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Student Spotlight: Sean Black

Vienna, Austria

  • Semester & Year Abroad: Spring 2010
  • Graduation Date: Spring 2011
  • Major: Accountancy
  • E-mail: sean.black2@gmail.com

Vienna Snow

What did you enjoy about your experience?

First off, Vienna is an amazing place in general.  After being there I can easily see why CNN ranked it as the number one place to live in the entire world for the second year in a row (No US city placed in the top ten).  It is clean and safe with beautiful buildings and parks.  It wasn’t until I came back home and went out in Chicago that I realized how nice and safe Vienna truly is.  There aren’t areas that you “don’t want to be in late at night” and there are night busses that are included in your public transit pass so I never had to waste money on a cab in Vienna.  The people are nice and it is such a laid back culture.  People seem to truly enjoy life more there.  On any nice day there are tons of people sitting around in the parks eating, drinking, and relaxing.  The public transportation is ten times better than Chicago or any other US city I've been in.  Also, there are free bicycles that you can pick up and drop off at various stations throughout the city.  We were very fortunate to be a part of such a good exchange program.  Also, Vienna is relatively cheap compared to most of Western Europe, especially compared to the UK, Ireland, and Paris.

Lastly, go on ski trip.  It was the best week of my life, including a full week at a hotel 2000 meters up in the Austrian Alps skiing every day.  Even if you don’t ski, it is a great place to learn and you don’t want to miss this experience.

How was the location?

Austria is centrally located which makes it really easy to travel all over Europe.  It is accessible to Western Europe and (underrated and cheaper) Central and Eastern Europe.  Not to mention it is in the backdrop of beautiful hills and forests.

How were the courses?

It was cool to be at such a large (20,000 people) business university.  As I mentioned earlier, it was great to go abroad and actually have a truly international experience.  I was in classes with people from all over the world and a lot of Austrians.  The classes were all in English and professors were mostly retired businessmen and women, extremely smart and engaging.  Probably the best part of my experience was that you can take “block” style courses in which you go to class for 7 or 8 hours per day for a week and then youre done with the course.  I learned a lot in all of my classes but it was great that they aren’t as time consuming as U of I classes.  This left a lot of time to travel and really enjoy the city.

It was frustrating at times working with people with varying fluencies of English on projects, but a good experience.  They aren’t as worried about GPAs and grades as Americans are, and a lot of people are just taking courses for credit/no credit, so talk to your professors to get an idea of how the course is structured and how they do grades.

How was the housing?

I had an interesting situation for housing.  I ended up in the dorm that was further away from the center of the city and most of the people in my program were in a different dorm.  At first this was frustrating, but it eventually caused me to meet a lot more international people and make a lot of different friends.  I would suggest living in Haus Erasmus, (I lived in Haus Panorama) but either dorm is fine simply because the public transit is so good.

What do you wish you had known that would have prepared you better?

Have a good traveling backpack.  I think most things you just have to learn on the go, I cant really think about too many things that I wish I would have known.

What was the most valuable thing you learned?

I learned a lot of things during my time abroad.  I really saw that the world is much bigger than the US, which is hard to comprehend until you actually leave it.  I realized the importance of trying new things.  You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone and it is really amazing how many doors open up to you and people that you meet that you wouldn’t expect.  Lastly, there is a lot to learn from people who are different from you, but you have to be willing to hear what they have to say.  I was also amazed at how helpful and goodhearted people were whenever we needed help with anything.

What do you want future study abroad students to know?

If you're on the fence about studying abroad, just do it.  When you go, don’t just hang out with people you already know, put yourself out there.  The only problem that you’ll run into is not wanting to leave when the semester is over.

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