It’s been almost a full month since my move to Vienna. Since then, I’ve come across a handful of challenges and new “normals” that have required getting adjusted to. Fortunately, my two week German class has prepared me with the basics to make my transition smoother than expected.
My first class officially started on October 1st. I’ve come to learn that the WU’s course structure varies a significant amount compared to the ones that I’ve taken at Pitt; instead of being primarily exam and HW-based, many of my classes here rely heavily on group work, presentations, and voluntary participation. This type of learning, referred to as “PI” by WU, helps to give a constant assessment of the class to keep anyone from falling behind. The group-focused assignments have required frequent contact and I’ve been adjusting to a more “European” way of approaching college — Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, and the occasional misunderstanding between native and non-native English speakers. In the upcoming weeks, it’ll be interesting to see our group’s dynamics and how we choose to approach our assignments. I believe we’ll each have a substantial amount to contribute as all of the team members originate from a different country.
Additionally, classes in Vienna run for a much longer length of time compared to the US. Most of my classes average 2.5 hours — on Wednesday’s, I have one that goes from 8am – 2pm. This challenge has forced me to learn how to best prepare for such an extended period of learning. Being used to 1.15 hour classes back at Pitt has made paying attention for longer sessions a little on the challenging side, so the occasional break, snack, and refocusing-time are much needed.
In terms of integrating better into the community, I’ve realized that things start much earlier in the day (many stores open between 6am-730am and close soon after 7pm) — this is a concept I find myself still having to remember as I’ve still tried grocery shopping at 8pm to no avail. Besides shops and streets getting quieter at around 6pm, many of Vienna’s districts operate the same as they do in the United States. A good majority of stores speak English so tasks like grocery shopping, picking up mail, and ordering food aren’t as stressful as one might imagine. However, I quickly realized it’s helpful to bring your own reusable bag as one may not always be provided. Despite these challenges, Vienna feels incredibly safe and the people have been extremely welcoming. I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with my neighbors and surrounding community members.
Additionally, I was lucky enough to spend last week exploring Prague. It turned out to be a beautiful city with tons of amazing sights, food options, and entertainment. While it doesn’t quite have the same feel as Austria, many of the typical European “norms” are noticeable here as well. I can’t wait to explore more of Europe and see how my studies progress within the upcoming weeks.