Austria, where Mozart was born and where you can have the best Sachertorte (chocolate cake) of your life. This country has 8.7 million people, and more than half of the land mass is covered by the Alps.
While studying abroad in Fall 2015, I lived in a city called Wiener Neustadt, which is a thirty-minute train ride from Vienna. My expectations before my exchange was that it would be a cooler climate with mountains surrounding the city, but I was wrong. It was hot and dry like Kamloops and had a small mountain in the very far distance on the horizon. Though I missed the mountains from home, the temperature was warmer than Canada and had one short snow fall that lasted an evening.
In my first month at FH Wiener Neustadt, the school organized a “Tour of Austria” trip for all the international students. This included stops in Innsbruck, Salzburg, and the beautiful Hallstatt. It was a great experience to not only see the other side of Austria but to learn about each of these historic cities on guided tours. Throughout the semester, my university arranged three other trips for all of the exchange students: white water rafting, boating excursion, and wienerschnitzel tasting at the Vienna Christmas markets.
One of the biggest differences I discovered was the university course schedule. Instead of having the same predictable class schedule every week, classes in Austria would be at different times of the day and different times of the month. An few examples would be that I had a class end after one month and another I had only three times the whole semester, each lasting eight hours each. This made planning trips sometimes tricky as everyone’s schedules did not always line up.
Learning German seemed daunting at first but with crash courses and real-life practice, it was easier than expected to pick up. German is a very structured language with clear pronunciations. After learning French all through high school and a summer working in Quebec, I found German much easier learn. Regarding communication, Austrians did not normally do “small talk” but they where always kind and friendly. However, worst-case scenario, many of the people you will meet will speak enough English for you to get by.
One of the many great aspects of studying abroad in Austria is how central it is in Europe. Travelling to surrounding countries was always a breeze and the airport, train station and bus terminal were just a short trip into Vienna. Throughout my own study abroad, I was able to visit nine countries during my four months stay: United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia.
Studying abroad was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so grateful that I was able to see Austria again this summer. The friends I have made at FH Wiener Neustadt will last me a lifetime.