Austria | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Howdy, my name is Zachary Schwertner and I am studying at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) for the semester. These past two weeks have been absolutely crazy but in a fantastic way. It has been a great change of pace getting out of College Station and making my way down to Vienna, the capital of Austria. My first few days were hectic, adventurous, and full of new lessons. I visited most of the tourist locations, like the famous Schönbrunn Palace, The Hofburg, and the massive Prater park. Still, I find it hard to believe that I will be spending my next four months here. Here are a few pictures:The Hofburg A street view of St. Stephen's Cathedral Schonbrunn Palace Gardens View of the Gloriette from the gardens of Schnbrunn Me in front of the Gloriette Friends and I in front of famous fountain

From my limited time here, I have gotten to meet some of the students that go to WU (pronounced VU). Mostly, they are all part of the Erasmus Buddy Network, an organization that helps incoming exchange students acclimate to life in their new environment. Everyone that I have met is super friendly and nice. Through meeting them, I have met several other exchange students from around the world. I have formed a close group with some people and we plan on traveling a lot and just doing a lot of things. I am looking forward to all that will come!

As for actual school, my university does not start until October 1st. It is weird seeing friends back home already in class and about to have their first test. However, I have still had the chance to go to the university, as it is only a 20-minute commute away (which is honestly not that much time at all in Vienna). The campus is beautiful, the people are lovely, and I am very much looking forward to the school year.

Campus

Reminiscing on the differences between my life at Texas A&M and my life here in Vienna, there are a lot of things to say. Firstly, while missing home, I am still so thankful and glad to be here exploring this amazing city, experiencing Austrian culture, and meeting these unique and friendly people. There is a whole other world out there than College Station, Texas, and the U.S.A. Every day, I find myself comparing Austria and the U.S., but truthfully, it’s really hard to put into words. Sure, everybody speaks German here, eats different food, does different daily activities, and uses amazing public transportation to get around. However, honestly, there is just a lot more than that. Some things just have to be figured out by actually going there and living. I encourage everyone who is reading this who has the opportunity to study abroad to do it. Go to new places, meet new people, and find out yourself how rewarding it can be.

Innsbruck famous houses

 

 

Categories: 2021, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

When I first arrived to Vienna, Austria I first noticed how beautiful all the architecture was and how great the transportation system was to get from one place to another. The buddy program I signed up for through an EBN program helped significantly and made my move in process much more smoothly.  After a couple of days I noticed culturally, the people here are much more laid back and are able to split their work versus relax time very well. After talking with a few European students I also found out their schooling system was much different. For example, it is mandatory for almost all students to take three languages, English, German, and another of their choice. This was something that I personally wish the United States also did.

Categories: 2021, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

As I packed for my trip, I was quite nervous and filled with uncertainty. I would ask myself, “What lays ahead of me in Vienna, Austria?” However, all of my worry vanished as soon as I saw the beautiful city of Vienna. It’s one thing to see the city from pictures online (which I definitely Googled more than once), but once I was here in person, I could not be more happy to call this my new home.

I might be biased, but Vienna is the best city I have visited so far. I have gone on many trips already and have loved many other cities, but Vienna, with its great transportation system, beautiful churches, architecture, and a never ending supply of things to do, it definitely takes the top of my list. There is a certain way of life here that is just very relaxing and peaceful.

The university in Vienna is a big reason of why I wanted to come here. Its modern architecture is a contrast to the older buildings that make up most of Vienna. One step inside the library and you will think you are in a spaceship. Classes have just begun, but so far the academics here seems top notch and I am ready to challenge myself and learn how to confront problems with an international point of view.

The most important aspect of this trip has been the people I have met. The world seems so much bigger after meeting students from all parts of the globe, yet, at the same time, smaller because we are all like minded in wanting to create a better future for ourselves and others. It can be a little embarrassing, though, when I only know one language and everyone around me knows two or three. One of my favorite moments so far was when we began playing a game of Scrabble and someone asked, “What language are we playing in?” A tell tale tell sign that I was no longer in America.

This trip so far has been exactly what I needed: some time away from my comfort zone. I knew before I left that I would face challenges, take on new responsibilities, and even fail sometimes. But that is exactly why I am here. Growth comes from failure and experiencing new things, and while I have only been here a month, I feel more confident in myself and I am excited to see what experiences lie ahead.

Categories: 2020, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange


Billy Joel was right! It seems “Vienna [has been waiting] for me” my entire life. I listened to his song every day leading up to this trip in hopeful anticipation. Though my life had already begun, going abroad felt like a new beginning. I was about to spread my wings and waltz from my comfortable little nest into a life of spontaneity, discovery and well, lots of coffee. I was so excited! How could I not be? I was also equally nervous. While I didn’t have any expectations of what it would be like, the thought of moving to a country I’d never been to, not knowing German and planning how I’d balance school and traveling seemed both challenge and an opportunity for exponential growth.

The city of Vienna quickly become my home. I told my mom on day two that “I was a local” because I had figured out how to use the public transportation system; something I’ve never used before in the U.S. While Vienna is a large city, it welcomed me with a warm invitation and cozy cafes. It is easy to wander off on foot and spontaneously discover your new favorite coffee shop or kebab stand. The city takes your breath away with its beautiful architecture and historical stories. You really learn to appreciate beauty on a whole new level studying abroad, especially here in Vienna. What I love most is wandering around the city without a destination. Having no obligation to go or be anywhere is the most freeing thing I’ve experienced. Life as an Austrian involves taking time to be present and enjoy life. Spending Sunday strolling around the city and hopping around cafés till you are coffee-d out. To my surprise, Austrians walk unusually fast. Make sure to stand on the right side of the elevator or get out of the way when someone is exiting the subway. During my time here, I’ve learned how to speak a couple of phrases in German, navigate the city, throw together spontaneous travel trips real quick, be content with independence and silence and soak in all the gifts Europe continues to reveal each day. 

This past month, I’ve spent most of my time traveling and meeting people from around the world through an orientation and culture program offered through my university. It’s been so eye-opening and exciting to hear about the lives of other students. While so different, I felt a sense of unity between us and was excited to learn more about the rest of the world through students who were experiencing studying abroad as I was. Our campus, called “WU” houses the most modern buildings I’ve ever seen. I could study anywhere, but only at WU would I get an education on the set of something between The Hunger Games and Star Trek. Classes have only just begun and the workload seems heavier than I expected but nonetheless I am excited to work with my group project. We are all from a different country, how cool is that!!

This trip has been an opportunity of a lifetime, my greatest joy and everlasting memory! Don’t hesitate to live a full life. Buy that ticket, learn a new language and spread your wings – see where the wind takes you.

Our campus!

Learning to waltz with my orientation group!

Schönbrunn Palace

 

Exploring the city of Vienna and it’s history

If I could describe my experience so far through one photo, this would be it. 🙂

Friends from around the world!

Categories: 2020, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

I got to Vienna about a month ago and this past month has just flown by! I can’t believe I get to live in this beautiful city for about another four months. Vienna is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Vienna is full of life at all hours of the day. There are always people socializing and enjoying their families. It is also much colder than Texas, so I was not as prepared for the wind and cold temperatures that Vienna had to offer. On the bright side, Vienna has excellent shopping!

I am living in one of the student apartments/dorms, and it was a great decision. My apartment is in a fantastic location. It is next to the subway, the train station, a mall, shopping, and tons of restaurants and grocery stores. I live about a block away from the entrance to the subway, which makes it incredibly easy to get around Vienna quickly. The beauty of the subway in Vienna is that it covers the vast majority of the city, and whatever area isn’t covered by the subway is covered by trams and buses. There is really no need for a car here in Vienna, which I find to be a great perk of choosing Vienna.

The Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) campus is very unique! Almost every building has a different style of architecture. The campus is very easy to walk around. I have not started any classes yet; However, I am looking forward to my international classes so that I can meet students from many different countries.

Living in Vienna has made me become more resourceful, especially because I do not know German. It has been fun learning how to use google translate in the grocery store and almost everywhere else. Life in Vienna is very relaxed, in my opinion, which is very refreshing to the busy lifestyle in the United States. It has been great being able to fully embrace the Austrian culture, even if it has just been a month so far. I genuinely do love Vienna and would not be against ever living here in the future. For me, getting to know the locals and other international students has been the best part of this experience. I have been able to learn about different cultures and I have made new friends from all parts of the world.

Austria as a whole, is so beautiful! I have been able to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck, which are two breathtaking mountain towns! The mountains were covered in snow and very beautiful. Innsbruck was great because it was a smaller town than Salzburg, but very full of life. I had no idea there was a festival in the center of Innsbruck when I arrived, but it was just a couple of blocks away from my Airbnb. It was awesome to see so many people enjoying the mountains and life! Salzburg was just as beautiful. I am a huge Sound of Music fan, so being able to see spots from the movie has been a lifelong dream of mine!! It was everything I expected it would be and more!

Lastly, one more great perk about living in Vienna is how central it is within Europe. I have been able to go to Budapest, Brno, Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Bratislava, and I will be going to Copenhagen and Prague this week! Flights, trains and buses all go out of Vienna in about every direction. Studying abroad in Vienna is a great choice if you are looking for a country that is easy to travel out of. I am really looking forward to the rest of this semester and for more adventures in Austria. Thanks for reading!

Stephanie Chavez

Categories: 2020, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

I’m writing this post curled up in my house in Houston, Texas. After 3 1/2 months abroad it is really nice to be home with family and friends but there is still a part of me that longs to be back in Vienna. After getting home I had time to reflect on my time abroad and I can’t help but smile and get a little nostalgic. People say that studying abroad changes you but I never thought it would change me in all the ways that it did.

Studying abroad gave me a new found passion to travel – I discovered new cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. I had the opportunity to travel to seven different countries while studying abroad. I went to France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia & Czech Republic. It opened my eyes to all the different cultures there are in this world, I not only am dying to go back to Europe but I would love to explore places like Asia or South America. I feel as though we often get so caught up being American or even Texas A&M culture that we forget all that is out there. It also made me realize I would much rather spend my money on experiencing what this world has to offer rather than spending money on temporary materialistic things. Don’t get me wrong, I still love shopping and getting a cute new outfit, but there is so much more out there. Spending money on experiences will last a lifetime, the materialistic things only bring temporary happiness.

While studying abroad at WU, I met so many amazing people. I was expecting a lot more people from America if I’m being honest. But I was pleasantly surprised at how many people weren’t from America. I made friends from Ireland, Japan, Hong Kong, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Israel, and so many more amazing countries. I loved sitting down and comparing the two countries, talking everything from politics to day to day life. It was fascinating and everyone was so intrigued that I was from Texas. I was asked quite a bit why I didn’t have an accent, but I was made fun of because I said y’all (I don’t think I can ever not say y’all, it’s pretty much engraved into my head forever). I loved learning about peoples beliefs and religions, everyone was so respectful of each other which was really refreshing. In America a lot of times it seems as though no matter what your views are on (especially in politics), there is someone bashing you for your beliefs. In Austria everyone is quite respectful no matter what you believe.

Another thing that I wasn’t expecting to learn was how environmentally friendly everyone was in Austria. Mostly everyone recycles, stores don’t even carry plastic bags (you have to pay for paper bags, but most people bring reusable bags) and there is less waste overall. I even went to a Fridays for Future climate strike inspired by Greta Thunberg. It was so cool seeing people from all ages and life come and meet up for one special cause.

I loved that studying abroad made me become more independent. I always liked to think of myself as an independent person, as in I could go to the grocery store by myself or run errands by myself. After being abroad I truly believe that I became independent and confident in myself. I spent a lot of my days commuting and doing things randomly by myself. Yes of course I made friends and spent a lot of time with them, but the everyday things I learned to love to do myself. I lived in a 2 bedroom dorm with my friend Danielle (we got so close through study abroad and I know we will be life long friends, already planning a reunion). Our school schedules were sadly pretty much the opposite, whenever she was gone I was home and vice versa – therefore the everyday commute, the everyday breakfast and lunch was primarily spent alone. I learned to love doing things by myself. I became so much more confident from the first time walking the city alone to the last time walking the city alone. I remember thinking about 2 weeks in from starting studying abroad that I would never be able to understand the city without a map and someone by my side, by the last month or so I could pretty much go anywhere without my phone or someone by side.

There is something so freeing about being able to get around a somewhat unknown city without anyone’s help – including my phone. One of my favorite things about doing things alone was truly being able to experience the city, the people and the culture. Sometimes whenever you’re around people you get distracted and can talk about random things and not truly embrace what you’re looking at, but when you’re alone you can embrace every little thing. You notice the details and you feel like a local.

I took my first solo day trip to Salzburg which was easily one of my favorite travel experiences while abroad. I woke up about 5 a.m and lugged my giant backpack and my to-go coffee I bought the night before and walked to the train station. The train ride was about 4 hours or so from Vienna and I loved looking around and seeing who was on the train. I remember it was a pretty vacant ride but I definitely saw lots of Austrian natives, business men and women and a few small families. Life in Austria is at a much slower pace than America, although they get things done everything is less stressful there. After the train ride I got off and explored Salzburg on foot, which was incredible. It was such a beautiful little city. I ate lunch alone and got a coffee and talked with the owner of the food place. Although every once in a while I’d get stares that I was alone – I genuinely didn’t care because I was in Salzburg drinking a cappuccino embracing my the experience. I will forever want to go to back to that blissful moment. I also did the Sound of Music Tour which was my childhood dream! It was amazing and I ended up meeting two incredible girls who we ended up having mutual friend. I also sat next to a sweet mother next to me which we talked most of the time talking about what the almost 55 year old movie meant to each of us. It was truly such a special trip and I loved that I had that experience to myself. Don’t get me wrong I love traveling with people and gaining that experience with someone, but doing something alone and figuring everything out for yourself is truly so special.

(Picture of Vienna Christmas Markets -people travel from all over the world to come these famous markets!)

I am beyond lucky to have been able to study abroad I truly believe that this past semester has and will forever shape who I am. Being abroad will forever inspire me to evolve, learn, grow and never stay consistent. I will forever want to travel and meet people and learn cultures, there is so much more out there than we know.

I am so thankful that A&M allowed me to study abroad this past fall. I will forever hold the memories I made, the lessons I learned, and the people I met so close to my heart. Vienna will forever be a home away from home and I am looking forward to the day that I can return to the beautiful city of music. Until next time Vienna. Auf Wiedersehen Wien ♡.

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

“How was your study abroad?” “Oh my gosh that’s so cool, what was it like?” “What are some of your favorite memories?”

I have been pressed with a stampede of questions about my study abroad since my return to the States, and I have given a plethora of answers. However, I think it is likely that I may never find the words or even formulate a cohesive mental conclusion to such a wild episode of my life.

If you are reading this, you are probably either part of the faculty that helped make this adventure possible or you are a student considering whether a journey similar is the right thing for you. I sadly can’t give either party a full mental picture of my experience, but hopefully a snippet of a mental picture and a few real pictures will give deeper insight into what my experience abroad looked and felt like.

Here is my campus:

Beautiful right? My time spent on campus was limited but I view it fondly. The quaint little coffee shop (out of frame on the left of both images) was the writing place of my previous blog post and the mission zone of most of my projects.

School was less than arduous, which is how it should be. This gave me time to travel and visit 13 countries.

If you are part of the latter party on here looking for advice, let me key you in on Colton’s #1 tip: Go somewhere different.

Yes, go to the popular places and see the things that everyone sees for a reason, but consider taking one or maybe a few trips to places that aren’t exactly popular.

Here are some images of my “less seen, but all the more beautiful” spots.

A couple classics:

One of my coolest experiences while in Vienna was being able to witness history unfold as Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon under two hours! Wild right? The crazy thing is, it was on my way to class!

As I ponder that last photograph, I think about how I feel right about now. To be completely honest, I don’t feel like Eliud. I do not have this great sense of completion and accomplishment. What I am feeling is more like what he was probably thinking at the start of his two hour feat. I am feeling like my legs are just warming up to cultural understanding. Spending a semester is well worth the sacrifice (and it is a sacrifice) because I do not think another length of time is going to even get the proverbial clock started.

If you are on the fence, if you are a Christian like me, pray about it. If you’re not a Christian like me, consider praying about it.

I am immensely blessed to be able to use one of my God given abilities (taking pictures) to capture many of the different canvases He painted. The crazy part is, there is so much more. Studying abroad has given me a deeper, yet still incomprehensible, understanding of the breadth of this world. I am so humbled by this world. It is big. I am small. I like it that way now.

Till next time,
Colton Shorman

@cshormy

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

I write sitting in a quaint coffee shop located on the stunning campus of Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien or WU. This is the largest business school in Europe and revered amongst Europe to be an incredible place to garner an education. With that being said, I have yet to really experience being a student on this modern campus, because even though it is October, I started class yesterday! Consequently, this blog is going to be a bit different.

The past few weeks have been filled with traveling and making friends here in beautiful Austria.

My trip to Austria was preceded by exploring the country of Iceland. Because I was flying to Europe anyways, I figured I would take advantage of WU’s late start time and do a little bit of wandering before landing. I am a photographer but taking photos in Iceland is so easy anyone who takes a picture looks like a DSLR champion. My incredible companion John Burke (who’s insightful experience is readable a few posts earlier) and I decided to camp through the chilly September nights. Needless to say, Iceland has its name for a reason, and I quickly learned that I do not have the insulation of a polar bear. Despite the chilly nights, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to take photos in a place that I used to only dream of going to. This would not have been possible if I stayed in comfortable College Station.

After the wheels of my Austrian Airlines Jet scraped the foreign pavement of the Viennese airport, I was quickly integrated into the Cultural Program. The program is sort of like Howdy week, but a lot less “red-ass”. If you are reading this and planning on hopping over the big pond (the ocean) to Vienna, then I definitely recommend spending the money for this program. It has been the main source of my friendships here and we did tours of places and cities I would not have done otherwise, but nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed. Like, would you think of booking tickets for a bird show in Melk? Didn’t think so.

Once the program ended, I felt like I was starting to get a grip on the city, but you’re only in Europe once. So, I have tried to travel a good amount. Now, as I mentioned before, I am a photographer, and my travel agenda looks a bit different than most people’s here. I love beautiful cities, experiencing culture, and eating different foods as much as the next guy, but if you put a ticket in my hand…my plane is taking me to the rural regions of God’s green earth. I have some pretty exciting plans lined up and in the works for this semester but have already seen some sweet places.

Last weekend I was able to go to the Zillertäl with a friend and hike up to a hut in the range. Our journey began with me taking to long gathering my equipment at our train stop and gazing at my friend zoom by on the platform as I was still on the train (going the wrong way now). It took me about an hour to get back, but what’s a journey without some surprises? Speaking of surprises, our steep climb began with incredible cloudy skies and pleasant weather, but as we approached the latter third of the hike it started snowing. And when I say snowing, I mean we were in a blizzard the White Witch from Narnia would be proud of. I almost lost a couple fingers from frostbite and was loving the squishing of my cold wet socks as we crested the mountain (remember when I said my agenda looked a little different?). Pictured is a good doggo thriving even amidst the storm.

We made this journey with an Indian man named Harsh who loved taking phone pictures and commenting, with a thick accent, on how the hike was more like “the world’s tallest staircase”. We stayed the night and I woke up to capture the sunrise, and boy was it worth it. Below you can see a picture from this surreal moment, with Harsh in frame.

We then hiked down the mountain with new friends: Harsh, Fatai (from South Africa), Latta (from Finland), and Christine (from Russia). I share this story to show how the preliminary parts of this study abroad have been regularly filled with people from radically different locations. Somehow moments like this are normal over here. Getting to know others from some of the craziest places is part of my daily routine, and that is not just in the Austrian Alps, the cultural program is called the “cultural” program for a reason. Getting to know people from all around the globe has been the most unique parts of my study abroad experience thus far.

In Iceland I shook hands with Josh, a glacier guide who used to mush dogs in Norway. In Zillertäl my shoulder felt the enthusiastic grasp of Harsh as he expressed his delight in having a traveling companion. I recently greeted my Italian friend Elena: one kiss on the left cheek and another on the right (I was then warned that the Spanish do it the opposite way, which could humorously and embarrassingly result in a kiss on more than just the cheek). Within my first month of being here, I have greeted kind hearts from at least 27 different countries, yes, I counted. And even though I have encountered drastic differences in lifestyle, beliefs and personality I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t at least say hello. Although approached differently, the meaning rarely changes. Whether it’s the popular German “Guten Tag,” Dutch “Hallo,” or a kiss on the cheek, I hear people saying: “I see you, despite our differences.” So in the spirit of seeing the world and the people in it, Shalom from Vienna.

Here’s to seeing others,
Colton Shorman
@cshormy

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

Guten Tag from Vienna, Austria!

My name is Dione Del Signore and this fall I am studying abroad in the beautiful city of Vienna. I arrived September 11th and have already made so many memories and friends. I flew from Houston to London and had about a 3 hour layover in Heathrow Airport. I thought that it would be the perfect amount of time to sit down, rest, maybe grab a coffee, a snack and wonder around for a little. I of course wanted to try the over-priced coffee in the airport. I was so excited to try a latte I didn’t even realize that the barista didn’t push the lid all the way down so I spilled a good amount of my latte ALL over my white shirt. It wasn’t a drop or two, it was probably three tablespoons. I looked around and of course a few people saw me which was quite embarrassing. So I grabbed my backpack, my carry on luggage, my water bottle and my phone and went to the bathroom to try and get it out. After that failed, my only option was to buy an overpriced t-shirt. I then realized I had no money (pounds) after going to the restroom again I then had a realization that I had my carry on luggage with extra shirts. I laughed at myself for stressing over finding a shirt when I was carrying about 10 of them the entire time. After all of that my flight was about to board, so I didn’t get to grab a bite to eat. When arriving in Vienna I had quite a bit of culture shock right away. Trying to find my luggage, finding where to be picked up and even finding the bathroom was a struggle. After a few hiccups after arriving I was picked up by a driver who gave me my keys to my apartment and drove me straight there. The drive there was about 30 minutes. The car driver had no AC in the car and the driver didn’t even roll down the windows (even when I asked politely). I hadn’t eaten in about 7 hours and was running only on small the small amount of caffeine from my latte that I had earlier spilled all over myself. I was exhausted, hungry and was about to meet my new roommate!

I didn’t know my roommate going in to study abroad–other than a few Facebook messages and following each other on Instagram. Right away I knew that we were going to get along very well. She helped me bring my big suitcases up into our new apartment and we walked into our new little home together. The apartment is nothing spectacular, the kitchen doesn’t have an oven only a stove and a microwave. The cabinets are bright orange. Even though the apartment wasn’t the “Pinterest” board apartment we all dream of living in, I think I like it more that way. Because it isn’t the coziest or cutest dorm it makes us get out of our rooms and explore the city! Danielle and I promised each other right away that we weren’t going to be those students that spend all of their time in their room on their phones or watching Netflix. We were going to make the most of every second in this beautiful city! We have kept that promise so far. I am so lucky that Danielle and I are roommates, we get along so well and we are on the same page about everything. We want to cook at home when we can to save money (Vienna isn’t the cheapest place to eat, however we have found a few great cheap spots to eat when we don’t want to cook). We both like to workout so we went on a run together and did a mini-workout. We shopped at the grocery store together, using our Google Translate app to help us discover what all of the unknown German labels mean. We figured out how to get around the city together, getting a phone plan, finding our University together and much more. I don’t think that my transition to living abroad would have been nearly as easy if I didn’t have her by my side!

I have not been in Vienna for 15 days and everyday I still get giddy over the beauty of this city. Vienna was rated the #1 place to live in the world for highest quality of living., which I can agree with 100% so far. The architecture, the history and the weather are all things that Vienna is known for. However, a few random things that I noticed after a few days is how safe the city is. Coming from Houston, Texas it isn’t the safest city in the world by any means. Walking alone at night is pretty much the worst thing you can do. Here in Vienna I have never felt so safe in a city. Even walking alone at night I feel safe which is one of the craziest things being a woman from America. The public transportation here is amazing as well. We got a train card right away which is pretty much your ticket around the city. The ticket along with an app called MOOVIT has made it such an easy transition. I can get around the city quickly and it’s pretty much free (our public transportation ticket was $75 for the semester). My favorite way to get around the city is walking. I love discovering new beautiful streets, cafes and random little shops. Especially with the beautiful weather, its been in the 60-70’s. Vienna is also known for their coffee and pastries which makes it really hard to not stop everyday and grab a coffee. Every once in a while I’ll treat myself, but if I were to do that everyday I would quickly be broke.

Lastly, Vienna is one of the cleanest cities I have ever been to. I have yet to smell trash, see trash on the street or even just see someone litter. The subways are clean, the restaurants are clean and even the bathrooms are clean!

By the way, I am currently in a coffee shop with a beautiful view. It is currently 66 degrees and sunny. The weather is incredible and I don’t want it to change!

 

Last weekend I took my first trip to Budapest. I didn’t know too much about Budapest before going. We pretty much saw that tickets were 30 euros and hostels were $13 a night and booked our trip. It was one of the best and spontaneous trips I’ve ever taken!

Budapest is known for their thermal baths, we went to these baths for about 17 euros! It was one of the most relaxing experiences ever. It is kind of weird to be in a giant “bath” with hundreds of people but it was great. The baths were really hot and they had incredible saunas as well.  I highly recommend going if you ever get the chance. Especially after walking a combined total of about 15 miles in two days.

 

 

Fisherman’s Bastion and the Freedom Bridge.

If you ever get the chance go to Freedom bridge at nighttime, DO IT! You will be be amazed by the beauty. That view could never get old.

I don’t start school until October 9th, which is amazing. It’s giving me time to meet new people, explore the city, do the cultural program, and of course take weekend trips like this last one I did to Budapest. Vienna is a very central location so you can take bus/train/airplanes for quite cheap. I booked a ticket to Venice, Italy for tomorrow night–we’re going on a night train for 12 hours to Venice. It might be a little uncomfortable being on a train for 12 hours straight, but I know it will be worth it. Plus, we couldn’t pass up the price of bus tickets and the AirBnBs.

I look forward to writing more about my experience abroad, so far the past 2 weeks have been some of the most fulfilling weeks of my life. There have been a few hard times like missing our bus to Budapest by 2 minutes and a few unexpected expenses, but overall it has been an easier transition than I imagined. I am so glad that I picked Vienna as my home for the next 3 months, I can’t wait for all the adventures that this beautiful city holds.

Bis Bald!

-Dione

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

One should never disregard an opportunity presented for an adventure. After all, you never know where it might take you until after you’re at the end!

It is a challenge to put into words the exact feeling which stirs in oneself and pushes those certain individuals to travel. Certainly, it is not present in everyone. Nor would this make sense for it to be: for this would encroach on the individuality of a human. But nevertheless, it is just this desire which has drawn me away to explore a new country and embrace a new culture in an environment which I would have never before imagined finding myself in.

Before my departure, people who heard of my activities for this upcoming year were so impressed by the exact place I was going. While I have no desire to take away from the grandeur of starting completely fresh in another place with a brand new culture, I think it is key to note that what has impressed itself most upon me in the short time I have been away from the States are the people whom I have encountered.

I believe that in my mind I am only now beginning to grasp the realization that my subconscious has been hinting at this entire time: studying abroad is not so much about the place or exactly what you do or where you go; it’s about the experience and what makes it for you.

I have now been in Vienna, Austria for just shy of a full week. This is following a week-long venture along the South and East coasts of Iceland en route to my Fall destination. In a city such as this [Vienna], it takes less than a day for one to come to the realization that they cannot possibly soak in all this city has to offer in a mere semester; or a year; or perhaps even a lifetime.

This place is one of culture and history. But perhaps the most enchanting part of it all is, even tracing back through the lineages of rulers and battles, the history is not stagnant but is, in fact, taking place on these very grounds which have served as the setting for conflict and compromise for hundreds of years before us.

Austria is a place which celebrates its rich history while embracing the onset of the future. Walking through the streets of the city center, it is impossible not to stop for a few moments and stare in awe at the brilliantly patterned roof of Stephan’s Cathedral, the millions of books stored in the Austrian National Library—some of which date back to the 1500’s!—or the unique combination of Baroque and Gothic era architecture which line the city streets.

Vienna is a grand place: but it doesn’t rely on a single strength to carry itself—it gives you a full sampling and then asks you what you would like more of. Whether it be food, culture, or simply a good place to get some work done, Vienna has something for everyone.

Contributing to what makes this city consistently one of the most liveable in the world is its vast amount of green space (over 51%!). Unlike… certain places (cough, A&M), during the warm summer months leading up to cold, white winters, locals and tourists alike can be found laid out on bright green park grass all over Vienna soaking in the day and the atmosphere. This is just what a couple of friends and myself indulged ourselves in during our first weekend here.

Life here is enriching. With an open mind, nothing seems out of reach.

The majority of people here live ordered lives. However, one should never count a Viennesian out when planning an adventure….

The easily accessible countryside makes day hiking (or, in German, ‘wandern’) incredibly accessible and popular. What better way to clear one’s mind than to take a train ride to the Austrian Alps and spend a day traversing the winding trails! Even if one does not wish to or have the time to travel to one of the nearby villages, there are also plenty of opportunities within the city itself such as visits to the Tiergarten Schönbrunn—the oldest zoo in the world—, wandering around the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, or even a quick visit to Prater Park (which is conveniently located less than 5 minutes walking from my flat!).

I do not know what the remainder of my semester here will hold: but I am looking forwards to a great many more adventures.

From walking through streets laced with history and music, to laying in a park on a warm sunny day, or exploring a neighboring town to hike through vineyards and taste the local wine, Vienna has no shortage of places to fill ones heart, mind, and stomach.

My words cannot possibly paint a nice enough picture for the mind and my ramblings cannot come close to capturing the essence of the adventures I have had here in such a short span of time; but one can be sure that even when caught in the midst of those times which may seem overwhelming, a bit of a desire for adventure and a willingness to step out into the unknown can sweep one away on an unforgettable and completely worthwhile experience.

Wherever a person finds themselves, there will inevitably be challenges which will rise up to face them. These obstacles may be big, they may even seem insurmountable at times.

However, it is at such times as these that the words of Tom Hanks seem most prevalent: “If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” -A League of Their Own

No one promised an easy ride and no one is promising a smooth one—but it’s the bumps in the road and the perseverance through them that are what make memories. It’s the hint of sour that brings out the sweetness in life.

Any major change in a person’s life—an exchange semester most certainly included—will certainly come with its challenges.  This presents an incredible opportunity to overcome.

My journey abroad still has quite a ways to go. It has already had its own portion of challenges and triumphs. But wherever the road takes me, I will do my best to live in the moment, to love the life I’m living, and to look forwards to the next opportunity—whatever it may be. Don’t sell yourself short when your greatest adventure may be the one waiting just over the next hill!

The Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace

 

A Quaint Church in the middle of a Vineyard hike

 

Castle in Leobendorf

 

I guess there’s this too…. (St. Stephen’s Cathedral)

 

A shot from our bird show near Leobendorf

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange