Kristofer Klondaris ’12 – My month of intensive language training in Vienna is over and my time spent in Austria has been far more eventful and far different than what I expected. I have, through a combination of chance and a curious disposition, been exposed to a huge variety of things that one should hope to experience while living abroad including art, architecture, langauge, food, ideas, modes of political/social thought, and so on.
In only one month I’ve managed to eat gulasch in Budapest, drink Riesling in Slovenia, cruise along the Danube in the Wachau Valley, and, of course, sip on countless Grosse Brauners (a typical Viennese style of coffee) at most of the big-name Viennese coffee houses. (Well, they’re big-name to certain crowds; usually the artist, the tourist, or the aristocrat; and by aristocrat I mean the real-deal aristocrat: the fur-coat flashing elderly widow who pulls up to the cafe in her Rolls Royce for her afternoon coffee and cake.) And yes, the Viennese coffee is actually as good as everyone says – far better than the watered-down stuff we get in the states at any rate.
In addition to indulging in the coffee, taking intensive German classes (between 3 and 6 hours every day), and seeing the sights in my free time, I’ve also become acquainted with a good mix of European students in my Studentheim (student residence). The students in my hallway, of which there was one from virtually every European country, were generally eager to get to know the only American on the floor.
There were a number of long nights spent in conversation about cultural values relating to everything from compulsory military service to the price of gasoline. This exchange of ideas was almost, if not more, valuable to me than simply observing the big tourist attractions. Of course, getting out to see an opera or bargaining in German at the Saturday morning flea market are valuable parts of a good study abroad expereince, but a deep cultural exchange between a small group of people is just important in my mind.
But, the relationships I’ve formed in Vienna have been cut short, as I’m now moving to Marburg, Germany to do a do a full-time semester at Phillips University. While my Wabash brothers are wrapping up their semester, I’m just about to get started with mine. At Marburg (a university town with a population of 80,000), I’ll essentially be living the life of a German college student by taking three full-time university classes, all taught in German. I’ll also be doing some language courses on the side to keep my grammar up to par.
Although seeing Vienna was a great experience, I’m looking forward to settling down in quiet Marburg for a more down-to-earth experience; an experience which will allow me to truly get to know the students and the local culture. I look forward to partaking in a similarly deep cultural exchange, but without the commotion and glamour that adorned Vienna. Vienna is truly a great city, but I’m leaving it now with a handful of great experiences, a much broader knowledge of the German language, and an increased yearning for the tranquility of the German countryside.