Wien: Week 1

I’ve been in Vienna for almost a week now, and it’s been quite jam-packed!

Background info: I am a Commerce student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. I am currently studying for one semester (four months) at Wirtschaftsuniversität-Wien, or in English: the Vienna University of Economics and Business (or simply WU for short). I will be studying in Vienna, Austria, and travelling around Europe from September – December. All photos are my own unless otherwise noted.

I chose Vienna because it was somewhere I’ve never been before. Having travelled previously in Europe/UK (albeit for only days at a time, doing touristy things) to Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England and Ireland, I wanted to experience something completely different. Vienna is a highly reputable destination, being the most livable city in the world for apparently more than 5 years running. WU is one of the biggest schools in Europe focusing solely on business and economics… And not to mention, Austria is in a very central location to travel around Europe! 🙂

I arrived in Austria six days ago from Vancouver with two fellow UBC business students, Amanda and Jason (I found out recently there are 14 of us in total from the Sauder School of Business). Our very first experience in Austria was not a particularly pleasant one: our luggage was lost! Here is the story: we nearly missed our connecting flight through Toronto because of a previously delayed flight in Vancouver. Luckily, our sprint through Toronto Pearson Airport meant that we made our flight just in the nick of time, but there was no way our luggage could have made it with us. When we arrived in Vienna, we waited over an hour and a half for our bags, and they never showed up! We felt horrible for making our buddies (through the EBN Buddy Network at WU) wait, because they’d volunteered their time to pick us up from the airport and help us get settled in Vienna.

Jack, my 6 year-old brother, helping me with my carry-on. Also Mom.

On our way to YVR! Jack, my 6 year-old brother, helping me with my carry-on. Also Mom.

When we arrived, it was raining! We knew Vienna’s weather was similar to Vancouver’s, but we were not expecting rain at all in early September. It ended up pouring at night, and we had to whip out our rain jackets on the first day. After losing our luggage, I’m so glad I packed it. Luckily, the weather has been getting better with highs of 24-26 degrees!

Amanda (left) and I on campus at WU, with our rain jackets

Amanda (left) and I on campus at WU, using our rain jackets unexpectedly (note the background rain)

Our first meal in Vienna on campus at WU. Pizza Margherita. The only thing we could pronounce.

Our first meal in Vienna on campus at WU. Pizza Margherita. The only thing we could pronounce.

This week has basically been used to complete the numerous administrative errands it takes to move to a different country for an extended period of time: registering at the district authority, moving into dorms, obtaining a SIM card, opening a bank account, buying a transit pass, attending student information sessions, collecting important materials and school information, etc. What shocked us is that many of the organizations we had to correspond with (the WU registration office, the housing office, the bank, etc) have very limited hours! This is because it is still holidays for many of these organizations, as classes don’t actually start until October. So, many times we had arrived at our destination, having traveled 20 or 30 minutes, just to find the office closed. Some of these shortened summer hours were from 9am – 12pm. Or 11am – 1pm. Yes, very small windows of time! It was definitely a frustrating experience, but it taught us to do our research and to not assume things are always open during “normal” business hours like in North America!

Disappointed by the housing office closing at 1pm, we got a schnitzel sandwich. We assumed Wiener Schnitzel was always pork, but we accidentally got chicken.. oops.

Myself and Amanda (right), disappointed by the housing office closing at 1pm, each got a schnitzel sandwich. We assumed Wiener Schnitzel was always pork, but we accidentally got chicken.. oops. Still pretty good.

Overall, I am not worried about the cultural differences here in Europe versus Canada. Perhaps this is because I had travelled to Europe before and I have an idea of what to expect, but also because I consider myself quite adaptable when it comes to cross-cultural interactions. However, it’s still interesting to notice how caught up we can be in our own rituals and social norms when we’re presented with a different cultural environment, no matter how subtle those differences may be.

At UBC, I’ve taken three semesters of German language courses. Normally that would be pretty impressive for a non native-speaking university student, and I do love to learn new languages, but in Vienna I feel like I have the vocabulary and sentence structure abilities of a 2 year-old (probably less). As with many people who are learning another language, I can understand more than I speak, but one of my goals over the next four months is to expand my vocabulary and improve my conversational skills. Even just in the week that I’ve been here, I’ve already seen my German improve and I am beginning to summon words more quickly and understanding more colloquial language. Baby steps!

On Friday, we had our first session for the Orientation and Cultural Program, a voluntary three-week program that takes WU students on day trips and outings within Austria, teaches exchange students about Austrian history, politics and facts, and above all, initiates interactions between exchange students. In the brief afternoon and evening I had to interact my group, I’ve already met people from all over the world: Czech Republic, Finland, Peru, Hong Kong, France, USA, Russia, China, Taiwan, Belgium, Moldova, Spain, Denmark.. even fellow Canadians!

First "authentic" meal at Kolaris Luftburg, a restaurant serving traditional Austrian food. Of course I had to get the "real" Wiener Schnitzel. And a dark malty beer, this one called Grieskirchner Dunkel. So delicious.

First “authentic” meal at Kolaris Luftburg, a restaurant serving traditional Austrian food. Of course I had to get the “real” Wiener Schnitzel. And a dark malty beer, this one called Grieskirchner Dunkel. So delicious.

We’ve had some time to explore our neighbouring area as well as other central parts of the city. We’ve wandered around the city, sometimes not really knowing where we were going, but Vienna’s rather laid-back atmosphere, beautiful architecture and rich history have kept it interesting. It seems there is always a story behind every building and street corner, or maybe I’m just astonished because Canada’s history is nowhere near as extensive as Europe’s!

Walking around in Stephansplatz in the touristy part of town, spotted this little alley.

Walking around in Stephansplatz in the touristy part of town, spotted this little alley.

Stephansdom, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna

Stephansdom, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna

A moonlit Karlskirche (beautiful baroque church in central Vienna)

A moonlit Karlskirche (beautiful baroque church in central Vienna)

The Buskers Festival in Vienna, from Sept 5-7. We saw Vertigo, a fire-playing acrobatic group from Slovakia.

The Buskers Festival in Vienna, from Sept 5-7. We saw Vertigo, a fire-playing acrobatic group from Slovakia.

Ludwig van Beethoven's grave at Zentralfriedhof, one of the largest cemeteries in the world

Ludwig van Beethoven’s grave at Zentralfriedhof, one of the largest cemeteries in the world

I can tell this exchange is going to be an absolute blast and I can’t wait for the Orientation & Cultural Program to continue. I will attempt to keep this blog updated every week, so keep checking back! 🙂

Yesterday it was a glorious day on campus at WU. The futuristic-looking buildings look like they're straight out of a magazine.

Yesterday it was a glorious day on campus at WU. The futuristic buildings look like they’re straight out of an architectural design lookbook.

Next blog post: Vienna: THE FOOD ISSUE, Stephansdom, State Opera House, Graz

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5 thoughts on “Wien: Week 1

  1. jchou8 says:

    So jealous right now. Vienna is nice, no doubt you’ll have a blast. 4 months will go by quick so make the most of it. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that.

    Schonbrunn Palace is really nice and easy to get to.

    Have fun…be safe…and did I mention how jealous I am of you???

    Like

  2. Kim Griffin says:

    Oh Rach this was most wonderful! I was in Vienaa for 4 months when I was your age so the photos I am greatly enjoying…and of course, would be greatly disappointed if there were no food photos! 🙂 ahh and yes their short work hours….I am So So glad that you are doing this. I look forward to the next installment.

    Like

  3. Your Mother says:

    More food pictures please, hehehe. Ummm, unless of course it’s all of schnitzel!

    I read the first couple of paragraphs of your blog to Jack today. He greatly enjoyed seeing the picture of himself carrying your backpack, while gleefully pointing out that I was only carrying something “tiny”.

    Like

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