Why did you choose this program?
When I was college searching, I actually chose my school because of the study abroad programs they offer. I spoke with a former student that had spent a semester in Salzburg and hearing her story made me so excited to see all that the program entailed. Going into the quest for my ideal study abroad experience, I made a list of things I really wanted to have in a program. I was specifically looking for a host home experience where I’d have the chance to really be entrenched in the culture and I also really wanted a program where I’d have the freedom to explore and travel on my own.
It was really important for me to be learning alongside other travelers in my classroom (so I wasn’t plopped inside a classroom with a bunch of native speakers of a foreign language I didn’t know) and mostly, I wanted to be pushed outside my comfort zone . When I found out that Salzburg College checked all those boxes, I was sold. Plus, the fact that Salzburg is a smaller sized city and one of the safest cities in Europe made this trip even more perfect for me (and for my parents). Ultimately, all the factors that led me to Salzburg were fulfilled, and I had a blast all semester!
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The staff at Salzburg were great at initiating communication and keeping me informed prior to leaving for the trip, they never left me or my parents in the dark about what we’d be doing. Once we arrived in Europe, the staff was just as attentive. I felt at ease asking them questions and approaching them any time I needed help. Our teachers were even great at giving us advice on where to travel, how to budget well, and the ‘must see’ things during our time in Austria.
During most weekends (and a ten-day spring break) we had the chance to travel on our own and were given total freedom to do and go where we pleased. I appreciated this so much not only because we were given the opportunity to choose what we wanted to do, but also because it gave me much needed experience in planning and booking our adventures. If you’re looking for a program that is structured and always has a plan for you, Salzburg probably isn’t for you. The staff will answer all your questions and give you all the advice you could want, but they definitely aren’t going to hold your hand the whole way.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
SOAK IT ALL UP. The only way to get the most rewarding, unforgettable experience out of your trip is to do things you normally wouldn’t. Book that weekend trip to Spain. Stay in a hostel with strangers you'll never see again. Take the long way to school and explore the city. Climb a terrifyingly rickety staircase to the top of a tower just for the views. Spend fourteen dollars on a macaroon if that’s what you want to do. Just don’t be afraid to stretch yourself outside your comfort zone! Maybe you’ll end up being a life-long traveler, or maybe this will be your only international experience, but either way, you don’t want to look back on your time in another country wishing you had just done that one thing.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The cool thing about Salzburg College is that there is always something new going on. Sure, lots of days are filled with one class in the morning, a break for lunch and then another class in the afternoon (typically German and Austrian history are taken by everyone before spring break (or fall break) and then two or three other classes of each students choosing afterwards), but I wouldn’t say there is much of a routine in SC’s classes. As a class, we took many field trips, whether that was around town or to a completely different city.
This form of experiential learning made the whole experience far more interesting and enriching than it would have been had we just been in classrooms all day. Even when we did stay at the school, SC staff brought in some really awesome speakers and guests to give us some perspective on Austrian life. We met a rabbi who had survived the Holocaust, a few professors from Universität Salzburg, a culture specialist from England and, my favorite guests, a pair of brothers who had escaped the turmoil of Syria to make a life in Europe. These experiences made the trip for me, and they are what sets Salzburg College apart from other programs. You’ll be surprised just how much a normal week in Austria definitely won’t be average.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
When I decided to go to Austria, I was an 18-year-old college freshman that honestly had no idea what to expect. If you’re the kind of person that stresses a lot about anything and everything, I’m right there with you! But I will say, that out of my character, I felt pretty at peace about going to Austria. I knew it was a safe city, I knew that I had planned and organized well and I knew that no matter what happened, Salzburg College was going to take care of me. I was mostly just worried about whether I’d make friends (guess what, I did, I had nothing to worry about).
So if you’re preparing to go anywhere abroad and you just can’t seem to shake your anxieties about what will happen, it’s okay! Talk to someone who’s traveled before, ask questions and try to remember to breathe, heck call me if you need someone to give you traveling advice, because I promise you, the great things you’ll get out of study abroad will far overshadow any of those worries that you came into it with.
Did you get to interact with Austrian students at all?
It’s important to know that this program consists of a small group of other American students and that you won’t be doing a lot of interacting with Austrians your age. This means that SC it might not be the right study abroad experience for some people, but I loved this aspect and it gave me a peace of mind going into studying abroad. Salzburg College is unique in the fact that they are a program designed specifically for American students. Instead of following the Austrian school system’s semester schedule (which is different than ours) they use the August to December and January to May model like we do. But even more than that, all our teachers spoke both English and German and were able to easily communicate with us.
If you want to get more interactions with Austrians your age, it’s really easy to involve yourself and meet other people outside your class of Americans. Another group of girls and I found a church that we went to on the weekends we stayed in Austria. (If you’re looking for a church or Bible study to go to while in Austria, I highly recommend Calvary Chapel, a church started by a couple from Seattle that has services in both German and English). Basically, the moral of the story is you can easily find and meet Austrian friends, if you’re willing to look for them!