„I am forever grateful.“
A month ago, I packed my suitcase with the essentials that I thought I would need throughout my time in Vienna. I made sure to pack light, bringing with me only the essentials, and leaving lots of room for souvenirs. However, little did I know that I would be returning home to the USA with so much more than Viennese chocolate wafers. At the airport when the program concluded, with tears of sadness and gratitude in my eyes, I left Vienna with a head full of new teachings from both inside and outside the classroom, a belly full of citrus-flavored beer and schnitzel, and a heart full of friendship and love.
When I first arrived in Austria, jet-lagged and anxious for the adventure ahead of me, I was overwhelmed with the prospect of taking classes in a new country. However, on the first day of class, I was greeted by the most warm and welcoming teaching staff. The professors at WU are qualified professionals who cultivate classrooms of creativity. Both of the professors that I had the privilege of learning from during my time at ISU encouraged class participation and created a learning environment where students were encouraged to share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions, free of the fear of being wrong. I highly enjoyed this aspect of my academic experience in Vienna because it allowed me to see first-hand the cultural differences and similarities between my peers and me. One of the most valuable teachings that I took away from my experience at WU was techniques for working in teams with people of diverse backgrounds. As a student with aspirations of working internationally one day, having the opportunity to work in cross-cultural teams during my undergraduate years will benefit me in the future.
Although the course-work was intensive, there was still plenty of time to explore Vienna and the surrounding areas. Vienna is a breathtakingly beautiful city, loaded with history, culture, art, and delicious food. Some of my favorite days in Vienna were those spent exploring the city and pretending to live as the Viennese do! The picturesque streets are filled with beautiful cathedrals, quaint cafes, and gelato shops- which my roommate and I frequented almost every day! I still find myself dreaming of the cream-colored buildings with detailed moldings and the cobblestone streets. The feeling of coming up the stairs from the underground subway and opening my eyes – after being temporarily blinded by the sunlight – to see horse-drawn carriages and lively biergartens, with an accordion playing vibrantly in the background, is one I will never forget. Austria is in the heart of Europe, which makes travel to other countries easy and fast. My friends and I experienced even more culture shock when we visited Bratislava, Slovakia and Prague, Czech Republic on the weekends. I found it incredibly humbling to travel to cities so rich in history, and so different from anywhere I have ever been to before.
Throughout my time in Vienna, I made memories and friendships to last a lifetime. When I was trying to decide on what program I wanted to apply to for my study abroad, I kept returning to the WU ISU website, but I wasn’t sure why. Before arriving, I knew very little about Austria, didn’t speak German, and didn’t know anyone else participating in the program. But it just felt right. It felt like an adventure – an experience completely out of my comfort-zone. I am so thankful that I chose the ISU program, and my life is forever changed because of it. I learned more about myself and the world around me in a short three weeks than I had in any other part of my life, and for that, I am forever grateful.