Alumni Spotlight: Jessica Alexander


Hi! I'm a rising senior studying psychology at the University of Rochester. I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria in the Spring of 2018, and had a life-changing experience through my adventures abroad. I love to travel and I have a strong case of wanderlust.

Jessica is a rising Senior studying Psychology at the University of Rochester. She studied abroad for the Spring of 2018 in Vienna, Austria.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose IES due to the popularity of the organization at my home university and the huge collection of locations that the institution has programs in. After browsing through some IES catalogs, I chose Vienna for the music, art, and culture as well as the connection that the city has with the field of Psychology.

My program provider was thorough in passing along important information about applying, preparing to go, getting the proper paperwork in order, and more. IES is very thorough with all of the details, letters, and forms needed for most things. The only things that I had to work through on my own were setting up my initial medical providers and coverage abroad, and figuring out how to transfer information and credits back to my home school.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The biggest piece of advice I can give to someone going to IES Vienna or to any abroad program is to not be afraid to try new things. As cliché as it sounds, it's completely accurate. To have the best experience possible, you need to take risks and get out of your comfort zone. I hesitated in doing that at first, but once I let go, the amount of freedom and joy that came in my experience was boundless.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Once classes start, the average day begins with waking up, commuting to the IES center via tram or metro (the commute is anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on where your housing is located), attending an hour and a half of German class, taking a lunch break to grab a coffee and a pastry from a shop or a sausage from a Wurstelstang, attending another class, and then taking some time to explore/eat/grocery shop/hang with friends/do homework.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear going abroad was that I would become too anxious/homesick and need to return home before the end of the semester. I was fearful and afraid of failure. I overcame my fear by immersing myself in the environment, taking advantage of the freedom I had, and taking risks or actively trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. My views on the issue changed as I gained more confidence in myself and my own levels of responsibility. I left Austria feeling much more strong and assured in myself than when I arrived.

What are some musts of Vienna?

A few hidden gems or essential things to visit and experience in Vienna are:

  • The coffeehouses/cafes. Some superspecial ones are Cafe Central, Cafe Neko, Vollpension, and the Dresdnerhof.
  • The location Dialog im Dunkeln (a wonderful eye-opening event).
  • The parks. Stadtpark is stunning.
  • The street art. Some of the most beautiful pieces are scattered around the city, but there are some great pieces along the Donau Canal.