The program is located at the Austro-American Institute of Education, run by the Weissgarber family for many years, in the heart of Vienna. During the August orientation session, students are introduced to Austrian culture — and study German language (an intensive language course for German language students, beginning level for non-language students) — in the beautiful mountain village of Dorfgastein. Upon the return to Vienna, students move in with their Austrian host families. Students study German language at the University of Vienna, near the Institute, with the remaining courses taught by faculty at the Institute. Across the street is the world-famous Vienna State Opera; with museums, theaters, and beautiful gardens just a quick bus ride away.
There’s a certain appeal to studying abroad that is unlike anything else. It’s an opportunity to study in another country where you might not know the language and cultural customs. It’s an exhilarating experience that one can remember for a lifetime
But what about daily life abroad?
What people sometimes forget to remember is that in the cities they study abroad or travel to, people are living regular, normal lives, just as one would in the United States.
When you study abroad, you tend to be a mix of both a tourist and a local. An expat.
There are certain cues one can look for to know that you’re a fully assimilated Viennese. If you roll your eyes at the fact that the U-Bahn (subway) is more than 4 minutes away or stare at someone way longer than you should without smiling; congratulations, you’re officially Viennese.
So when I’m not in the Alps of Austria or visiting neighboring counties, I’m living a regular, normal life as a student in the city of Vienna.
My day begins with breakfast, usually something small, unlike the big American breakfast we are used to. From there, I make the journey to the institute, an approximately 26 min ride on the U-Bahn.
In the early morning hours, it’s easy to distinguish the local from a tourist on the U-Bahn. A local usually rushes down the escalator, knowing exactly down to the minute what time their usual train comes. A tourist stops suddenly in their tracks, hoping to take a better look at the Google Maps on their phone.
Once at school, I attend my classes with a lunch break in between. I usually bring yesterday’s leftovers or make a sandwich.
After that, I take the same subway lines, U1 and U3, as in the morning but in reverse.
At home I get my homework done for the next day, relax, and await dinner with my host family. The fact that I live with an Austrian family also adds to this feeling of normalcy. My family is quite multicultural, as the dishes can range from traditional Austrian to Iranian.
We sit at the dinner table where I try my best to follow along to their conversation in their fast and letter swallowed German. Though my host mom is nice enough to recap what is said in English after.
Especially being in the center of Europe, it can be tempting to escape to a new country every weekend. But it’s also good to remember that you picked that specific country to study abroad in for a reason.
If you decide to study abroad (which you definitely should) appreciate the country and city you are in. Take in the culture of the area and live among the people. But most of all, enjoy your time abroad.
The first weeks in Vienna were spent playing tourist. We went to most of the major museums, which we got into free through a card we got from our institute. We also spent this time at the Austro-American Institute of Education working on our conversational German.
Now, we have a whole month dedicated to German grammar, along with our main Austrian history, politics, and culture courses. All the German has been in preparation for our placement test, which we will take in October at the University of Vienna. From there, we will be placed in appropriate level courses to continue our German language learning journey.
One of the perks of studying in Austria is its proximity to everything, it is in the center of Europe! The first trip we took as a group was a day trip to the nearby city of Bratislava, Slovakia. It was about a 1-hour bus ride, and it was amazing to see the difference 60 km east made.
When we got to Bratislava, the first obvious difference was the language, Slovak. I tried to order a latte and a chocolate větrník and somehow ended up ordering two of the pastry. But it was the best mistake of my life because they were delicious.
The most exciting thing about our trip was the traditional Slovakian food tour we had planned. It was a perfect mix of history and culture. We tried various dishes and drinks, although my favorite drink was Kofola, a cola-like drink now produced in the Czech Republic.
All the food was also amazing, but my favorites were bryndzové pirohy (pierogies stuffed with bryndza) and Kapustnica (cabbage soup).
Bratislava has definitely been added to our weekend getaway list, especially because of its close proximity. Up next we have a trip to Budapest and a study trip to Prague.
It has been over a week since our arrival in Austria and a lot has happened since then. The Austria program is a small but mighty (in good Linfield fashion) group, as there are only four of us in the program.
The flight to Vienna took us about 22 hours in total and the only hiccup was with Dane, who missed his connecting flight in Montreal. However, it ended up working out nicely because he got Vienna around the same time the other three of us did; Kara, Delanie, and myself.
In the beginning, the hardest thing to get used to was the 9 hours time change. They say it is always harder going west to east since your body essentially “loses time.”
But we were welcomed into Austria by spending a week in the beautiful Gastein Valley in the region of Salzburg. Most of our time was spent in the small town of Dorfgastein, where we stayed in a B&B and were introduced to a traditional Austrian breakfast every morning. By the end of the week, we all knew how to ask for “Kaffe, Schokolade oder Tee” (coffee, hot chocolate or tea) with our breakfast.
In the morning we had our conversation German classes, while the evenings were filled with traditional Austrian dishes, beer, and schnaps!
One of my favorite and most memorable parts of the trip was the hike on Fulseck, where we encountered killer cows. The mountain belonged to the cows and we did our best to stay away from the animals, though there was one cow that was fond of blocking the hiking trail and not letting people pass.
We also visited Krimml Falls, a waterfall of about 1,246 feet. One thing that is very different here from hiking areas in the U.S. is the placement of restaurants and cafes. Usually, in the U.S., they are at the bottom or beginning of a trail. But here in Austria, they usually are at the end of a trail or on other points of interest on the trail.
We then finished up our week in the city of Salzburg with a walking tour. The tour guide was very helpful in pointing out all the prominent “Sound of Music” locations; though this only made sense if you have watched the movie before. We also got a good view of Fortress Hohensalzburg.
On Sunday, a little over a week after our arrival, we were greeted at the train station in Vienna by our host families. It was nice to finally go home, rest, and get comfortable in a place we will call home for four months.
Wow. Never ever would I have thought that I would be writing this blog post. Let alone be ending a trip of 4 months in Europe. This study abroad wasn’t just a simple trip to Europe, it was a grand adventure. It was a growing experience, a learning experience and overall an amazing experience. From leaving Oregon and getting stuck in London for a day to FINALLY arriving in Vienna, Austria. To think that was over 4 months ago. The memories I’ve made have been never ending and unforgettable. I will never forget the people, the friends I have made. Everyone at the Institute became like a second family to me. The professor are people I will never forget, Pokorny’s politics class, Hanreichs history course and Vedran’s diversity class. Each one I learned something so very new. They all opened my eyes and helped me look at the world in a different way. They taught me things about Europe and Austria that I never thought Id know. It was a part of this adventure I am so grateful for.
Wow. Never ever would I have thought that I would be writing this blog post. Let alone be ending a trip of 4 months in Europe. This study abroad wasn’t just a simple trip to Europe, it was a grand adventure. It was a growing experience, a learning experience and overall an amazing experience. From leaving Oregon and getting stuck in London for a day to FINALLY arriving in Vienna, Austria.
To think that was over 4 months ago. The memories I’ve made have been never ending and unforgettable. I will never forget the people, the friends I have made. Everyone at the Institute became like a second family to me. The professor are people I will never forget, Pokorny’s politics class, Hanreichs history course and Vedran’s diversity class. Each one I learned something so very new. They all opened my eyes and helped me look at the world in a different way. They taught me things about Europe and Austria that I never thought Id know. It was a part of this adventure I am so grateful for.
The other students. Now those are people I will never ever forget and I hope that the next group has as good as a time as we did. Going from spending every single day together for the past 4 months (literally every single day) to not seeing each other for two months is going to be hard. But while in Austria we have collected so many memories that will last for a life time. We have become a family and I will never forget the time we’ve had here.
Now to say thank you. Thank you to Hermann, Gretl, Verena and Heidi. Thank you for making the Institute and Vienna feel like a home. For being so kind and welcoming when we arrived and for continuing to be so kind and welcoming through the whole trip. Thank you for every little thing you have done for us. You all are people we will never ever forget and I know we can not wait to see you again. Thank you so much for being one giant family.
Thank you to our host families. The ones who took us in and housed us, fed us and showed us the city when we didn’t even understand the ubahn. Thank you for always being there for us. Thank you for coming to all of our events. Thank you for everything.
Thank you to the other students on this trip. At the beginning I did not think we would do the things we did. I didn’t think we would spend every single day together, go on almost every trip together and become such great friends together. With out you guys this study abroad wouldn’t have been the same.
Austria and Europe I thank you for showing me your beauty. For showing me sun in October and snow in December. For helping me grow into a better more cultured person. Thank you for teaching me so many new things and letting me meet so many new people.
Thank you for all the experiences, good times and long lasting friendships. We will miss you.
It’s finals week everybody, woohoo!! Well actually, it will be after finals week when you are reading this, but either way, everyone endured a finals week. Now although finals week was very tough and we spent lots of time studying, it was quite bitter sweet.
It was our last full week at the AAIE, a place I could call my second home. Over the course of the semester, we spent almost every single day there and to think that we won’t be back for a very long time and some of us may never be back. For all of those coming next fall (2019), make the most out of your time at the Institute. Make friends with the people that work there because they will become your second family whether you want it or not. And trust me, you’ll want it. Get to know Verena and Heidi and Lily, which is Hermanns’ sweet dog. Make the most of every opportunity they give you. It’s not something every school gets and Linfield students are so very lucky to have the opportunity to work so closely with everyone at the AAIE.
Make the most of Dorfgastein. It may be strange to just start in a small little village but trust me, it is an experience that will change your life forever. Get to know the people who run the pension. Get to know the Village and most of all get know yourself. Enjoy the crisp fresh air and the stars in the sky because that will not be in Vienna (even though it is still beautiful). Enjoy the amazing leisurely walks you will go on.
Second to last, get to know your group. Get to know all the other Linfield students and if possible, get to know the other students at the Institute. In the beginning, I would have never thought I’d be as close as I am now with all the other Linfield students on this trip. We’ve been through so many crazy adventures and have made so many memories together. Make the most of these friendships and cherish every moment with them because it’ll come and go sooner than you think.
Ps: This is not my last post I just hope that the future students coming next fall read this and take it in. You all will have the times of your lives here as long as you make the most of EVERY experience.
Some of my favorite photos of some of the group! Including the ones above! (:
Boy oh boy have I been many places in Europe! However in Austria, one of my favorite places I’ve been is Innsbruck. Innsbruck is the capital of Tirol, a Bundesland here in Austria. It’s surrounded by the Alps and has a river running right through it. The very first time I ventured there was by myself and oh my did I fall in love. However I didn’t do as much as I did the second time, I still knew it was a place I wanted to visit more than once. The train ride there is something out of a fairy tale taking you through the alps. Everyone I met was so kind and welcoming and it’s so very easy to go around.
Now the second time is when I realized I loved it even more (not more than Dorfgastein of course). I took a day trip again however this time I was with Tommy and Ana. And the Christmas markets had just opened!! When we first arrived we walked around the market. Missing home a little bit, we decided to eat at Hard Rock Cafe. After that we decided to become full tourists and purchase the Innsbruck card. This is something you can get for either 24 hour or 48 hours and it lets you go to all the tourist attractions in Innsbruck for free, as well as giving you free transportation. With it we decided to do something I’d never thought I’d do. We went to the tip top of the mountain range in the area known as Nordkette. I believe the name of it is called Hafelekarspitze and even though it was quite cold, it was absolutely beautiful and breath taking, both literally and figuratively.
With the cable car going up, we first stopped at the little village area where a lot of skiers will stay and looked at the Christmas market there.
We then made our way up to the next highest point. Here there was a small restaurant and even more beautiful views.
After this we decided to go to the very top. When we got there with the cable car, we hiked or I guess walked up the rest of the mountain, it was only like 10 minutes up. At the very top of the highest mountains in mountain ranges they place crosses. Here we saw one of those crosses. Overall, I can say that it was extremely beautiful. You could see the whole mountain range and all of Innsbruck and it’s neighboring towns.
Eventually we made our way down and decided to walk around the Christmas markets which were always wonderful. Around 7pm we made our way back to Vienna knowing that Innsbruck would be a place to go back to in the future.
For most people, i.e. everyone back in the States, it’s Thanksgiving break and therefore Thanksgiving time. However in Austria, Thanksgiving does not exist; therefore, after Halloween it is STRAIGHT to Christmas. All the stores begin putting Christmas decorations out and lights are put up in the city center. The thought of missing and completely skipping Thanksgiving made all of us pretty sad. However, the AAIE made sure we wouldn’t miss a thing. On November 16th, we had a huge Thanksgiving dinner, from the turkey to the sweet-potatoes. But with a huge twist: we Linfield students cooked it all. Yes mom, I said cooked it – from the turkey to the sweet potatoes. The AAIE set up a wonderful program where we went to a school known for cooking and service, used their kitchen and got help from one of their chefs. So for roughly 4 hours, we cooked our Thanksgiving dinner and let me tell you it was not easy. It makes me even more grateful for all the parents and grandparents out there that have cooked Thanksgiving dinner every year. I do not know how they do it, they’ve got to be superhuman.
After we cooked, our guests began to arrive. Our guests were our host families and professors from the institute. We began with some drinks and a great speech from Hermann. Eventually we sat down and ate all the amazing food we cooked. And let me tell you that was some of the best Thanksgiving food I’ve ever had (besides my moms mash potato’s of course)!
Now typically, the day after is spent for resting because of all the food you’ve eaten. However, that day one of my friends from Linfield came to visit! Her name is Alex and she just recently finished her study abroad trip in Norway! Ana and I showed her around Vienna and later that evening we all (Ana, Michaela, Vanessa and Alex) went to the main Christmas market at the Rathaus (city hall). This Christmas market has about 150 stands and an ice skating rink.
There are several Christmas markets in Vienna and i hope to go to as many of them as possible. The Rathaus is more of a touristy area however it is absolutely beautiful!
On thanksgiving day (the 22nd of November) we all decided to spend it together and go ice skating! It was one of the best times I’ve had here and I will remember it forever. All the memories I have made here have been amazing.
With finals slowly approaching and only 3 weeks left here in Vienna everyone is trying to make the most of our time. Hopefully I will have a little bit more to share with you next time!
Seeing as though my last blog was about a school trip I thought it would be fitting to write about another school trip. This time it was to Krakow, Poland. DISCLAIMER: Before I begin I would like to warn anyone reading this, I will be discussing and sharing photos of the former concentration camp Auschwitz and if you do not feel comfortable or want to read or see these things it is alright to stop when it says Auschwitz in bold letters. But other than that lets begin with Poland.
Now Poland is not somewhere I would have ever thought I’d go but boy oh boy am I sure glad I did. Not only is it absolutely beautiful, but it has some of the BEST dumplings I’ve ever had in my life. Yes I said that and yes they are the best. While we were there, the weather was not the greatest but it also set a mood that felt like fall, finally. And for some reason it made the trip much better.
On Thursday the 18th of October we took the night train. This may sound so cool, and it kind of was, but at the same time, it was not the slightest bit comfortable. It’s something everyone should experience and honestly, if I had a choice I would totally do it again because it beats traveling all day. Overall, the traveling was not bad! We arrived in Krakow around 7am and made our way to our hotel where we left our bags and ate breakfast. Around 10 am we headed out for our first tour of the old town in Krakow. What makes this part so beautiful is the large park surrounding the town. This park used to be part of the fortification walls that surround Krakow for most of its existence. While we were there, the leaves were changing color and everything felt so peaceful. We made our way through the old town and stopped at the old university museum where we got a tour of the inside. Interestingly the outside has this clock that at certain times of the day (I don’t remember which times) it goes off and out comes little figurines and go around in a circle. Now this may not sound significant, but in Krakow it was and it was quite a sight to see.
Eventually we made it into the center of the town where there was a long row of markets (that were amazing) and of course, a huge church. Now with this church came something that everyone should experience. Every hour on the hour, the window of one of the towers opens up and a man plays the trumpet for all of the town to hear. He plays what is called St. Mary’s Trumpet Call four times, in each cardinal direction (North, East, South and West). This call is a five note anthem that supposedly came about during the Mongol invasion and a trumpeter sounded an alarm playing this tune. However the trumpeter was shot before he could finish and therefore the call is only 5 notes. At the end of the call, the trumpeter sticks his hand out the window and waves to everyone in the streets. Now this is something so amazing and unique that I never expected to see or even hear of and it is something everyone should experience. We ended the day with some lunch/dinner where I had some amazing dumplings, of course.
The next day we headed up to the castle and had an amazing tour of the church inside the castle and parts of the actual castle. Later that day we made our way to Auschwitz.
Auschwitz is a former concentration camp from World War II and is known as one of the biggest. There are two parts of Auschwitz, Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau Auschwitz 1 holds many barracks and areas where some of the SS Soldiers had slept as well as the prisoners of the camp. During the tour they took us through a few of the barracks. In the first barrack they shared photos of the prisoners and maps of the grounds. The next barrack is where we saw the suitcase, the shoes, the dishes, and the hair of the prisoners. Each of these things had a certain impact on me and the hair is what impacted me the most. They requested that no photos be taken of the hair out of respect. To end our tour of Auschwitz , they showed us one of the gas chambers.
We then headed to Birkenau. Birkenau was the largest area of the Auschwitz concentration camp and is split into three parts, the women’s side, the men’s side and then there was a third section that was never actually finished. When you walk through the gates you are immediately walking where prisoners of Auschwitz had walked. The guide took us along the pathway where newly arrived prisoners were sorted into two sections, able and not able. Able as in able to work. Many of the women and children were put in the not able section, because they had not wanted to leave their children. Here they were lied to and told they were going to take showers, but were actually sent to the gas chambers. The tour guide then took us to the memorial area where they have a memorial stone in every language that was recorded there.
After this we saw what was left of the gas chambers, which were burnt to the ground by both Nazi soldiers and the workers of the camp. We then headed into the women’s side of the camp where we saw their sleeping barracks. Often 6 to 8 people were fit into a bunk. This concluded the tour. This tour of Auschwitz was not something I’d ever thought I’d do, but now that i have, i highly recommend everyone to at least visit a concentration camp. It is important to remember what happened and make sure it never happens again.
The last day in Poland, we went to the Salt Mines which I have to say were pretty awesome. You could actually lick some of the walls and taste the salt! I’m not sure how far down the salt mines go. However I do know that they are something everyone should see!
That’s much like all of Europe.
So far this trip has been an eye opening and amazing experience in which I encourage everyone to try and do.
Prague. Famous for Ice hockey and food. Just kidding its famous for more than those things, even though its food is absolutely amazing. Before we start talking about the infamous Prague lets discuss a much smaller city known as Olomouc. On our first day in the Czech Republic we visited Olomouc. Granted, this is not typically on the itinerary for this trip but Hermann had known of a former student of the AAIE that was working at the university there, so it was added. When we got there we had our first Czech meal and let me tell you something, it was DELICIOUS. Czech food is known for being very heavy, i.e. more carbs and sodium than any person should consume. But boy oh boy, it is delicious.
Later that day we visited the university and learned a little about it and where it came from. The university is called Palacky University and it is the second oldest university in the Czech Republic. It was established in 1573 and its medical school is one of the best in the Czech Republic!
That evening we went out for another delightful dinner!
The next morning we made our way to Prague. We arrived in early afternoon and headed to the hostel. Now if you plan on traveling in Europe alone, hostels are the way to go. You can chose to either be in a co-ed room ranging from all different people or just single gender. The highest bed number in most hostels are 6 beds. But the people that stay there are typically young college kids traveling and therefore you can make new friends from many different places! In Prague all 5 of us girls stayed in one room which was nice.
The first day we had an afternoon tour which lasted roughly five hours and we a large portion of the city including the Karls University and the Karls bridge. Both of these were established and built under Charles IV. Along the tour our tour guide showed us some great places to eat and drink.
The second day we headed up to the Prague Castle. An absolutely beautiful site to see. The tour again lasted about five hours, which after the first tour, was a little bit rough. However, it was enjoyable and totally worth it! Inside the castle is a beautiful church called St. Vitus Cathedral. Along with this, there is a very small street called Golden Lane. Here you can find very short houses. Yes short houses. They’re almost like the houses in the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit! Inside are tons of little shops, even ones where you can purchase beauty products made out of beer and wine (i.e lotion, shampoo etc.). Overall the whole area is a must see!
The next and last day we had another tour and then were able to have free time in the city. Later that evening, three of us group members, Tommy, Ana and I, attended an ice hockey game while the others headed back to Vienna. Why ice hokey? Well ice hockey is very big in Prague and it was probably one of the coolest experiences ever. The local team in Prague, known as Sparta ,crushed the opposing team 4 to 1! I highly recommend going to any sports games while in Europe, the experience is something different for sure!
After the game the three of us made our way back to Vienna.
Prague is definitely a must see, but there is one thing I must warn you about. there are a lot of tourists. ALOT. But don’t let that stop you from seeing this beautiful city.
Although it may seem like it, its not all travel here in Vienna. During most of our time we are either studying or in class just like the rest of Linfield! My typical week of school consists of 4 classes Monday through Thursday and no matter what track you are on, English or German, you’ll have a steady course load throughout the semester. Although the English and German track only have one class together, we both start our weeks on Monday. My Monday starts around 9am (which is a perfect time! (; ) with an Ethnic Diversity class. This class is pretty interesting because we get to go to different debates and discussions over current political issues in Vienna. After Ethnic Diversity I would typically have a german class, however I recently took my entrance exam to start German classes at the University of Wien. That means on October 11th I will have my first class at the University! It also means that on Mondays I am done with class at 11am and have the rest of the day to study and explore Wien!
On Tuesdays everyone has German at the University and then in the afternoon, both tracks have an Austrian Politics class together. This class is very interesting because it mostly covers Austria and its political actions from 1914 to present day. Giving us a lot of history to learn. After class I typically head home to do some homework and then maybe explore Vienna at night. Wednesdays on the other hand are by far my longest days. Now that my German classes are at the University on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I only have two classes Wednesday; my Ethnic Diversity class at 9am and my Austrian Cultural History Class, which ends at 5pm. I know its a bit long but I do have breaks in between! This history class, although very hard, is very interesting. This is because every Thursday we go on a tour of something new and historical in Vienna. In the beginning we went to a Roman museum were the left over architecture of Vindobona lies. Vindobona was an old Roman military camp located in central Vienna. What blew my mind was that underneath a city the size of Vienna (414.6 km²) lies the remains of architecture from Roman times which, lets just say, was a very very long time ago.
After our tours, we have our Austrian Politics class again. This ends around 4:30pm in which I’ll typically head home for some dinner. Now Fridays are the one of the best days for any student because…
We have the day off!!
Typically we’ll spend this extra day by beginning our explorations of Europe early, sometimes however, we have school events and community services planned. Recently, on the 28th of September, we had an amazing community service opportunity. We ventured to a near-by village and help clean up and ready a Volksschule (or an elementary school) for their open house. We helped them set up chairs and clean windows and because school has already started we were able to meet some wonderful kiddos! We also met the Mayor of the town… no big deal or anything. (: This experience was a heartwarming one and seeing everything come together was amazing. The people we worked with were wonderful and I would absolutely go back and do it all again.
Studying abroad in Europe isn’t only about the adventures you are able to take, its also about the things you learn while you take them. I have had so many opportunities to see things in Vienna that I never thought I would see – all because of my history class. And I never would have been able to meet a such community so grateful for seven people to come help them with their school if it wasn’t for the Institute. Everything that I have done ties into this school, and it is an amazing opportunity that everyone should take.
Stay tuned to hear about our school trip to Prague!