This summer, I participated in the IES Abroad Music History and Performance Program in Vienna. Although I had traveled outside the United States before, I had never been as far as Vienna and had always been with my family. Through living in Vienna for six weeks, I learned a ton of valuable lessons about traveling abroad that will help me in my future career!
Admit you’re in a foreign placeOne of the biggest challenges in Vienna was the language barrier. I knew little-to-no German prior to going to Vienna, so I was nervous about being able to get around comfortably. Thankfully, because Vienna is a large city with lots of tourists, many of the shopkeepers and waiters knew English as well. I had to learn to ask for help with reading signs, ordering food, and transportation. I always prefaced my questions with “Do you speak English?” and nearly everyone did. I was nervous about appearing like a clueless American tourist, but I quickly got over that doubt because it was far more useful to admit I needed help than struggle and end up more confused.
Budget budget budget!This seems self-explanatory, but it proved very useful in my time in Vienna. In general, Europe was cheaper than America, but a bigger issue I ran into was having multiple ways of payment. While abroad, it’s pertinent to understand that many places accept cash only, and many places that do accept card only accept certain debit cards. In addition, ATMs charge fees for withdrawing cash abroad, so whenever I had to grab extra Euros I usually withdrew more than $20 so that the fee was worth it.
Utilize public transportationVienna has one of the most efficient transportation systems I have ever experienced. My classes were about 20 minutes from housing by the U-Bahn, and even though I was anxious at first, the train system was easy to use and affordable. Aside from classes, most major locations in Vienna were accessible by public transportation, with fairly short travel time of under half an hour for most things. In addition, transportation in and around Vienna proved useful when traveling outside Austria because it was possible to get to nearby countries using cheap transportation.
Ask questionsThe people who know the most in Vienna are the people in Vienna! Oftentimes, asking locals about their favorite restaurants, museums, etc. led to some of the most memorable and fun moments of my trip. In addition, asking for help eased a lot of my nervousness while exploring a new place.
Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone!Traveling alone can be terrifying, but part of it is learning to be more independent and explore new places. During this trip, I learned so much about the wonderful city of Vienna, my friends in my program, and myself, and most of that came from going to small museums, exploring the ins and outs of Vienna, and booking trips to other places such as Bratislava and Prague. Above all, one of the most important things about traveling is to have fun!
My time abroad taught me a lot about being in a new place. Through these experiences, I feel more comfortable while traveling in the future, and I cannot wait to visit Vienna again!
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Anna Grace Hargett
<p>I am a musician and artist from Birmingham, Alabama, majoring in Flute and Psychology at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music with a minor in Nutrition. In my free time, I enjoy creating visual art and engaging in photography, among other creative pursuits. A fun fact about myself is I am an award-winning cosplayer.</p>