High School - Austria, High School Abroad

Handling Homesickness and Cultural Differences in Austria

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:

School concert

Pictures from my concert at Musikverein! (I’m the one with the black double bass).

school concert 2

More pictures from my concert at Musikverein!

concert

Our entire orchestra!

Vienna opera house

The Vienna opera house (Wiener Staatsoper).

Vienna opera house 2

Taken while waiting in a 200 or 300 person line for standing tickets for the opera.

Vienna Opera house3

Inside the Vienna Opera House.

Sunday walk

A walk I took with Eva one Sunday. We headed to the Donau river.

Sarah's walk in Vienna

Although we were still in Vienna, it was as if we had traveled far outside the city–it was so beautiful!

2013-03-18 15.03.46

I can’t wait to return to go swimming when it gets a bit warmer. We also walked around some of the more urban parts of the city.

pharmacy

Vienna is the only city I know where pharmacies are named after composers :)

2013-03-18 14.48.56

Enjoying the view.

  

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About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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