My first few weeks in Austria have been great! Vienna is such a beautiful city, and I’m so excited to get to spend the semester here. Thus far I have visited Budapest, Hallstatt, Bratislava, Graz, and Melk. I decided to get to Vienna early to have time to settle in and I am so glad I did. In that two week span I went on my first solo trip and made a friend on a free walking tour of Vienna. We ended up traveling together for the next 3 days! In the past 2 weeks I participated in WU’s Cultural Program, which I highly recommend. I made so many friends and learned so much about Vienna. For anyone studying as an exchange student at WU in the future, this program is a must!! Some of my favorite events of the program included visiting the Austrian National Library, tasting different foods from around the world at the international potluck, and taking tours of different museums and palaces.
Today I am off to London with two of my roommates, who are also from Texas A&M. So far my experience has been nothing short of amazing, and I’m so excited to see what this semester holds!!
As of today, its been three weeks since I landed in Houston. I am so excited to finally be able to see my family and friends after such a long and exciting time in Vienna.
I knew that reverse culture shock was to be expected, and I was actually looking forward to it! As soon as I got home I started my car and dusted off my driving skills, stalling out at stop signs along the way. After that I took a trip to HEB and gawked at the aisle sizes, cereal choices, and most importantly mourned Blue Bell. I didn’t expect myself to marvel at free ice water at restaurants, but I did.
What also hit me was the sadness of leaving behind great friends and places. Now, Facebook helps me watch their lives continue in every corner of the globe, some even found jobs and relationships to keep them in Vienna. The most important thing that I can always tell myself is how I am able to adapt to any city I move to.
Moving long distances or hearing different languages every hour of every day no longer gives me anxiety but instead gives me excitement because I know that there are so many opportunities to make connections with people. I’m even looking into job opportunities in the UK.
I hope you found some useful insight out of these sporadic posts… and if you’re ever in Vienna, please swing by Travel Shack and start a conversation. It was the best choice I’ve ever made.
Its so strange that I have less than a month left in Vienna. Classes are winding down and more friends are saying goodbye as they move back to all corners of the globe. This past month was filled with tests, presentations, and readings. I mainly stayed in Vienna and spent time with friends ticking off every item on our giant list. While I thought these last few weeks would be rough as great friends leave, I realized one thing. After only 5 months, I have friends all around the world! I can already see myself saying things like “My Dutch friends always say…” or “Brazilians love kebabs more than anybody” when I’m back in the states pestering my friends.
I miss the US so much…my dog, driving on long highways to name a few things. Nonetheless Vienna has felt more and more like a home with each passing day. Whether its walking through Karlsplatz after class, saying hallo to the the gelato vendor by Prater (who now knows me by name and knows my order, yikes), or even bumping into other exchange students in the merkur food market in Westbahnof. Everything is fitting into place and becoming comfortable.
This semi assimilation over the past few months has proved something to me. I’m capable of moving anywhere, and with time and effort I can make friends, appreciate the local culture, and enjoy the small things. This fact really puts my mind at ease when I think about interviewers asking me which office I would see myself at. The anxiety of moving across the country doesn’t even come compare to this experience, because I know that by getting through the tough first few weeks of this exchange I can handle any move. I’m definitely not the same person.
After my travels during spring break it was time for more courses; Marketing, Supply Chain, and Project Leadership. The professors continue to impress us with their careful attention to detail and positive attitude in the classroom. I’ve made sure to scope out some excellent study spots for typing papers while sipping traditional coffee in a spaceship like building (Learning Center, LC). Something that has been at the back of my mind for awhile now is who students from around the world study and how often they do so. Typically North American students take the “cram it all during the last week before the exam” approach, while many European students treat studying as a 9-5 job and use their time more evenly. I decided to alter my study habits to match my Austrian group members for the global marketing course and had a lot of positive experiences. It felt nice to not be in a library past sunset for once!
Coming back from my journey across the continent I also learned to appreciate Viennese culture more. It’s difficult to adequately describe this appreciation but I can say that how the Austrians treat each other, their business tasks, and how they go about their day make a lot more sense. For example, months ago my thought process throughout the day was “Whats the latest I can sleep in? Whats the quickest way to get from A to B? Why can’t I take this sandwich to-go??.” Now, its more like “I really feel like relaxing with some coffee for a few hours before class. I have 30 minutes before class starts lets walk through this park. Wow I can pronounce everything on this menu!” I was pleasantly surprised at this change of attitude to say the least. It only took a couple of American tourists mistaking me for a local for me to realize this.
After a week or so of classes after the break I got the opportunity to show my parents around this great city. I really began to appreciate this study abroad trip once I began taking them to all of my favorite spots and describing to them how much I had learned. They could clearly see that this trip has had a great impact on how I view everyday life. Seeing their faces light up once they stepped into the LC Library or sitting with them for their first Viennese Opera was very special. My father really admires these opportunities given to Mays students and we spent a lot of time discussing how A&M and especially Mays have expanded their international reach since his graduation from A&M in 1983.
Next month I’ll be wrapping up classes and finishing my Vienna bucket list!
Today is February 28th, and I have now been in Vienna, Austria for one month. Hopefully my blog will give you a good idea of what to expect in this city and the obstacles many face!
The days leading up to my departure from Houston were by far the most exciting/stressful/busy days I have ever had in my life. After I had filled out my visa paperwork, and stuffed my suitcase, I paid one last visit to Chipotle! I couldn’t believe I was about to spend the next 5 months in The City of Dreams.
When I first arrived in Vienna I was so taken aback by the differences. Austria is not what I excepted, it is much more of a cultural melting pot than I previously thought! My apartment is a modern 4 bedroom unit with a shared kitchen (I have three other roommates). Luckily, It is only a two minute walk to Westbahnof, a large shopping center and train station. From here I am able to quickly access the U3 and U6 subway lines…putting the entire city within reach! I spent much of my first day with major jet lag. I was so stressed with all of paperwork given to me; registration with the city, visa formalities, lease paperwork, etc.
Overall and with everything considered, my first impression of Vienna was positive. First things first, the food here is crazy good. I can’t put into words how amazing walking through a bakery after being on a plane for 9 hours is! The people are definitely not as friendly as Texas, but I expected this so I’m not surprised. A good example of this is at restaurants, where instead of the customer being king, the waiter is in fact the king. Most of the time you will only see a waiter when it is time to order, and pay. This brings me to my next realization: Payment. You would think that in a large European city in 2015 people would mostly pay with card, right? Not really, everyone prefers cash. Cards are almost always accepted, but not without a frown and a sigh from your waitress or cashier. This is going to take some getting used to.
Differences and initial stress aside, I am very excited to explore this area for the next five months. I have already meet some amazing people in my orientation group, as well as done some pretty cool things. Attended a masked ball in Hofburg Palace, Stood on the summit of Der Untersberg in Salzburg, tasted over 200 variations of chocolate at Zotter Chocolate factory, and ate goulash in Bratislava, just to name a few. As this blog continues, I will share how I am adjusting, how classes are once the semester starts, and what I am learning.
It’s been nearly a month since I arrived in the city of Wien, Austria and I couldn’t be more in love. I am nearly accustomed to the Europeans use of military time and the metric system and it’s beginning to feel more of home than vacation. My university, Wirtschaftuniversitat (or WU for short), has a helpful exchange program called the Erasmus Buddy Network. My buddy, Thomas, picked me up from the airport as soon as I arrived and took me straight to my dorm. It was such a relief. The first day or so after arriving was not an easy adjustment. I had no data plan on my phone, no wifi in my dorm, and no idea where anything or who anyone was. However connecting with the other A&M students and taking full advantage of the programs the school offers were the two best things I did to begin to feel more comfortable.
The best part about the program here is the month long orientation. Before classes start it helps you make friends, travel throughout Austria, and immerse yourself better into the Viennese culture. We got to tour the Austrian parliament, city hall, Musikverein, the Belvedere and Schonbrunn palaces as well as travel outside of the city. So, while I haven’t been expected to hit the books until early March I’ve been able to meet most of my classmates and get accustomed to the location very quickly!
The three hardest adjustments have been:
1) The public transportation system! It is very extensive and complicated. But, when you figure it out every where you want to go is within reach and at most times of the day.
2) Store hours! Do not remember you need to pick up something from the store any time after 8pm because that is the absolute latest you will find something open and even that is much later than a lot of stores. On Sundays, everything shuts down. However I’ve noticed people are much less rushed and expected to get things done now as a result of this.
3) Interaction with strangers and speaking quietly. Americans are so loud and when you get a group of us together I am sure all of the locals wish they had earplugs. Also, smiling at strangers in the streets will get you looks and you won’t hear any sort of apology for being bumped into. People keep to themselves a lot. Plus, the language barrier. Yes – everyone knows English. No – not everyone wants to speak it. Plus, most menus, maps, instructions, ingredients, etc are completely in German. I’m learning quicker than I expected but do wish I came with a better knowledge of the language.
However the three easiest adjustments were:
1) How incredibly beautiful everything is. Imagine walking out of your dorm, down the street, and all of a sudden you are presented with a palace or castle-like building with history that dates back farther than America has even seen.
2) The food. Kebaps, Krapfens, Schnitzel, Sachertorte . For the most part it is also incredibly cheap!
3) How new and unique the culture is. I’ve enjoyed getting a taste of how to live differently than I ever have before and it’s taught me more than I could have imagined. It’s hard to explain exactly what is different but seeing how differently the locals live gives you a new sense of perspective.
Some of the things we’ve gotten to experience include day trips to the city of Linz, and my favorite, the gorgeous city of Graz. Both of these cities won Europe’s cultural capital sometime in the last decade. We got to climb to the top of a mountain coined “castle on the hill” and see where Arnold Schwarznegger’s favorite sausage stand was. We also visited a chocolate factory called Zotter where we were given the chance to sample every single kind of chocolate they made (I believe that was 160 varieties). It was a unique company – they also had a petting zoo out back.
I also got to experience a classic Viennese ball. Ball season ends around this time however we were lucky enough to find a masquerade at the Hofburg palace. This is an experience I would recommend for everyone staying in Vienna. There were several rooms with different music including a saxophone player, American music, classical music, and so much more! I got to see and experience a few of the traditional dances and ceremonies including a demasking at midnight (I got stuck in the middle of this one and I had no idea what to do – people were not amused).
However, hands-down the most fun thing we have gotten to experience is Night-Sledding. We actually sledded down a mountain and the views were breath taking.
I’ve already learned a lot living in Europe for this amount of time and have quickly realized studying here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I still can’t believe I live in a city where cathedrals and palaces are just around the corner. In the city there is always something going on and I would go as far as to say I’ve forgotten what boredom feels like. It’s even more mind blowing that because of this location I can do things like buy a train ticket to Venice, Italy for the weekend or plan an Easter Break trip to 5 different countries.