Week 3- Austria Takeaways

As I reflect on my first part of my study abroad experience in Graz, Austria, here are my 3 key takeaways. 

To begin with, I have grown very comfortable in my new city of Graz. It is the second largest city in Austria. Although I slightly struggled with directionality at times, I eventually got accustomed and comfortable navigating through the city and always stuck with my friends. When in doubt, using a phone to help navigate is always a good idea to avoid getting lost. I quickly got used to and enjoyed taking the public tram on the street. Our stop for the university was called “Merangasse.” We found beautiful cobblestone streets and excellent restaurants in the area known as the Bermuda triangle. I loved eating outside with my friends in the great weather and gorgeous atmosphere of the European streets. We easily discovered our favorite places to eat and most importantly, our favorite places to get gelato! The excursions and walking tour of the city satisfied our tourist desires while also studying and learning about the Austrian culture and healthcare system. The famous Schlossberg clock tower provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city, with emphasis on the historical red roofs of the town. We climbed up to the clock tower numerous times, as the view never gets old. Another unique place we enjoyed visiting is an artificial island in the form of a boat that is also a bridge on the Mur river. We studied there a few times, taking in the fresh air and breeze of the river. Another one of our favorite spots is the city park. Graz is known for a lot of green space. We loved doing yoga in the park as well as studying in the grass. 

I had my “Oh my gosh, I’m abroad” wow moment during our first weekend, which was our trip to Salzburg. Salzburg is yet another gorgeous and charming city in Austria. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of study abroad. After a week of getting to know each other as a group and learning to navigate in Austria, we were given independence to create our own itinerary for the weekend, with some guidance and group activities. Visiting the fortress and another great view of this city with my peers was very fun, as well as taking a cable car high up in the Austrian Alps.  Getting to touch the snow up in the mountains and make a snow ball was a crazy experience that I never imagined doing before. Also, we had the opportunity to try many culturally authentic desserts in Salzburg, such as the original Sacher torte, which is a chocolate cake that has a secret recipe/ history in Austria. We also tried the Mozart themed cake, as Mozart the musician was born and lived in Salzburg for some time. Lastly, we tried the Nockerl dessert, which is only in Salzburg. It looks like 3 mountain peaks, and is primarily an egg based dessert and definitely unique. Eating all of these desserts outside at cafes with gorgeous views of the main square, horse carriages passing by as well as views of the river were very relaxing and serene.

Naturally, I did experience some moments of culture shock. A major one to get used to was the bike culture in Austria. There are so many people that use bikes as transportation in the city, so it is important to watch out for them when walking as a pedestrian. We also learned that bike culture shows their focus on exercise and healthy lifestyle. Another moment of culture shock was the language barrier. With the majority of the group having no German language knowledge, it was inevitable to run into some challenges throughout the trip. We got used to some of the common words to use and be polite, while we also used hand gestures and pointed to images or words to help communicate. Another interesting aspect of Austrian culture from a health viewpoint is their smoking culture. It is very prevalent and interesting to see people smoking cigarettes everywhere and even at young ages.

Original Sacher Torte
Traditional Nockerl dessert in Salzburg
In the Austrian Alps!
Snowballs in the Alps!

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