Semester Abroad Recap and Final Reflection

Last semester, in the Fall of 2021, I went participated in a reciprocal exchange program with the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) in Vienna, Austria. It is a weird feeling to come back to Texas A&M after spending the past four and a half months abroad. For me, it is great to see my family, reconnect with friends and take comfort in the familiarities that I once remembered and longed for. However, my perspective on the world has seemed to change. My time in Europe will always be something that I remember for the rest of my life. Furthermore, the time I spent in Vienna and the experience that I made along the way will have a special place in my heart and will live with me forever.

Last day in Vienna, Austria.

Shared Experiences

One of the best things about going to a new place is meeting new people. At first, I was nervous to go abroad because only one other person from Mays Business School here at Texas A&M was doing the same exchange as I was. However, during the first week, thanks to the buddy program that the university has and the on-campus organizations, I met a really cool group of people right away. During the semester, we went on plenty of weekend trips, parties, and just miscellaneous adventures around the city. I can honestly say that the people you meet along the way make the adventure that much more fun. Reach out and make friends with someone new. You never know what will happen.

My friends and I standing on Tower Bridge in London, England.

Me, Ryan, and Joey enjoying the night scene in London.

Having a great time exploring the beautiful city of Budapest!

Reflection

I have learned a few things from my time in Vienna that I plan to incorporate into my life. Firstly, I plan to be more open to new experiences. You never know where something might lead to or what positive event will come from doing something new. In fact, one of the reasons I came to Vienna in the first place was to get out of my comfort zone. By doing what’s uncomfortable and exploring the unfamiliar, you can truly experience life and expand your way of thinking.

Another thing that I am trying to take back with me to Texas is to enjoy the smaller things more by being more in the moment. So much of your day-to-day is monotonous tasks where you are truly not even present. Being in a foreign country surrounded by a whole new culture has given me the opportunity to observe more. My education at WU wasn’t particularly challenging. My classes were once a week and they were pass/fail. Furthermore, I took classes that I found interesting. Altogether, this gave me ample time to explore the city and to take a lot of trips. By the end of the semester, I had gone to over eleven different countries! At each place, I tried to take some time to really try to be in the moment. It is different than being on a vacation. I did not feel rushed at all to get from one place to another. I had no obligations with school and I felt like I was not tied to the negative aspects of the world. Just then and there. One of the best trips I took was a hike in Interlaken, Switzerland. Interlaken is a small, quiet, alpine sporty town with nothing but good views of the surrounding Swiss Alps. A friend and I took a few trains up the mountain to the small town of Murren to then complete a small 3-hour hike of a trail called The Northface. We stopped multiple times to just take in the view and enjoy the world around us. Here are some pictures from that hike.

Sitting in a field in the middle of a small Swiss town.

Beautiful views while riding on a gondola.

Views while hiking up The Northface trail in Murren.

Gig’ em from Switzerland!

I feel like no one is always completely ready to participate in a semester exchange, or at least, you can never fully anticipate what will happen while you are there. Combined with Covid and Austria implementing relatively strict mandates, I can definitely get a little quiet sometimes. Compared to two-week excursions or small trips, in semester exchanges, you have so much more freedom. If you do not utilize this time, sometimes you may feel lost in what to do or see. For the first two or so months, I traveled to a new place every weekend and always did something new. However, around October, I slowed things down a little. My friends and I started to explore Vienna more and enjoy the local Austrian culture. In December, after going to London, a few of us got Covid, which messed up some plans. I did not have the chance to be able to go to Belgium for Christmas to see some family friends a second time. Even crazier, one of my friends missed his flight!

In the end, though, I wrapped up my semester with my family and girlfriend coming to see me in Austria. They came for around 10 days and spent New Year’s and a little bit of January with me. We traveled from Vienna to Prague and Budapest by train. I am so thankful that they had the chance to come and see me.

My girlfriend, Haeven, and I in front of the Gloriette in Schonbrunn.

My Mom and I enjoying views of Vienna!

My dad and Haeven enjoying a nice Kasekrainer (cheese hotdog of sorts) and a Gosser (my favorite local Austrian beer).

My mom taking in the sights of Salzburg, including the gate from A Sound of Music.

My parents and I enjoying the view from atop the Salzburg Castle.

My mom and Haeven on the Charles Bridge in Prague.

My brother Matthew and my dad and I in front of the House of Parliament in Budapest, Hungary.

Taking in the local attraction of Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest with my girlfriend and family.

Our group enjoying the sights and views of Prague on top of Prague Castle.

This was from my families’ last day in Vienna. Here we are in Belvedere Palace.

Altogether, my time in Vienna has come to an end. I am glad for everyone I had the pleasure of meeting while there and thankful for the experiences I made. I am ready to come back to College Station to finish out my college career. Thank you for reading my blog post!

A beautiful sunset from my first week back in College Station.