Alexandra Carlson, September 30th, 2016
Tomorrow marks mine and Vienna’s one month anniversary, and WOW- what a month it has been! It has taken me four weeks, but I think I’ve finally wrapped my brain around the fact that I’m here to stay for a while and not just on a brief vacation from which I’ll be returning shortly.
I arrived in Vienna on the first of September, and since then it has been a constant whirlwind of adventures. In the last short month I have traveled to Prague, Melk, Graz, and Bratislava, toured various castles and palaces which look like they belong on the set of a Disney or Harry Potter movie, climbed to the top of several hills (and experienced several very rewarding views), tried new foods, and met so many people from every country imaginable. WU offers a pre-semester orientation program which began about a week after I arrived. Through the program, I’ve had the opportunity to see so many parts of Vienna (and Austria in general) that I didn’t even know existed. If you have the opportunity to do a program like this, I would definitely recommend it! It will give you a chance to meet people and become acquainted with the city before you’re thrown into classes. The orientation basically consisted of one or two activities a day including palace tours, museum visits, and other cultural activities. Each activity lasted a few hours each day which gave us plenty of time to explore things on our own as well. Today marked the last day of the 3-week program, and Monday marks my first day of class at WU. Believe it or not, I’m pretty excited to begin the actual “study” part of my study abroad experience. I can’t wait to meet my classmates, experience education from a different perspective, and most of all, finally begin learning how to speak German! The month of September has been a month of overwhelming change, but it’s one that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
As for the culture shock, things here honestly aren’t as different as I imagined them to be. Aside from the incredibly ornate architecture and the German language, there are only some small differences, but nothing you can’t get used to. For example,
- People here tend to be a lot less friendly than in the states. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just in the sense that they keep to themselves more. However, if you need help with something, most people here are very kind and are more than happy to help if you just ask!
- Customer service isn’t nearly as prevalent here. The waiter’s job is to take your order, bring you your food, and give you your check (only after you flag them down and ask for it)
- Most restaurants/cafes prefer for you to pay in cash, and you always have to ask to split the check when eating out with other people.
- The food has probably been the biggest adjustment for me. Austrian meals mainly consist of red meat, potatoes and bread. It is very rare that a meal comes with a side of veggies. Thankfully, there are plenty grocery stores and farmers markets where you can buy your own!
- People drink beer and coffee like we drink water
- The street food here isn’t sketchy at all. Definitely try the doner kebap and the hot dogs. You won’t regret it.
A few helpful hints:
- Thankfully, almost everyone here does speak English, but I would definitely recommend at least attempting to learn German. Not knowing it makes reading menus and going grocery shopping very difficult, and it also makes for some very awkward interactions with cashiers…
- The public transportation system here is actually very easy to navigate, especially if you download a magical app called Quando
- Don’t bother filling your suitcase with American food, because you can actually find a lot of it here including peanut butter, Oreo’s, burgers, and even Mexican food if you look hard enough!
- The weather is actually pretty warm until late September, and most facilities don’t have air conditioning, so I would definitely recommend buying an electric fan once you’re over here and packing more summer clothes than you think you’ll need!
I’m beyond excited to learn even more about Vienna and its culture and to see what the rest of my semester has in store for me. Until next month, Auf Wiedersehen!
Exploring the city with new friends!
The view from the top of Kahlenberg