Written by: Callie Prince (History, Class of 2017)
I was in High School when I decided that I wanted to study abroad. I had just returned from a Holocaust Study Tour, a trip that still inspires me today when I knew I had to travel again when I finally got to college. I wanted to climb to the top of the Acropolis, to walk around the Colosseum, and to even take a picture on the garden in front of the Eifel Tower. It was not until I arrived in Vienna International Airport, however, with my life fit into three bags, that I suddenly realized I had not thought about what it would be like to really live in Vienna for five months. I had taken the biggest leap of my life and that I didn’t even know how to say leap in German. I had chosen Vienna for my study abroad because of its culture, the size of the Trinity program and the history of the city. I had pictured myself sitting at cafés with international friends discussing art, culture, and politics. I planned to travel every weekend if I could, believing that constantly moving would really make the experience worthwhile. Yet, I had not predicted how much getting to know Vienna would be the best adventure from the classroom to the city.
In total, the University of Vienna has close to 100,000 students, making it a much different experience than Trinity. I took two classes at the University that were both taught in English. The first was about the Austrian Legal System. I was not used to a lecture course of such a large size, but the professor still encouraged conversation. I was surprised by the diversity of the students taking the course. Every time she asked for input or comparison to other legal systems, it seemed as if someone from a new country answered. Not only was I learning about Austria, but also I was able to compare differences between individual nations as well as international trends.
The second course I took at the University of Vienna was Religion and Ethnicity in Eastern Europe. I was excited because this was a history seminar, something I was more use to after my time at Trinity. The professor was young and excited, which encouraged the class to be very engaged. With only 20 students in this course, it was easier to become acquainted with one another. Again, because the class was taught in English the group was extremely diverse. Because the course was a seminar and required more work, most of the students had a particular interest in the topic or related areas. The Professor would encourage discussions that related to current events, but through a historical lens. This was my favorite course while I was abroad because I was able to learn from such an interesting collection of fellow students in addition to the professor.
Outside of the classroom, it felt almost like a contest amongst myself and the other students living in the international housing, to see who could travel the most. Yet, as time went on I realized that in my haste to travel outside of Vienna, I had not taken the same care in exploring my city. I had loved traveling and seeing incredible sights like the Roman Forum or the Cliffs of Moher, but I felt as if I had not given Vienna appreciation. I began to take the metro to new stops and to go into the stores I had always walked by. When family or friends visited, I enjoyed doing guided tours and exploring new parts Austria that had once felt too close to be worth the trip. Unlike all of the other incredible places I visited, Vienna began to feel a little bit like home. As the city warmed and the rose garden bloomed, I, like the true Viennese, went out into the city to appreciate the slow yet deliberate culture. Our guide and teacher, Gerhard, introduced us to Vienna in a personal way.
My best memories from abroad are the ones I made while in Vienna when I no longer felt like a tourist. I look fondly back on the places I went that were particular to Vienna. I will be able to travel again and experience countless more places as a visitor, but experiencing Vienna as a student and a local, even for five months, was a once in a life time experience.