Sommerhochschule. A word I repeated incessantly in the weeks leading up to my flight to Austria. To some of my American friends, it was merely some gibberish that meant I would be unavailable for over a month. To my American professors, the word meant widening horizons, a great deal of learning, and elicited a hint of jealousy. To my parents, it was the source of some anxiety, especially with the worsening COVID situation in our country and the world: “what if they close the border and you can’t get in, or even worse: what if there is another lockdown in Europe and you get stranded in Austria?” As I kept repeating the word, it began to take on a new meaning in my mind as well: an escape from the world of Zoom meetings and a fresh start in an unfamiliar and beautiful land.
From the moment I stepped off the bus in Strobl, I knew I had made the right decision. Raymond, one of the office assistants, greeted me with a bubbly joy that seemed totally out of place as we stood soaked in the torrential downpour of rain. I suppose my last name mislead him because he first spoke to me entirely in German. He seemed so happy that I almost didn’t have the heart to tell him that I only understood every third or fourth word he spoke. But after I told him, he switched effortlessly to English, maintaining his exuberant persona. This introduced me to the univie: summer school: the whole staff was routinely friendly and helpful regardless of the weather, the stress of corralling dozens of wild young adults, or the COVID situation. And my German? Well, I hope it improved, but I suppose you would have to ask one of my new Austrian friends.
Though there were some more rainy days (pack a rain jacket and umbrella!), most of my afternoon memories from Strobl are of playing sports (beach volleyball, soccer, and Spikeball) in the sun, hiking in the nearby mountains, and swimming in the majestic Lake Wolfgang. I cannot express the fantastic feeling of spending an afternoon relaxing on the Boathouse dock or swimming in the cool water staring at the incredible panorama of mountains all around. At night, our close-knit group of Stroblers played games, sang, danced, and naturally tasted some of the drinks Austria is famous for.
I say afternoon because naturally the mornings filled with plenty of learning.I originally applied to summer school for the courses, and they did not disappoint. If you are worried about the exams, though, I might placate some of your fears by saying that I came in with virtually no knowledge of law or the European Union. And, somehow, even I managed to survive. The professors are knowledgeable and passionate about their topics, so they cheerfully helped me understand. Overall, the learning experience in Sommerhochschule was totally unlike what I was used to in my university, and that’s a good thing. Participation, discussion, and funny stories kept our daily lectures engaging. Also, the professors seemed so happy to be there. The professors made our program fun, so I was glad to see them having fun too.
All in all, the summer school generates a communitywhere everyone is simultaneously learning, discussing, relaxing, adventuring, and cultivating new friendships. Against the backdrops of one of the most beautiful places on earth, you’ll get to meet people with different perspectives from all over the world and share some amazing experiences. In fact, the only other advice I have for anyone attending the Sommerhochschule is to make sure you enjoy every moment you have in Strobl. Make memories and take lots of pictures, extracting every ounce of nostalgia for future use. Even only one month removed from Strobl, I found myself missing those days and those people so much. Whether I think back on the time I spent in engaging lectures, getting to know so many kind and unique people, outdoor adventures, and our evening celebrations, my memories of Strobl are fond and unforgettable.