Study Abroad In… Vienna (Part I)
I studied in Vienna with IES many years ago. I arrived in the city a week early along with another friend who was on her way to another program in northern Africa. We had fun, but she had to leave after a couple of days, and I didn’t know anyone else in the city. I was pretty broke, so I didn’t get to do much, but I still felt all sophisticated traveling on my own in a European capitol.
One thing I learned is that communication is really important. I didn’t remember where the first meeting was supposed to be (it was in the Südbahnhof – the south train station, it turns out), so I went by the institute, which turned out to be in a small palace in the center of the city. It was grand and magnificent and really really strange to see just down the road from a McDonald’s.
When I got there, I spoke to one of the administrators, and it turns out that if I had called in advance they might have been able to arrange somewhere for me to stay. I was staying in a hostile, it was nice and clean and very IKEA, but I could have saved the money, which would have come in handy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to work while I was there, since I wasn’t Austrian, but it turned out that I was able to work part time in the library, and that saved my behind financially.
But fast forward to meeting everyone a week later. We met at the train station and boarded a train for a two-day initiation in a castle on a mountaintop. I was really beginning to like this. Meeting everyone from different places was great – I met people from as close as my own home state to as distant as China and Bulgaria. We all had fun, but then one student drank way, way too much (the excitement and freedom of being so far away from home for the first time, I guess?) and accidentally walked out of one of the huge windows in the place. He had to be airlifted to a hospital, and we were all really shocked and worried, but the staff kept things going smoothly for the rest of us – I guess they didn’t want to put a damper on the event for everyone.
It was during that same time that everyone sorted out where they’d be living during their stay. It went by lottery – everyone got a number, and then you could choose if you wanted a home stay with an Austrian family, an apartment with other students, or an international dorm. I ended up in the dorms, but the people in the private apartments had the most fun, I think. The students who were most focused on learning German went for the home stays, and I think that helped them improve a lot. The dorm was great too; there were students from a bunch of colleges and programs there. And the city was so full of music, everywhere you turned. I remember hearing violin being played in the subway stations. That’s certainly something I’ve never seen anywhere else! It’s part of the charm that is Vienna, I suppose.