Ellen Wood, one of this year’s participants, shares her personal experiences at
the univie: summer school 2015 in her blog below. The univie: summer school for International and European Studies is organized by the Sommerhochschule of the University of Vienna. The four week program offers high level European Studies courses in the morning and German language courses in the afternoon. The unique Strobl experience is enhanced by an extensive extracurricular program including sport courses, mountain hiking, and excursions.
It started on a Saturday. I was nervously waiting at a bus stop in Salzburg, checking my watch every 30 seconds to make sure I wouldn’t miss the bus to Strobl. I was meeting the eyes of other fresh faces thinking, are these the people I will be spending the next four weeks with? I must have been staring for a little too long, because what then followed were strange looks of concern from random strangers. But nonetheless, I heard a familiar voice, ‘Hi, do you know if this bus goes to Strobl?’. I turned around to see a tall boy with a big backpack smiling at me. He speaks English, I thought to myself. Wait, he is Australian! We started chatting and soon were joined by other excited bodies who had overheard our conversation and were also on their way to Strobl. In the first ten minutes of arriving in Salzburg I had already met an Australian, four Chinese, two Italians, a boy from Slovakia and a girl from Ukraine. Although we had come from places all around the world, at that very moment, we had one thing in common, WE WERE GOING TO SOMMERHOSCHULE! And little did we know, we were about to begin the very best month of our lives!
Firstly, let’s talk about the campus in Strobl. The campus itself was beyond my expectations. The rooms where we stayed were perfect for what we needed. The meals were always of a high standard and the staff really did look after us so well. The campus is positioned next to Lake Wolfgang, a gloriously clear blue lake. I spent every single afternoon in the lake relaxing, playing, windsurfing and paddle boarding, or simply chilled out with friends at the boathouse. Ahhhh… the times we spent at the boathouse are memories I will really cherish. From early morning yoga sessions, to afternoon paddles into the sunset. One night, we ordered a whole bunch of pizza and ate and swam and drunk all night. Another night there was a meteor shower and we all cuddled up together on the deck and watched the shooting stars until 2am, sharing stories and talking about the universe.
The extra curricular activities were brilliant. Windsurfing classes were offered in the first two weeks where I proved to myself that I could actually windsurf (albeit very badly). Tennis classes were held in the latter half of the program. Both activities were SO MUCH FUN! Throughout the whole month volleyball and soccer games were regular afternoon activities, and a table tennis tournament was organised that showcased our competitive sides. Every weekend there was something organised to allow us to explore the beautiful area around us, including day trips to new places, and hikes up some pretty amazing spots (to give you the best view in Austria!). Something I especially loved were the dancing classes; before long I was waltzing like a pro and had the opportunity to show off my new dancing skills at the Midsummer Night’s Ball (oh what a glorious night!). We were also very fortunate to have a Chamber Concert organised for us: we all got dressed up, had a glass or two of champagne, and were happily serenaded by a string ensemble all night long.
The academic program
In the sense of education, it was extraordinary. The courses I took were extremely relevant to current world issues and the professors were all so passionate. I was motivated to learn as much as possible and I truly gained a real interest in examining this world. Honestly, I have rarely felt so stimulated, determined and challenged in class discussions, and because you’re encouraged to consider all perspectives, having a cohort consisting of over 30 different nationalities made this learning experience such a unique one. I don’t think I’ll ever come across a place of learning where I have felt so comfortable, surrounded by great and loyal friends, where all prejudices are pushed aside and new cultures are discovered.
Most importantly, what really made this program for me were the people. The Sommerhochschule staff (the organisers, administrators and professors) are not only mentors, but friends. I have no words to explain how hard they worked and how much they invested into making this the best experience possible, only that I am extremely grateful for every little thing they did for us. My fellow students are the most beautiful people I have ever met. I formed friendships that I believe will last infinitely. I shared special moments with them; I sung and danced with them; I studied with them; I laughed and cried with them.
The next univie: summer school for International & European Studies 2016 will take place from July 16 to August 13, 2016. Detailed information about the academic program, course descriptions, and fees can be found at the website of the Sommerhochschule: http://shs.univie.ac.at/shs Please contact the Program Coordinator, Nina Gruber, if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Vienna offers diverse and interesting further education opportunities with its univie: summer/winter schools programme. Read here more.