On Knowing Nothing

Aiman Khan
January 10, 2017

Going into the IES Abroad Vienna program, I am ignorant of most things. I don’t know who my private horn teacher will be, I haven’t met any of the people I’ll be living with, I’m not sure whether I’ll do well enough during my “on-site” audition to get into the Performance Workshop, I don’t know what my weekly or daily schedule will look like, and I don’t know how to speak German beyond “Ich komme aus Amerika,” which I’m sure people will be able figure out on their own. So when my friends and family, since the day I decided to study abroad, have asked me questions about what my daily life will be like in Austria, all I’ve been able to tell them is that I have no idea. And while I tried to act like I was cool with the fact that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, in my head I was constantly anxious.

Upon arriving in Austria today, however, I’ve learned that no amount of logistical information would actually show me what my experience here is going to be like. I’m just going to have to experience it. And isn’t that where the thrill lies? Just in traveling here, I came across so many weird, unforeseen hurdles despite all the research I did on the airlines I was travelling with. Because I was visiting family in Pakistan for a week before coming to Vienna, I had to take my instrument (a French horn) with me from the US to Pakistan, and then from Pakistan to Vienna.

The main thing I’ve learned after traveling internationally with an instrument is that not all airlines, or airports, are created equal. While traveling to Pakistan from Dulles International Airport (Washington, DC) with Emirates Airline, I ran into no opposition while trying to bring my horn onto the plane as a carry-on. A few employees asked what it was that I was carrying, but after hearing that it’s an instrument they were totally fine with me storing it in the overhead bin.

Traveling to Vienna, however, I had a completely different experience. This time I travelled with Qatar Airways, and the employees at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi were adamant that I could by no means take my horn on as a carry-on. And I was adamant that I could. So we went back and forth, and the customs and immigration lines had taken so long that even though I arrived at the airport almost three hours before departure, as I was arguing with an employee, I was also ten minutes from the gate closing for my plane. Eventually, I was able to have my horn carried by hand into the cabin, but when I got it in Vienna, the bell was bent. Not extremely damaging, but extremely disappointing, and an expensive fix.

SO… If travelling with an instrument,

  • Make sure you know for sure, before determining what to pack your instrument in (size and sturdiness of the case), whether or not the airline will let you bring it as a carry-on
  • Don’t assume that because one airline met your needs, all of them will.
  • Exchange currency ahead of time – I only had USD on hand, and when I had to pay an extra baggage fee, the airport would only take rupees. So I had to go back to the front of the building, exchange my currency, and go through the entire security line again.

Okay… now I’m leaving all of that negativity behind me. Tomorrow is the first day of our orientation, and I’m so excited to get to know Vienna. Attached are pictures from my travels in the past week: from Washington DC, to a 23-hour layover in Dubai, to Karachi, Pakistan and then finally, Austria.

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Aiman Khan

<p>Hello! I am currently in my second year at the University of Virginia, studying Economics and Music. I&rsquo;ve decided to take a semester to study music in what is quite possibly the best place in the world to do it &ndash; Vienna, Austria. I have been playing the French horn for ten years, but I can&rsquo;t wait for the new experiences Vienna will bring me, and to document and share all my adventures!</p>

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