What an amazing program IES is. They provided the support that I needed to make my family feel comfortable to send me overseas for 5 months and for me to go abroad by myself! The initial contact with the staff in Chicago was so helpful and I never even formally met them. The staff in Vienna? Blew me away. So knowledgeable, so helpful, so welcoming. The staff was always looking for ways to help- giving us tips on where to travel, hosting a cooking class to learn how to cook authentic Austrian food, showing us all the cool local places, and having an answer to any question we had! They made my experience comfortable and easy by providing wonderful housing, hosting classes in a palace(!!), providing knowledgeable and pleasant professors for my classes, and hosting trips to travel with the IES staff to some places around Austria for some really unique experiences. They even had a networking event to allow students to meet past alumni who were back living in Vienna! I know I would not have had the same experience if I had simply gone on my own as an exchange student, and I benefitted all the more from it. I definitely recommend going with IES if you are looking to go abroad!
How can this program be improved?
Giving the students more choice on how they would like their semester to go. This is one of the only programs I know of that have classes on Fridays. They say it is to encourage students to stay in Vienna and get to know Vienna more, but I believe it should be the student's choice to decide if they want to stay in their host city for the weekend or travel elsewhere. They are in their host city for most of the week- one day is not going to make a significant difference. This was the only limiting thing I experienced.
Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would