After my list a few days ago, you may have been mistaken into thinking that I absolutely hated living and studying in Vienna, but that’s not true. As with any place, Vienna had it’s positives and negatives, and I simply enjoy writing about the negatives a bit more. But now it’s time to list some of Vienna’s more glowing aspects and explain why Vienna was a actually a great experience.
I had never lived in city before, in fact for most of my life I’ve lived in a tiny village located someplace in the south of England. Hell, even the university that I chose was located in town that most people have never even heard of. So the idea of suddenly moving to city, no less in a foreign country, was simultaneously frightening and exciting at the same time. Fortunately, as a first city, Vienna is absolutely fantastic. Architecturally, it is surely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and the tram rides around the city centre are a perfect way to show off this ingrained majesty that the city seems to possess. Every building looks gorgeous and grand, from the imposing, romanesque parliament, to the towering minarets-like columns of the Karlskirche; even the McDonalds is suitably grandiose. Coupled with that are many luxurious gardens and staggering museums, in fact there’s so much to do in the city alone that its impossible for a student like me to do it all in 9 months. There’s still places I wished I could have gone and seen such as the Imperial Crypt. Additionally thats another thing Vienna does really well, cemeteries, so if there’s anyone reading who likes a good tomb, then you should definitely check out Vienna.
Of course, being a city, Vienna comes with all the perks one should expect, extravagant nightlife, restaurants galore, vineyards, funfares, cinemas, zoos, a river that freezes over in winter and that people go ice-skating on, a million shops for everything; typical city stuff. However, while Vienna is pleasant at most times of the year, though it can be pretty unbearable at the height of summer, I must say that Christmas is when the city is at it’s most spectacular. Not only is every part of Vienna decked out in extravagant Christmas lights, but there are also dozens of Christmas markets all over the place and one gets to experience unique celebrations such as Krampusnacht. You’ll have to bare the cold, but it’s undoubtedly worth it.
2. The ESN
Now, I didn’t actually do much with the ESN, which is the Erasmus Student Network, but I wish I had. The point is for international students to come together and get to know each other, I just had trouble summoning the courage to go out and actually meet and greet these people. However, the few events that I did go to were fantastic and the group does a great job at organising events in and around Vienna. It does everything from tours of the city, trips to other countries, game nights and a weekly bar crawl. For any new comer to Vienna University I’d definitely advise checking out the ESN and see what their doing, you might even do something you’d never expected to do in Vienna.
3. Public Transport
I not a public transport person. Even living in my tiny village, I never used the bus once. I love my car and driving myself around, and the worse thing about going to Vienna was leaving my car behind. As sad as it was though, you really don’t need a car in Vienna. With a semester ticket at hand, the whole of Vienna’s extensive public transport network just opens up to you. Bus, trams, trains, the underground; there are stations all over Vienna, insuring you can get within close distance to any particular location within the city limits. Not only that, but the Vienna serves as a hub for trains going throughout most of central and eastern Europe, so if you even fancied going to Hungary, or Slovakia, or the Czech Republic for a day, you can do just that and hop on a train in Vienna; and for a very reasonable price I must add.
One of my biggest mistakes is not really utilising this aspect of Vienna, because of, well anxiety. It was only during my last few weeks that I actually decided to just hop on a train to Bratislava for a weekend and the whole thing was a simple as taking the tram to the university. In Vienna the public transport is definitely something one should exploit as much as possible.
4. Tour Buses
Though I didn’t use the trains to travel to as many places as I should have, I did take great advantage of organised student-centred tour companies running buses out of Vienna. Erasbus was a great company that took me to all kinds of places, from Hallstatt, to Croatia, to Poland and more. I really glad to have used them as they provide students were good hotels, lunch food, while also allowing you the freedom to go off and explore these new places in your own time, they don’t just hold you hostage on a guided tour (like some companies). I honestly don’t think I would have survived Vienna (due to death by a lack of scenery changes) if I hadn’t found them, so I’m incredibly thankful.
In addition, I went on a Sound of Music tour bus through Salzburg which was a lot of fun. (though i’ve still not seen the film) but still it took me and my mum to a loot of jaw-dropping places, including the stunning Mondsee.
5. Lecturers and Freedom
Yeah, the lecturers were really good in all cases. Enough said really. I mean, they all had an acute understanding of their subject area, but they were also super approachable and precise with their markings and feedback. Some treated us all to beers after class, or brought us donuts, and I even bumped into one, completely randomly, in a steak house in Krakow (I was worried for a moment that I hadn’t handed in some homework). Simply a great number of hard-working individuals. (I’ve already passed, so I’m not trying to curry good grades or anything)
While there were expectations set upon you, the lecturers were more than willing to help you meet those expectations and that leads me onto another positive, the freedom. Allow me to explain. In Bangor, or really anywhere in the UK, when you’re given an essay you have a set list of essay questions to select from, however in Vienna, they simply tell you to make your own up. For a history students, that is something usually reserved to just dissertations, but in Vienna they let you do it for any essay or presentation. Sometimes it was difficult, for sure, but for the most part I really enjoyed just going off and working on my own thing; it mean’t that I was always doing work that I was most interested in. I didn’t have to worry about there being a list of things I couldn’t or could do, or things that I was expected to include in my essay. In all, it was a very liberating experience and one that I think, personally, is far superior to the method here in the UK.
6. The Weather
Yeah, Vienna weather beats Welsh weather, hands down. Not to say that the competition isn’t close, Vienna is both hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than North Wales, and in one instance I got so hot that I abandoned my apartment for a air conditioned hotel for just a weekend. There was even one case where it started to suddenly snowstorm in the middle of spring. But, ultimately, Viennese weather is just so much more, stable, than in Wales. In Vienna if is sunny for a day, it’s sunny for a week or two, if it rains, it’ll rain for just a day. In Wales, I had four months where it rained almost every single day without stop and if the sun is out on one day, then you best make the most of it cause it could then rain for the rest of the month. In Vienna there’s no crazy flooding and there’s no tree destroying wind; it’s so much more simple. So yes, Austrian weather is so much better than Welsh weather (sorry, Wales).
And thats it, I realise this list is perhaps shorter than my worst things list, thats not a slight against the city that housed me for 9 months, it’s just because I always find it easier to write about the things that expressly piss me off. I do hope that you have enjoyed these lists and I hope to write some more about my adventures abroad very soon.
Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more photos of my adventures.