I consumed nearly 100 “kugeln” (scoops) of gelato during my 6-week study abroad trip to Vienna, Austria. While that may sound like the early stages of diabetes, it was only a small fraction of what made this trip so incredible. For most of the trip, every day was a new adventure with friends. Luckily, I was never truly lost because the transportation system in Vienna is highly efficient and easy to use. Four hours of class in the morning lead to numerous excursions in the afternoon. After the first week, I already felt like I had meshed into the Austrian lifestyle. Our program director, Karen, did an amazing job with scheduling all of our excursions. We made the best use of every day and explored the culture of Vienna while also learning about the marketing behind some of Austria’s biggest companies. This meant trips to museums, businesses, art galleries, famous restaurants, historical sights, mountains, dark caves, and of course, gelato shops.
While I could write a novel about the all the wonderful trips we embarked on during our stay in Austria, I want to focus on a particular experience. Before heading to Austria, I realized that being away for 2 months might make it a bit difficult to continue my training for rowing. While summer is usually a maintenance period, it’s extremely important to stay fit because fall comes around fast you don’t want to be the one out of shape in the boat. In addition, I knew that my passion for food would be a double-edged sword, especially in a chocolate filled city like Vienna. With that being said, I contacted a few rowing clubs in Austria and decided that Erster Wiener Ruderclub-LIA would be the best choice. They are the oldest club in Austria and they are notorious for winning at major global rowing events. Might as well train with the best, right?
I joined with the intention of staying in shape while abroad, but along the way I made numerous friends that all shared the same passion as me. The rowing community itself is extremely friendly and being abroad, it becomes a bit more difficult to make new friends. Reaching out to LIA changed everything though because I was now making new friends every day and learning about Austria first hand from those who lived there. From workouts to sharing meals, my new friends helped me feel like Vienna was becoming my new home. I was even able to help out and witness their popular annual event known as the Vienna Night Row. With nearly 100 entries and different countries competing, boats race in a 500-meter stretch while decked out in creative light decorations. With plenty of food and music, the event goes long into the night and is certainly one that I will not forget. Matter of fact, I hope to set up something similar along the waterfront in downtown, Portland so that more people become interested in rowing. I cannot thank my Austrian pals enough for how welcoming and friendly they were. They helped make my study abroad experience much more memorable, and I look forward to visiting them again in Vienna.
Everyone has something that they are passionate about. If not, I am more than sure that there is something you really care about or don’t mind spending countless hours on. When traveling abroad, I advise that you find a club or organization that shares your interests and get in contact with them. They are more than likely going to be excited to meet you and become your friend. Making new friends while abroad makes the trip a million times better, but you already know that. You don’t have to be attached to your university group. Making friends abroad will help you integrate into the culture much faster and in the process you could be making friendships that last a lifetime. Also, you never want to eat gelato alone. Even if you go nearly every day of the trip.
-Emi Purice, Marketing in Vienna