Caught in the Storm: Up and Running in Wien

Isaac Alter
May 28, 2014

(Please excuse the heavy-handed Smash reference in the title.)

Well, here I am! I’m sitting in the study room of the IES Abroad Vienna Center, a space whose opulence continues to astound me; our music history professor told us yesterday that it’s essentially a Baroque palace. Not too shabby.

Well, it’s only been three days since I arrived in Vienna, but I already feel like I’ve been here for ages, and am already so at home in the city.  It’s been an eventful few days, and lots is bouncing around in my head, so I’ll just make this entry a few initial impressions/exciting experiences that I’ve had so far.

1) The culture of greeting people in Vienna is very different from what I’m used to; I’m sure we’re all familiar with the awkwardness when you pass someone in the street that you know a little bit in the US, in which you struggle to not make awkward eye contact. Here, it’s customary to greet even people you don’t know, especially in your apartment building and neighborhood.

2) We went on our bus tour of the city yesterday (before a delicious–and mostly fried–dinner at a wine tavern), and I was so struck by how much there is to do in Vienna; the list of places that I need to go in only the next 6 weeks is almost too long to keep track of. At the same time, though, it also hit me yesterday that I’m not sure when I’ll next be in Europe, so I do want to attempt to capitalize on the opportunity to travel to places like Budapest, Salzburg, and perhaps Prague.

3) While I did have one sub-optimal experience with a cashier who didn’t speak much English at a convenience store a few days ago, I’ve been so relieved at how much English is spoken here–definitely a huge blessing.  I thought about how ridiculous it would be for a German speaker to come to America and expect to be understood wherever he/she went; I’m definitely lucky to be American.

4) On Saturday, my friend Eric and I were walking out of the Margaretengürtel subway station, about a 5 minute walk from our apartment, when the hardest rain I have ever witnessed started falling from the sky.  We ran to our apartment, but were nonetheless completely soaked by the time we got there.  Neither Eric nor I have keys to our apartment yet (since neither of us had enough cash to put down the 50 euro deposit to get our keys, although we’re planning on picking them up today), so we instead took refuge from the rain inside the practice rooms just 2 doors down.  The moment of “Oh my gosh”-ness and almost euphoria while running through the downpour was the inspiration for this post’s title.

5) One last piece of excitement, which was that I just had my first German class this morning! I had forgotten how much I adore learning languages, and am so thrilled to be learning the language that I can at least attempt to speak in this country.  I actually ran into two French girls while I was out with friends on Saturday night, and loved having the chance to speak French with them; I can’t wait to be able to do the same with German.

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Isaac Alter

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Isaac Alter, and I&#39;m a rising junior at Harvard College, studying stem cell biology with a double minor in art history and music. Outside the classroom, I work both as an admissions tour guide and as a research associate in a stem cell lab, I am a music director for the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, and I am a flutist and board member for the River Charles Ensemble, a conductorless chamber orchestra. I&#39;m beyond thrilled to be taking a journey to Vienna this summer, to pursue and explore music--one of my great passions--in what has been the center of classical music for centuries. In my free time, I love taking spontaneous trips to New York, cooking, and exploring nooks and crannies of Harvard&#39;s vast campus. My career plans at this point are wildly up in the air, but I hope that my experience with music this summer will help me on that front.</span></p>

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