by Sarah Gourevitch, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Student in Austria
It may be because I’m involved with the music and circus communities here in Vienna, but culturally speaking, I haven’t found Austria so different from the United States (or New York, at least!). I think the greatest differences are the results of attending a music school and living in a city. One big difference is how school is scheduled around our orchestra and choir rehearsals, especially before Musikfest, our concerts at Musikverein (which went very well and were so much fun, by the way!). To prepare for the concert, we had rehearsal everyday, instead of the usual once a week. Still, our academic teachers were so supportive; many wished us luck, my French teacher had us read the French translation of the Latin lyrics to Mozart’s Requiem and my English teacher even came to hear us! This support for music was really wonderful and it made concert preparation more fun and less stressful. The other big difference from home is all the time I spend walking and on public transportation. I really enjoy looking around, getting a sense of the neighborhoods, reading, people watching, and studying my German flashcards—all while getting to wherever I’m going.
There are also some more general cultural differences. For one, baked goods are more plentiful. It’s also quite normal to spend hours in a café, which I’ve really enjoyed. There’s a bit more smoking, as is true for most of Europe. It’s generally more common to eat a larger lunch and a smaller dinner here. I’ve also sensed that there’s a Turkish influence, from all the kebab and falafel stands that line the streets. Additionally, Vienna is much more catholic than where I grew up. Religion is taught at schools, but only for students who decide to take it; the sense of acceptance and tolerance is the same as what I was used to at home. I had heard that perhaps there would be less humor here, but I’ve found that to be far from the truth!
I think that there might be a greater sense of trust here, based on public transportation, at least. I paid for a student travel pass at the start of the semester, but there’s no turnstile that ensures that you have one and I’ve never been asked for it on the train or bus (although if I didn’t have one, and someone did check, I’d have to pay about a 100 euros fine). The sense of trust was also evident when I signed up for my circus classes—used to signing pages of waivers at home, I was surprised to see the single page asking only asking for emergency contact information.
While of course I miss my family and my friends (and my pets…), I’ve hardly had time to become “homesick.” It is funny how I miss some really little things, though…like New York sushi (which somehow just tastes different from sushi anywhere else…). And yellow taxicabs. And Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, until yesterday! Finding that cookie dough ice cream in Billa (the grocery store chain here) was quite exciting, and a nice reminder of home.
Anyways, I think I can trade a few months more without familiar sushi and taxis for all the great experiences I’m having here :)
Here are a few photos from my time so far: