As the new semester begins in just over a week, I find myself reflecting on the things I’ve learned through the first semester. Although I had a lot of challenges (most particularly my residence permit), I had so many other incredible experiences!
I was fortunate to travel to around 15 different countries and have so many adventures! There was the time I went to Romania, entranced by the romance and mystery of Transylvania, only to find that the capital city was not what I was expecting, nor did I like it that much. It might have also had to do with the fact that when I got off the train to a small village to view a castle, there was a dead puppy immediately outside.
I went to Poland and fell in love with the country. Not only did I meet so many incredible people and visit so many main sights, but I learned so much about history and cultural awareness. During my time in Europe, I visited two concentration camps and learned how those affected by the Holocaust should and will never be forgotten. While in Berlin, I was educated on the “Stoplrstein”, which are plaques on the sidewalk or ground, located in front of places where victims of the Holocaust either worked or lived. When I returned to Vienna, just a few days ago, I walked a block away from my apartment and something gold caught my eye. Literally nine houses down from where I lived, four plaques state the names of four people who were deported and killed during the Holocaust. I think it is so incredibly important that one makes sure to learn about Europe’s rich history and not just simply view the sights when visiting.
I was also fortunate to travel to the UK and Ireland with a fellow BIBer and a friend from Canada! This was by far my longest trip – 22 days of travelling! I decided to go to Poland right before this trip. I didn’t realize it, but it was such a relief to be in an English speaking country once I landed in England. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to immediately speak German all of the time and kicked myself for making mistakes (which I made a lot of). It was an incredible relief for me to know that no matter the situation I got myself into in England, I would always be able to explain myself or ask for help if needed.
Although I definitely learned a lot of travel tips on how to travel cheap, there were definitely some hiccups! When we were in Scotland, we had an absolutely terrible AirBnB experience, where the host called us terrible people because we didn’t want to stay in her sketchy apartment. We ended up moving to a hostel that was in a perfect location – but we didn’t get any of our money back from the AirBnB.
In Romania, no one spoke English. The ticket man spoke to my friend in Romanian and when he said he didn’t speak it, the ticket man turned to me and started speaking to me in Romanian! We had no idea what he was telling us and just had to keep the extremely confused look on our faces hoping he would feel sympathy for us. In Ireland, we were in Galway during a massive storm and didn’t even realize it! We just commented on how windy and rainy it was and it was only when the waitress told us that half the town had flooded that we understood how serious it was. All in all, I wouldn’t trade any of it.
Now, you may be thinking, “Hannah, did you ever go to class?!” The answer is yes!!
I missed maybe one class during the whole semester. The semester runs from October to January, so I had a nice three weeks off for Christmas and then the month of February off! At the University of Vienna, not all of the classes are 100% finals like they are at other universities. Only if you take lectures (which unfortunately they don’t have a ton of for the Business faculty), you’re simply out of luck. Because of this, I took seven courses and had a presentation in three of them and attendance was mandatory in all of them except for one.
I have to admit, some of the classes I would never take again. Had I known what they were going to be like, I wouldn’t have registered in them. For example, I took a Banking and Finance course that felt like I had none of the pre-requisites and was unable to find material to read up on. I also had 4 final exams in one day. Yes, four. Yes, it was terrible. Yes, I passed them all – somehow!
To sum it up some things I’ve learned are:
1) Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect at the language. We’re especially lucky as English native speakers that we’re likely to find someone who speaks English around us. Especially in Austria, where they study English in school.
2) Say YES to everything!!! I’m a newfound lover of spontaneous trips and I have to say they add an extra level of adventure.
3) Take advice from locals and read reviews! You can go into a country or city with a strict idea of what you’re going to do, but if you plan it all out and don’t leave space of opportunities that arise, you’re going to miss out.
That’s all for now!
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