night.

Amid it all, I know that this timing is perfect. We’ve spent the entire semester with COVID hanging over our heads. Yet, somehow, we were able to do everything typical of an Austrian semester. We went to Rome, Assisi, Poland, and so many other places with little to no issue. I got to every city on my list and even went to places to which I never had thought about going.

I feel beyond blessed this semester to see all that I have seen, to be so close to all of my favorite saints and to grow closer to God through struggle and stress.

My first column this semester was about how God’s timing is always perfect. I never could have known on that bus to Rome that he was already planning for our semester to be amazing.

Despite the craziness of having to get a COVID test in various foreign countries, the constant fear of countries shutting down the day before departure from Gaming and the disappointment of not being able to go certain places unvaccinated, such as the Holy Land, I still had the most amazing experiences, and I know other students did as well.

This lockdown finally came at a point when students were feeling burnt out from traveling every weekend.

While there was still some disappointment, we all can recognize this as a call from God to remember the stillness and beauty of the Kartause and use these last two weeks to become immersed in his love.

As a Kartause community, we will only become closer under this lockdown. I could not ask for a better end to the semester.