I do not think I have ever been so annoying in my life until after I came back from studying abroad. Those stereotypes about abroad students returning home are sadly true. I was determined that I would not constantly talk about Austria and the 14 countries I was able to visit, but I promise you the minute you get home, it consumes your mind, and you want to share all the amazing things you experienced. I studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria, and my mother almost left me at the store because I annoyed her so much by constantly talking about the difference in American vs Austrian groceries. Despite how much I annoyed people with my abroad stories, I could not be happier about the fact it was so impactful that I do not even care that I am annoying.
Studying abroad in Austria can first and foremost be described as picturesque. I took a train from Zurich, Switzerland to Salzburg and the countryside was so beautiful, it did not look real. I have a very fun picture of my mouth dropped open as I stare outside of the train window because I was overwhelmed by the splendor. Salzburg is a rich, cultural center of Austria that is characterized by beautiful baroque architecture, stunning mountains, and the ever-flowing Danube River that cuts through the middle of the city. The city is just big enough that you must take the bus to the edge, but you can walk everywhere from Old Town to the AIFS Study Center. The nightlife for a smaller city was also great! From Irish pubs to City Beats (the student favorite night club), you will never not have something to do on a Friday night til 5 am. Though make sure not to sleep the day away as there is nothing like a Salzburg sunrise. I had never felt more at home than when walking to my homestay with a coffee through the cobblestone streets after visiting my friends at the St. Sebastian Institute dorms. Salzburg carves a permanent place in your heart through its simplicity, and I still tear up about leaving it behind. It is a European city that loves you just as you love it. I will never be able to recreate the genuine happiness the city brought me anywhere else and as sad as that sometimes makes me, that is the greatest gift I could have asked for.
Salzburg’s location in Europe also invites you to travel and explore. The city embraces you as I said, but there is also so much encouragement for travel. I was able to travel to fourteen countries, including Malta, Croatia, Italy, Sweden, Czech Republic, England, and more. The train system allows you to easily travel from country to country through overnight trains, but also the Vienna airport is a quick two-and-a-half-hour ride. We took so many cheap flights from that airport and the Eurail pass made the train system extremely easy to navigate. I was also able to explore Austria with Vienna, Innsbruck, and Bad Ischl being some of my favorite European locations. No matter where you travel, you’ll find amazement and fascinating architecture. Go to Prague for the nightlife, Rome for the food, Malta for the clearest water, Stockholm for the coldest weather, and Croatia for the islands. You are going to visit history, but also you are now a part of it. Pick a few places that you for sure want to visit, but also if there is a $30 ticket to a random place, take it and you may find your new favorite place.
While the city’s location made travel very easy, the American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS) designed their program to help students explore Europe. While I did not have a specific reason to choose AIFS, I could not recommend the program more. The staff is so supportive and makes sure from day one that you have the cultural niceties to fit into Austrian life. The program does not have Friday classes, so that students have three-day weekends every week. I really enjoyed my classes and even bore people with the information I learned about Austria in my Sociology class. The study center where you take classes is even located above a Billa (Austria’s Kroger) and you can get snacks all the time between classes! The school sponsored trips also were great for personal exploration with tours being arranged, but then students have their own time to explore with suggestions from the guides. While there is always support from the stuff, I was able to find independence through the program design.
Despite the wonderful countries you will travel to and the experiences you will gain from the city you study, the absolute best part will be the people. You may have heard it a million times when talking about study abroad, you will make lifelong friends. It will be the hardest goodbye you will ever experience as you know you will never be in the same place at the exact moment with these people. Make so many friends with your program people and grasp onto every wine night, Friday night club, Sunday morning breakfast or weekend getaway. Make time for yourself, but you will never regret pushing past your fear and getting to know everyone. I have ten never friends that I cannot help but miss every single day. Fall in love with the city, every person you meet, the places you travel, and most of all, yourself! You spend a lot of time learning new things about yourself and how you can best support you. Depend on friends, but know you’ve got this. Studying abroad will be the best decision you will ever make. Live fiercely so you might have the best hello and the worst goodbye.
Gabrielle Evans (BA Anthropology) spent Fall 2022 studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria through AIFS. Gabrielle had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad was easily the best and the hardest thing I have ever done. Life is so exhilarating and fast-paced, and the best thing to do is embrace it all. You will be changed in ways you could have never imagined and yet, the things that make you who you are will get to shine.”
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