With only about a month left to my semester abroad, it seems an appropriate time to sit down and reflect upon the progress of my personal goals. Before arriving to Vienna, it was a goal of mine to not only develop several professional skills through this semester abroad, but to also learn and grow as a person. I can honestly say that I feel as though I have achieved my goal, and I look forward to furthering my skills and personal development throughout this next month and a half.
In terms of the “soft” skills that I have developed, this exchange has helped teach me the importance of staying organized and following a schedule. This has been especially helpful in situations where I know I have limited time to get what I need, as stores usually have varied hours throughout the week and all are closed on Sundays. Here in Vienna, it is not like you can make a quick Target run at 10pm if you have forgotten something. Another hard skill that I have developed is being punctual. This skill relates to an important cultural aspect, as Austrian’s regard being on time as a sign of respect. So, with any appointment that I have made or when it comes to getting to class on time, I have gotten into the habit of getting there early rather than risk being late. Finally, through this exchange, I have developed the ability to remain aware of my surroundings. This is an important skill to have no matter where in the world you are, but especially when you find yourself in a place that is unfamiliar to you, such as a foreign country. Paying attention to my surroundings has not only helped me to familiarize myself with the city, campus, and the neighborhood where I live, but it has aided me in taking the time to look around and really soak in and appreciate the beauty of Vienna.
Some technical or “hard” skills have that I have gained focus on the language skills that I have developed while being here. When I first arrived to Vienna, I was unable to understand any of the signs on buildings, store fronts, or subway stations. Now, although my German language skills are far from being fluent, my two-week introductory German course supplied me with enough “survival” phrases that have helped me in many situations. I can now quickly find the exit, or Ausgang, when leaving a subway stop, I know how to decipher the store hours next to the days of the week posted on the windows of the stores, and I can identify down which aisle to find the items that I need at the grocery store. Although almost everyone I have come into contact with can speak English, and English is often written next to German on things such as menus, ATMs or self-checkout kiosks, it is a good feeling seeing the progression of my language abilities from when I first arrived to now.
Keeping with the topic of languages, it has been a relief that the English language is prevalent here in Austria and almost everyone can speak it. This makes interactions with locals and other university students very easy, and sometimes even creates a great ice-breaker or conversation starter, as your waiter is likely to ask you where you are from after taking your order in English. Therefore, navigating cross-cultural interactions have not been that big of a challenge, but rather has been such a positive experience. Whether it’s been meeting them through a group project in class or being seated next to them at a restaurant, I have made a lot of friends from all over the world, as well as Vienna. The connections and friendships that I have made while on exchange have made me feel as though I have a part of me in Vienna, which in turn makes Vienna a part of me.