Just chillin with a mountain
Wow sometimes it’s hard to believe how quickly time passes. I feel as though I’ve only just arrived and yet I’m already a quarter of the way through my exchange semester! I do attribute some of this feeling to the fact that I have yet to begin my actual classes. The semester officially began this week, but my first class isn’t until next Monday.
I’d like to think that I’ve kept rather busy since I last blogged, hence the somewhat large gap in between posts. I finished up my cultural orientation and German course last week and highly recommend that any future study-abroaders take advantage of whatever pre-session programs your foreign university may offer. Not only was I able to do a little sight-seeing and pick up a bit of the language, but it was also the perfect opportunity to get to know some potential travel buddies and buddies just for hanging out.
As I mentioned in my last post, through the cultural orientation program we took a few day trips to cities surrounding Vienna. Graz, Austria’s second largest city, was my second of these day trips and man was it pretty. Graz is home to around 300,000 permanent residents and nearly 50,000 students during the academic year. It holds titles as both a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and UNESCO City of Design, and is also where The Terminator himself was born! While there, we had a lovely tour around the city and climbed the hill upon which lied the fortress that protected the people of Graz from Napoleon’s army in 1809, otherwise known as Schlossberg. We also visited the Zotter chocolate factory and as promised, I got more free chocolate samples than I could have ever hoped for.
On my own time, I ventured off to Salzburg with three friends for some time in the Alps and to check out the city itself. We spent two days there and managed to see everything we wanted. The first day was spent sightseeing around the city; we climbed up to Hohensalzburg Castle—I say climb because once at the top, my phone told me that I had just walked up 44 flights of stairs. We then took a bus out to Hellbrunn Palace to see Markus Sittikus’s infamous Trick Fountains which he used to play practical jokes on his guests. Luckily for his guests, the palace was only used in the summer, but unluckily for us, we were there in the fall and our tour guide failed to give warning for all the trick fountains. I managed to walk away fairly dry, but a couple of my friends were not so lucky. To dry them off, we strolled around the rest of the gardens and eventually made our way back to the center of the city for dinner. After dinner, we killed some time before heading back to our hostel and stumbled upon Salzburg’s Oktoberfest which was great for people watching and pretzel eating! Our second day in Salzburg was what I was most looking forward to; we took a cable car up to the summit of Untersberg and got a couple hours of hiking in before having lunch and heading back down for coffee at Austria’s oldest café and our train ride home.
Within the past couple weeks I also made a trip to Bratislava, Slovakia; and while this one was less by choice and more by obligation, I still enjoyed my quick 8 hours there. I went with a group of 7 other exchange students to obtain our student visas since we would be in Vienna longer than our regular passports allow. Austria’s government doesn’t permit us to obtain our visas within the country, so we had to travel to the nearest capital city. Fortunately, Bratislava is merely a one hour train ride from Vienna’s main station. While we waited for our paperwork to be processed, we walked around the city and down by the Danube river before grabbing lunch and eventually picking up our finished visas. It was a big sigh of relief to have gotten my visa without problem and therefore I consider the trip a huge success!
My most recent excursion was a quick 36-hour trip to Munich and back for Oktoberfest. The trip was planned through an organization at my university, which I am grateful for because I had to organize none of it! I had a blast at Oktoberfest, despite everything being ridiculously overpriced. If I were to explain Oktoberfest to someone who’s never been, I would compare it to a state fair: various food and game booths, several bigger amusement park rides, beer tents, and lots of souvenir stands. I loved every minute of it though: the vibrant atmosphere, being surrounded by fellow classmates, and the fact that I can now say I’ve been to THE Oktoberfest in Munich!
Our prime spot to scope out the adorable babies in Lederhosen and Dirndls at Oktoberfest
Despite all these trips, I’ve found myself complaining to my fellow exchange friends that I feel like I haven’t done enough to already be one-fourth of the way through my semester abroad. I must remind myself, though, that I still have three quarters to go, and who knows what the next three months will bring! I feel silly admitting the little bursts of excitement I get even just sitting in my room whenever I remember where I am and what I have in front of me. I mean I’m sitting at my desk in Vienna, having just returned from Oktoberfest, planning a trip to Italy for later this month. I highly doubt I’ll ever be able to truthfully utter that sentence again.
With one month down and three to go, I look forward to the start of classes (kind of) and the continuance of my big adventure abroad!
Bailie Uppena is a marketing and accounting major at the University of Iowa, who will be spending the semester at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration as part of the Vienna Exchange program.
Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.