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Katie Kelley is a singer in the Concert Studio for AIMS in Graz 2014. We are excited to have her blog about her summer experiences!

July 4, 2014

AIMS is finally here, and it already feels like every bit the adventure I’ve been hoping for. I know I have probably already embarrassed myself as a culturally unaware American but I honestly love just falling face first into an entirely new world.

The check-in process was easy and everyone here, even though they are all equally as jet lagged, sleep deprived, hungry and confused as me, yet seeming eager to get to know each other and embark on our European adventure together. I decided to take the first of the three offered city tours. Though I wish I had waited to take the tour when I was more recovered from jet lag, (its a two hour walking tour, there’s a LOT of information, and I had just finished up 14 hours of travel and hadn’t slept in about 22…so my ability to appreciate the distinctions between different column styles was at an all time low) it was still fascinating and I learned a lot about the city. Its old. Like, really old, and if you’re a Texan like me and anything that predates the Alamo is impressive, Graz’s ancient facades are especially remarkable. Much of the city is protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site, but it is also one of the fastest growing cities in the German-speaking world. This means that as the city expands, architects have to be creative with where and how they build, which has left the city with a striking mix of very old & traditional and very new & modern. I can’t wait for more chances to explore.

After the tour I got dinner at one of Graz’s seemingly endless number of outdoor cafe’s with my suite mate and a completely arbitrary group of other hungry AIMS-ers. Again, everyone was eager to meet each other and learn about one another’s singing background. The conversation quickly turned to opera– favorite singers of the past, operas, roles, and arias that we love or are dreaming of undertaking, our own specific voice types and development. At times, the conversation was a bit above me, which was a wonderful surprise because I’ve never had people my own age to shamelessly geek-out about opera with! I am so excited for what I will learn from my peers here.

After dinner we returned to the Heim, but I quickly decided that I wanted to explore Graz on my own a little bit before succumbing to the powers of jet lag. During the tour, our winding path (and my lack of attention span…) made the streets of Graz seem impossibly confusing, and I was scared of getting lost in a strange city where I don’t speak the language well and where I can’t just simply GPS my way back. But, I wanted a bottle of water and I couldn’t just get it in one of the Heim’s machines because I didn’t have any coins yet! So I set out, and it was actually a great success. I walked down Neutorgasse and was able to see how many of the streets I toured earlier connected, and felt much less afraid of never making it back to the Heim. There are no convenience stores here, but I was able to grab a bottled water at a Nachtwurststand. On my way back I stopped in a tiny pub for a beer before bed, and had a (mostly) German conversation with the bartender. Sleep is well deserved and the room is very comfortable with my windows open to let in the perfect weather. Tomorrow there will be an official orientation, I’ll get to rehearse with my accompanist for my hearing, and do more exploring. I’m falling in love with this city and I am so excited for what I will learn from the faculty, my peers, and this new culture.