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Study Abroad

A Single Year Abroad = A Lifetime of Memories

The new fall semester is underway here in Champaign, and as I sit in my apartment looking out over the familiar frat houses, restaurants, parking lots, and miscellaneous school buildings, I cannot help but take a moment to reflect on the memory of a similar moment about a year ago, when I was a newly arrived exchange student in Wien. The sight out the kitchen window of my floor at Haus Erasmus was astounding: a long line of colorful buildings to either the left or the right, culminating in busy streetlights with a magnificent view of distant mountains to one side. I can remember several early mornings I spent hanging out that window while waiting for my breakfast to finish cooking, and I can still hear the bells of Stephansdom ringing. These are memories that trigger in my mind a feeling of a second home: Wien.

There are many answers to the question: Why study abroad in Wien? Obviously, the desire to better oneself in German is a top reason, and there is no better way to do that than by living in a place where even the simplest task of grocery shopping requires interaction auf Deutsch. Learning about a very different culture, as well as immersing oneself in a new way of life, is another very good reason to study abroad. The countless theaters, production halls, operas, Anker bakeries, kebab stands, the Hundertwasser Haus, Stephansdom, UNO City, the university buildings, the Prater, Mariahilferstrasse, and so many other places in Wien make up the new life you get to lead when you study abroad, not to mention the seasonal attractions such as the incomparable Wiener Weihnachtsmarkt by the Rathaus or the beautiful green grounds of Schloss Schönbrünn bursting with flowers during the spring and summer.

Though it was a somewhat frightening decision at first to leave home for an entire year, away from all family and old friends, new friends and new adventures waited for me in Wien, as well as in many of the other neighboring European countries I was able to visit during the generous breaks from school. Speaking of school, the Universität Wien and the Wirtschaftsuni were pleasant surprises. For the most part, I did not have too much trouble keeping up with my various classes, but when I did get stuck or lost in the material, the professors (especially Professor Murray!) were always willing to help, and would patiently explain things slowly in German as many times as necessary until I understood. As a student of Political Science and International Studies, it was especially interesting for me to take classes on the ever-evolving EU, and to learn of the Austrian take on the matter. That is another great reason to study abroad at this particular time: an AIEP student in Wien is living history. The establishment of the euro, the Eastern expansion, the writing of the Constitution, usw. are all moments that will go down in history books as the beginnings of a true political and economical European Union.

I would truly encourage any one with an interest in studying abroad in a German-speaking land to consider Wien as their destination and home for a semester or (even better!) a year. Studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime no matter where you go, but Wien is a place that I plan on making a regular part of my life as frequently as possible. There is a reason that the Austrians rarely every say “good-bye,” but instead merely bid a warm “Auf Wiedersehen!”

~Katalin Schmidt (2002-2003)