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Study Abroad

Vienna, City of Leashless Dogs?

Some people talk about Vienna in terms of its unique cultural history or its many theaters, but as a college student, my choice to go to Vienna was not based on either of those, nor did I find that those were the things I loved about it after my year abroad.  Rather, it was constantly having to speak German, having to live in German that made studying abroad in Vienna such an incredible experience for me.  Plus, it’s really the little things you come to appreciate, people taking their pets on the U-Bahn, walking dogs without leashes around some of the biggest intersections, having a few beers with friends in a park, buying a Döner or Falafel Sandwich at many of the stands around the city.

I came to Vienna to learn German first hand and the opportunities were naturally everywhere.  I learned to cook according to the instructions on the back of packets and boxes of food that I bought, I haggled with merchants at the Naschmarkt, I attended lectures and seminars in German, and I worked together with some Austrian students in a translation class: they helped me with my German, I helped them with their English, we became friends.  It was really something amazing to have friends, real friends, with whom I primarily spoke in what was a foreign language to me.

Besides immersing myself in German, though, I definitely got a kick out of things like dogs running leashless ahead of their owners through major intersections and being able to buy halfway healthy and cheap food at one in the morning from a vender yelling the slogan “einmal essen, nie vergessen!“  But these novelties also had deep socio-political meanings behind them: The relaxed attitude people take when it comes to pets and safety, the influx of Turks to Western Europe finding a niche in the market and slowly improving their standard of living.  One of the great things that I experienced nearly every day that truly makes me appreciate the urban planning culture of Vienna and perhaps of Europe as a whole is the supermarkets.  By American standards, there was nothing “super“ about these stores, rather they were pretty small.  These grocery stores, which seem to be a rarity in large cities in the US, are conveniently found on every other block in most of Vienna.  The most important things really were accessible by foot.  And that made a big difference!

I could also talk about the amazing parks and gardens that lie on almost every side of Vienna, but you could probably find out more in just about any sightseeing brochure.  There’s lots to love, just keep your eyes and your mind open.

Daniel Rechitsky (2007-08)