carsonbarr, June 30th, 2016
So, what has this exchange semester meant to me? To answer this question, it first took me a while to realize exactly how much has happened in Europe lately. Living in Vienna provided a first-row view to some truly remarkable, historic events. When I arrived in Vienna interest rates were negative across the bloc (as they remain) and Greece was on the verge of financial ruin. American – Russian relations were tense to say the least. These events provided brief distractions for newspapers that had previously focused on one crisis or another. The Syrian refugee crisis for instance was already the most disruptive event since WWII and the effects of immigration were readily apparent throughout Austria.
I was also in Europe when the terrorist attack occurred in Brussels. It’s been fascinating (and terrifying) to see how these events are impacting this region and the rest of the world. Just last month Austria elected a new president and the far-right candidate was defeated by only the narrowest of margins. The results of this election have since come into question. Austria is certainly far from unique as extreme right-wing parties continue to gain ground in Germany and across Europe. In fact, in less than 24 hours Great Britain will vote on whether to remain in the EU in a referendum largely motivated by immigration and nationalistic sentiment. Sound familiar? Politics in the U.S. and Trump’s rise to power seem eerily similar.
So yeah, there has been a lot going on… What a great time to live and study in another country, right? However, none of these topics were discussed in my coursework at WU. This was extremely disappointing but I didn’t let it slow me down. Speaking with students from all over the world proved fascinating and more than made up for WU’s shortcomings.
On another note, it’s hard to believe I return to the U.S. in less than a week. I’m so not ready to leave! Portugal has been amazing. If you find yourself in Lisbon be sure and stay at the Home Hostel!