The University of Iowa

Temporarily Viennese

September 12th, 2017

One of the several courtyards and three of the many tourists at the beautiful monastery in Melk.
One of the several courtyards at the beautiful monastery in Melk

Hello all! For those of whom may be reading this and have not yet had the pleasure of making my acquaintance, my name is Bailie and I’ll be writing to you from Vienna, Austria for the duration of this semester! I’ll be studying alongside hundreds of exchange students from across the globe at the Vienna University of Business and Economics, better known as WU.

My decision to study abroad was largely influenced by my family, particularly my older sister who spent a semester in the Netherlands. When she came back with so many positive things to say about her experience, that’s pretty much when I made the decision that living and studying in a foreign country was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I was still in high school at the time and had just accepted admission at the University of Iowa without much of an idea of what I wanted to study or where the next few years might lead. And while I did know that I wanted to study abroad, it still seems surreal that three years later I’m sitting here in Vienna, Austria having just spent the day with new friends from Slovenia, Algeria, and most exotic of all, Minnesota!

My first week in Austria has thus far consisted of overcoming jet lag, completing mandatory registration and other boring, administrative tasks associated with living in a foreign country for longer than 90 days, and beginning my month-long cultural orientation program (classes here don’t start until October). On Thursday I completed my enrollment at WU and received my student ID, and on Friday my orientation group took a day trip to Melk, about an hour outside of Vienna, to have lunch and visit the Melk Abbey. Yesterday my friends and I did a little sightseeing (and shopping) of our own around the city center. We strolled past the beautiful Spanish Riding School and the entirety of the Hofburg, the former imperial palace, which occupies over 20% of Vienna’s city center. In other words, I exceeded my 10,000 steps for the day and have blisters to prove it. But you know what they say, no pain, no gain!

Speaking of pain, we exchange students began our orientation by dividing into groups and using icebreakers to get to know one another. If you’re wondering what’s painful about this—it’s the icebreakers. However, I did find it interesting to hear why students from all over the world chose Vienna for their exchange semester. I have no shame in admitting that my decision process included a good deal of time spent googling each city to see what they looked like, and Vienna has not let me down in terms of its beauty! The buildings are beautiful and the city itself is very clean, not to mention the people of whom, as far as my interactions have gone, seem nice. I also chose Vienna because I thought that Austria, being fairly centrally located in Europe, would be a good starting point for future travels. This was pretty important to me considering I’ve never been to Europe before and have been looking forward to see all that I can while I’m here.

Part of the imperial palace; the main terrace in this photo is where Hitler stood when he declared the annexation of Austria in 1938.
The imperial palace

This week began my pre-session German course, which could not come soon enough as I know about three words in German, one of which is ‘ja.’ I will also continue my cultural orientation with tours around Vienna and a day trip to Graz which involves touring a chocolate factory and massive amounts of free samples, so basically the highlight of my week.

With my first week coming to a close, I can attest that it’s pretty strange to be surrounded by people speaking in a language I don’t understand, and it’s also strange to shop in a grocery store with only one option for peanut butter; however, what I’ve found to be the strangest of all was how comforting it was to step foot on a college campus. WU’s campus is beautiful, with buildings designed by world renowned architects such as Zaha Hadid; and although the buildings are modern and the campus itself is not necessarily similar to UI, the wide sidewalks and large lecture halls are something that I’m used to, something that made me feel a little bit more at home. I think I’ll like it here.


Bailie Uppena

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.