I studied abroad with AIFS in Salzburg, Austria in the Fall 2019 semester, and it completely changed my life! I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but had never been out of the country and didn’t know if I could really handle a whole semester living in a non-English-speaking country. But AIFS provided the perfect level of support; they include health and travel insurance, a meal plan, cultural excursions and activities, on-site staff, and so much more! Whether it was figuring out how to send/receive mail, navigating the healthcare system, or finding ways to get involved in the local community, the on-site AIFS staff was always there for anything I needed. But they also were incredible about allowing all students to shape their experiences however they wanted. This wonderful dichotomy was the perfect balance between challenging myself to figure things out independently, and always feeling like I could go to them with anything I needed.
The classes I took at AIFS were so engaging and interesting, and I really got the chance to see how they played out in real life! I took classes in Contemporary Austrian Culture, Art and Architecture History, International Conflicts and Resolution, and German. These courses allowed me to understand the historical and contemporary context that shapes Austrian culture. Not only that, but we were even able to do tours around the city observing different styles of historical architecture and art too! All of the courses that AIFS offered transferred back to my home institution easily, and even counted toward my double minors in German and Government, or for core credits!
Salzburg is the perfect place for anyone who wants a more intimate local experience due to its smaller size than other metropolitan areas, and is nestled right in the northern foothills of the Austrian Alps, so there are plenty of great hiking and outdoor adventure opportunities if you’re a nature person! It’s small enough to really get to know the city, but large enough to have everything you could need or want - restaurants, nightlife, museums, shopping malls, etc. Salzburg holds such a special place in my heart, and I owe my amazing experience all to AIFS for guiding me through the process, and allowing me to just focus on having the best time possible.
Something else that is unique to the AIFS experience is the level of alumni engagement. Coming back from abroad, I definitely experienced reverse culture shock, and was eager to connect with any of my peers that I could relate to and share stories of my time abroad with. I didn't really find that community at my home campus, but AIFS had so many opportunities to engage with other alumni from different programs and helped me find that community. It's clear the impact an AIFS experience has on people, because even those who studied abroad with AIFS more than 20 years ago still connect with each other through alumni social media pages! I can't recommend studying in Salzburg and going with AIFS enough!
What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try to learn the language! German is an intimidating language to start learning, but it is so so worth it to be able to fully immerse yourself with the locals. Salzburg has a very young population and many international students there, so you'll get by fine with English, but I would definitely recommend seeking out different ways to engage with the community and language!
Also, Salzburg has such a variety of activities you can do - you can delve into its rich art and musical history at Mozart's birthplace, the Domplatz, and the iconic Fortress! You can also do smaller hikes at Gaisburg, Kapuzinerberg, or the Untersberg, or go further into the Alps for more rigorous mountaineering only a short train ride away! The world is truly at your fingertips in Salzburg, so I recommend saying 'yes' to whatever you may come across, because you'll be amazed by the experiences you can have!