Everyone lies somewhere on the spectrum of introversion versus extraversion. What this essentially means is that we all gain our energy from different sources: the extraverts among us seek activity and social interaction, whereas the introverts prefer solitude or a small intimate group. However, extra/introversion is not a dichotomy; each us can be a little bit of both. As someone planted firmly on the introverted side of the spectrum, I noticed that studying abroad seems to offer more leisure options for extraverts, such as bars, clubs, and even traveling itself. Personally, I can't think of anything less appealing than a loud club filled with probably-intoxicated people, so I have compiled a list of quieter, more introvert-friendly environments to take advantage of while studying abroad. Although this list is specific to Vienna, I imagine many cities throughout Europe offer similar options:
Cafés - If you're looking for some alone-time in Vienna, cafés are your friends. Because there are literally thousands of them in the city--multiple on every street corner--you are never far from a cup of coffee and a tasty pastry. But what makes Vienna's Kaffeehaus culture especially appealing to the introverted among us is that there is no rush to eat and leave, as in American restaurants, because waiters are paid a liveable salary and do not need a fast customer turnover. What's more, it is completely normal to go to a cafe alone; in fact, that is how Viennese intellectuals throughout history often spent their free time. However, I recommend avoiding the tourist-attraction cafes, which are mostly in the 1st District, as they tend to be loud and crowded with (often smoking) people. Otherwise, an hour or two in a cafe can be a lovely way to slow down and relax.
Concerts - Aside from its cafes, Vienna is known for its concerts, and rightfully so—the city is pretty much the capital of Western classical music history. There is so much music here, in fact, that you could conceivably attend a different concert almost every night. The options are endless: you could see an opera at the Wiener Staatsoper, an orchestra at the Konzerthaus, a soloist at the Musikverein, or sacred music at any of Vienna's many cathedrals. Even if classical isn't your forte (music puns, anyone?), there are plenty of venues offering jazz and contemporary performances. For me, concerts give me time not only to enjoy some music, but to not have to think about anything else—homesickness, loneliness, academic stress—which is absolutely worth the ticket price.
Churches - Completing what I call "The Three C's" of Vienna are churches, and much like cafes, they are everywhere. There is at least one chapel/church/temple/etc. for every possible denomination, but it doesn't really matter if you are religious—I just like to stroll around, take photos, and bask in the inherent sacredness of such spaces. One could easily fill a whole day, or several, just walking around Vienna and visiting churches, which would make for a peaceful—and visually stunning—excursion.
Museums - Clearly, Vienna is in no short supply of cool things to see, and there is a museum for just about every interest imaginable. Do you like art? Then you have options from Renaissance paintings at the Kunsthistoriche Museum to original Klimt works at the Belvedere. Into psychology? Then check out the Sigmund Freud Museum, housed in his longtime apartment and office, or the Narrenturm, the first purpose-built insane asylum. The list could go on for pages, but my point is that Vienna's museums are excellent choices for spending an afternoon alone; there's little pressure to be social or outgoing, but you're still getting out and engaging in something cultural. Plus, learning something new never hurts.
Parks - If the weather is nice, or indoor spaces aren't exactly your thing, then you're in luck—Vienna is one of the greenest capital cities in Europe. There are small parks every few blocks that make for a lovely stroll, but also the huge Stadtpark and Donauinsel (the island in the middle of the Danube), which are perfect for biking, running, sport playing, and just getting away from the crowds. For a real adventure, there is the Wienerwald, or the Viennese Forest, surrounding the city that offers lots of hiking trails and beautiful views. I simply enjoy bringing a book and a snack to my favorite park, as well as doing a little people-watching (and gazing at all the dogs—seriously, there are so many dogs here). It may sound cliche, but sunlight really does help improve your mood.
I am sure this list is incomplete, but I do want to stress that a semester abroad is the time for doing what you want to do, and exploring what is right for you. It took quite a while for me to accept that I can't, and don't want, to be as active as most of my peers, because I simply do not have the inner resources to do so. Ultimately, knowing your limits will lead to a better experience than trying to go beyond them--and you can still have a lot of fun.
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<p>Kelsie is a junior at Skidmore College, double majoring English and music. Her academic interests include creative nonfiction, piano performance, German language, and feminist theory. When she isn't in class or at the library, Kelsie spends her time playing piano, writing personal essays, knitting, or just curling up with a good book and a few cats. While studying in Vienna, Kelsie hopes to improve her German and piano skills, as well as immerse herself in Viennese culture.</p>