Studying abroad was something I had wanted to do since I was a little kid. I was fortunate enough to go on a 17-day program to China when I was 13, and a week-long study abroad program to Belize when I was 18. Both of these trips helped me rid of any doubt that I could be immersed in a foreign culture for a long period of time. In fact, every time I had to leave I wanted to “miss” the plane. Another thing these two programs did for me was confirm that I wanted to do a longer study abroad program. I was late in the game, waiting until early March to search for summer programs (yikes). I found the program for Vienna and it seemed like all the stars aligned: I would have the opportunity to get back into German courses which I planned on doing in the Fall anyways, I had always wanted to visit a German speaking country, and the deadline to apply for the program had been extended twice. It just seemed like I was meant to do this program.
My Vienna experience was more than I could’ve imagined. I lived with a host family about 30 minutes outside of the city. Riding the U-Bahn for 30 minutes every day may not seem as convenient as living right near the city center, but it was a great way to master the U-Bahn system. In 5 weeks I felt like I knew how to get anywhere in the city with no hesitation (partly because I got lost so many times in the first three days). The Austro-American Institute was in the city center, right across from the State Opera. This was very convenient in that during breaks between classes or after our day was finished, we were right in the heart of the city. We could easily find food, museums, parks, shopping, or anything else our hearts desired. Vienna is the perfect hub: history of the Habsburgs, the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and many others, the art of Gustav Klimt, and the ENDLESS number of cafés. From the Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces to the mountaintop swimming pools, there is no shortage of beautiful scenery in Vienna.
After our first week of classes, we rode a bus for 4 hours to Prague, Czech Republic. I was excited for Prague, but didn’t know it would become my favorite city to visit. We did a walking tour of the entire city, learning a quick but in-depth history of Prague. Prague was beautiful, had a rich history, and had the best dessert I’ve ever had: trdelníks, or turtlenecks as we preferred to call them. While Prague was upbeat, our second organized trip to Salzburg was much more relaxed. Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, was a smaller city with a beautiful mountainous landscape. We made our way through multiple gardens, an art museum, and the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Salzburg was a continuous picturesque background. One of the most breathtaking experiences I’ve ever had was riding down a 2.2 kilometer alpine rail-slide. The freedom of the cart allowed for constantly blowing wind and the numerous mountains provided for a beautiful backdrop. During my two free weekends I was able to visit my family outside of London and also stay in Vienna for more exploration. I felt like the 5 week program allowed for a great balance of exploring Vienna while also being able to travel elsewhere in Europe.
When the program concluded, I wasn’t ready to come home.
I wanted to stay in Europe forever. The main thing I appreciated from this program was that it solidified my desire to live and work in Europe someday. I was fascinated by all of the different cultures that I was exposed to and felt comfortable living in a German-speaking city despite my basic knowledge of the language. While I hope to be back in Europe soon (or anywhere abroad for that matter), for now I am thankful for the opportunity to intern in the Auburn Abroad office. I am able to share my incredible experience with others while also assisting them in finding a program that is equally as life-changing.
Liberal Arts Summer Program in Vienna, Austria – Summer 2017