“The Hills are Alive with the sound of… Study Abroad”

Over the past few weeks, I have taken you on journeys from the south of France to Rotterdam in the Netherlands and even to the gateway of Mecca. We travel now to Austria. This is the home of Mozart, Ferdinand Porsche, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and even the von Trapp family. I had the opportunity to interview UFV accounting and finance student, Kirsty Davis. Here is her story.

Vienna7 Scott Where did you stay while in Vienna? How was that experience?

Kirsty I stayed in a student-housing apartment called Molkereistrasse. It is right around the corner from the university. It’s also about a 4 minute walk from the metro station. And from the metro it’s about 10 minutes into the heart of Vienna. I would highly recommend this accommodation to future students. Some of the other student housing is quite out of the way and students spend a lot of time getting to school or into the city.


Vienna5ScottDo you speak other languages?

Kirsty No. Just English. I’m trying to learn German while I’m here. Despite the fact that they speak German here in Austria, I haven’t really had trouble communicating. It’s rare to find someone who can’t speak at least a bit of English. When you try to talk to them in German, they just respond in English. My classes are also all in English (though, there’s not a big selection).


Scott Why did you join the Study Abroad program?

Kirsty I studied abroad in Ireland a couple years ago and it was the best experience of my life. I wanted one more opportunity to study in Europe before I graduated. I’m so glad I am doing it again! Originally I joined the Study Abroad program at UFV because I love to travel and I love experiencing new cultures. I also felt like I was just coasting through life and I needed to do something exciting. I walked into Jag’s office and said, “Get me out of Abbotsford.”


 Vienna1Scott How was the process of arranging your trip? Did you have to arrange your accommodation’s/travel plans? Was there a guideline provided?

Kirsty Getting an Austrian Visa was a Hündin! Austria has just changed some of its immigration laws so it was a nightmare. It’s complicated. It may become easier for future students to get their visas. Talk to Jag. He has all the details.

As for booking the fights and getting from the airport to the accommodation, it was fairly straightforward. The only thing that I wasn’t expecting is that it’s near impossible to get your key for your accommodation on the day you arrive. (The office is nowhere near the accommodations and it’s only open 3 hours a day.) Thankfully, the school organizes a “buddy” or two for each student, and your buddy is allowed to pick up your key. I had my buddy pick up my key for me and meet me at my accommodation. You can get a train into the city from the airport, then take the metro (UBahn) to your station, or there are pre-booked taxi services for around 30-40 euros.


 Vienna3Scott How did you adjust to the different food and customs? Favorite dishes?

Kirsty I haven’t been here long so I haven’t tried all the dishes, but for the most part, the food isn’t that weird. What I have had a hard time with though, is that my apartment, like most students’, doesn’t have an oven. And the fridge is the size of a bar fridge. I share it with a roommate. This makes things interesting, but if you played Tetris as a child, you should be able to figure it out. There are just two things about the food here. As with most of Europe, the food doesn’t last long. They don’t use as many preservatives so nothing lasts much more than a week, if you’re lucky. Also everything is TINY. The loaves of bread are small (think half a loaf), and you can’t just buy a block of cheddar cheese; you usually have to buy it in packs of 8 pre-cut slices of some other cheese. And the mayonnaise; I bought mayonnaise in a TUBE the other day. Good luck finding more than a liter of milk. With all this being said, it’s not bad, it just takes some getting used to. In the beginning I was in denial, but now I’ve accepted it. Oh! I didn’t mention the freezer. It’s because there is no freezer.


 Vienna2Scott What do people over there think about Canada? Were you surprised about their perception of Canadians?

Kirsty People don’t mind Canadians. I don’t think they really care too much to be honest. Some are surprised to hear I’m from Canada because it’s so far away but they’re educated and I haven’t had any weird questions. There are also many people from all over the world here in Vienna, so they’re used to it. I have had experiences in Europe where I’ve had to make it clear that I was Canadian not American, so that I was treated better, but I really haven’t had to do that in Vienna.


 Scott What was the biggest surprise about being there? (Did you research first?)

Kirsty There weren’t any huge surprises other than the kitchen situation. Also pretty much all shops close on Sunday. That one got me the first couple weeks. I’ve been to Europe before so it wasn’t majorly different. It definitely helps to do a bit of research before. For example, I found out that Austrians are terrible at lining up (true), that it’s rude to eat in class, and that the service here isn’t great. Austrians seem rude, but it’s just a different culture. Waiters and cashiers, etc. don’t want to make small talk with you.


 Scott What do you think is the most important thing you could do or say to represent UFV, your community, and your country abroad?

Kirsty I’d say just be a decent human being. You’re always representing Canada at the very least. Open your mouth for 5 seconds and they’ll know you’re from somewhere in North America. I really don’t think it’s an issue though. Here there are 3 Canadians at my university and everyone makes fun of us for holding doors open. They tease us for being polite, but hey, I’ll take that reputation.


 Scott How was it adjusting to life in a foreign country?

Kirsty With a bit of a language barrier and some cultural differences, I really think you have to take things with a grain of salt. Don’t get offended easily and if you have a tough day, just remember that this is the greatest opportunity potentially of your life. A bad day in Vienna beats a bad day in Abbotsford, in my opinion. When I’m feeling frustrated about my fridge being the size of a tiny cupboard, I go to one of the giant palace grounds or the St. Stephan’s cathedral or the lively Naschtmarkt. It’s pretty hard to be upset at the size of your fridge when you’re staring at these wonders. The way I see it is don’t dwell on missing home because when you do go home, you’re going to miss “here”. Time goes by so quickly, and you may never come back, so suck it up and go out there and absorb as much as you can. #YOVO (You Only Vienna Once)


Scott What was your favorite class?

Kirsty Intercultural Management or Development of the European Union. They’re both really interesting classes. I’ve only had a month of classes so far, but like home, there are good and bad teachers. The way the schedule is made is definitely the most backwards, bizarre system. The schedule is so random that there is no way to memorize it. Different times, different days, sometimes no class in a week sometimes 3 times in a week, never in the same classroom, often you don’t know the classroom number until you arrive at school. Good times. You just have to learn to go with the flow.


Vienna8Scott Did you get homesick? If so, how did you handle it?

Kirsty Umm… Some days I miss Costco, but after a good cry and a nap, I get over it.

Seriously though, not really. The way I see it is my family is going to be there when I get back. I am missing nothing that is worth being home more than the opportunity to be here in Europe right now. It’s the 21st century; when I miss someone, I can email, facebook, skype, or phone. It’s not like I can’t talk to them. Plus, there’s way too much to do here to get homesick. Go outside. Go walk in the giant gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace; go walk around the Kunsthistorisches Museum; eat an Apple Strudel; or go find the best Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna. “Ain’t nobody got time to be homesick.”

I am going to leave you with a final quote that I think quite articulately sums up the general consensus from all study abroad students I have interviewed.

If you’re thinking of studying abroad, do it. You’ll never regret studying abroad, but you might regret not.” (Kirsty Davis)

If you are interested in participating in the UFV Study Abroad program, click here to get your journey started.

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