I LOVED studying with AIFS in Salzburg. I chose to live in a homestay which was a really scary decision. I went through some culture shock at first, but the Resident Director Ingrid was so supportive and helped me adjust. In the end, I am so thankful I stayed with a host family, which I would recommend to everyone! My host family had me eat with them almost every day and even had me join family excursions like a ski trip and school programs. I grew to care about them like my own family, and two of my four host siblings will (hopefully - fingers crossed) be coming to visit me in the U.S. next summer! Even living with family, however, I had a lot of freedom. I had the same independence as the students living in the dorms, but also got to enjoy a good home-cooked meal and make lifelong friendships with native Austrians. Win-win!
Salzburg is kind of a random place to study abroad, but that made it so much more fun! There's some great nightlife, and all sorts of unique attractions like a historic fortress built in the 1200s, a Redbulls professional soccer team, or the Stiegl Brewery. The city is surrounded by these gorgeous mountains so there are lots of hiking opportunities, too. If you're into skiing, GO TO SALZBURG! Incredible slopes and the snow is honestly powder.
Because Austria is located pretty centrally,it's easy to travel throughout Europe. During my semester stay I was able to visit Zagreb (Croatia), Stockholm, Hamburg, Munich, Prague, and other cities in Austria as well as the 3-day layover in London at the beginning. I didn't go there,but Venice is only about 4 hours away by train.
Don't be worried too much about the language barrier. I'd encourage you to learn German because it's a very eye-opening experience that you'll grow from, but the Austrians speak very great English. You'll be fine!
I'm so happy I chose Salzburg over larger or better known cities because it was easier to settle in and the culture was so unique. The Christmas Markets are beautiful with all sorts of snacks, sweets and crafts for sale. The atmosphere is so charming that I'd go walk around the markets just because! You won't find the krampuslaufs anywhere else (google it. it's crazy). Also the food is incredible.
AIFS is really affordable. For example, they give you a food stipend and a rebate on a monthly bus pass which is really helpful for budgeting.
Overall, studying abroad was the best decision I ever made. I met some of my closest friends, gained a new perspective on issues and the world, became much more independent, experienced a new culture, learned a lot about myself, and most of all -- had FUN! I could write another 10,000 words about how much I loved it.