Before I start talking about my first weeks in Austria, let me start my introducing myself! I’m Mitch Sullivan, a twenty year-old student from The University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. This year, though, I am studying through AIFS at the University of Salzburg in Salzburg, Austria. At school, I am majoring in Political Science, International Studies, and German Language, and I am also involved with Mock Trial, Model UN, and working at the Twin Cities German Immersion School. Ideally, I would like to work in policy or intelligence for the government, but we’ll see where the wind takes me when I graduate!
Let’s not talk about life after graduation now, though, because there are plenty of more exciting things to discuss, like all that I have experienced in the past week!
On Friday, September 4th I boarded a London-bound American Airlines flight. AIFS gave us the option to spend the weekend in London before heading to Salzburg, which is one of many aspects that made AIFS stand out among other programs. The weekend included accommodation in a centrally located hotel, a guided tour of the city, and plenty of free time to explore with other students in the program. I did, of course, try traditional English fish and chips; I personally did not enjoy it, but now I can say that the first time I had fish and chips was in London! Combining jetlag and long days of sightseeing on Saturday and Sunday, the 3:00 AM wakeup call on Monday morning to catch our flight to Munich came all too soon.
Two AIFS representatives, Hannah and Ingeborg, met us at The Munich Airport. They accompanied us on the two-hour bus ride from Munich to Salzburg, along the way distributing our welcome packages, housing information, and a light breakfast. I could not be more pleased with my assigned accommodation! I live on Linzer Gasse at Institut St. Sebastian in a single room (even though I have bunk beds). It is unbelievable how centrally located this place is – I am about a five minute walk from The Mirabell Gardens, and a twenty minute walk from The University. For a point of reference, the above photo is the view from the bridge directly above my dorm.
The first days in Salzburg were filled with tons of information about academics, the city, and Austrian culture provided by AIFS staff. That was short lived, though, as on Tuesday we took a German placement test for the two-week German orientation course. Four levels are offered for orientation: Elementary I, Elementary II, Intermediate, and Intermediate Advanced. Myself and six other students placed into Intermediate Advanced, meaning that we will take Advanced German during the semester. A majority of our 54 students have never studied German before so Elementary I has the most students. I must say that I am very impressed with everyone who is in Elementary I and the effort being put into learning German.
Even though I have had six years of German, I am struggling a bit with the language. In the United States, we learn Standard Deutsch, which nearly everyone in Austria can speak, but Austrians usually conduct everyday jibber-jabber in Austrian German, or Österreichisches Deutsch, which I do not understand at all.
I was under the impression that the difference between Standard German and Austrian German was like that between American and British English. Actually, though, it seems to me more like the difference between American English and Scottish English. Luckily, when I start a conversation in Standard German, Austrians will continue the conversation as such, despite the thick accent. Who knows, though, maybe in my year here I will pick up the dialect! That is definitely one of my goals for the year: to learn the local dialect while still utilizing the German I learned in school.
I’m still adjusting to life here in Austria, but I’m getting used to it fast. It normally takes me several days to get adjusted – passive days, nausea, and all around discomfort is usually the norm. This time, however, there was none of that. Maybe it’s the mountain air! If this past week is any indication of how the semester will go, I am definitely excited for what is to come. My goals for this week are to make a successful trip to the grocery store and to find a place to get a haircut – baby steps to fully adjust to Austrian life!