Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz
I’ve finished my first week of classes here, and I have to say I think they went pretty well! I don’t have more than two classes in one day, which is something I’m definitely not used to. All of my classes are only about once a week, with the exception of German, which is a twice a week class. Oh there’s one other exception too… My International Financial Markets class is one day. That’s right. One. For eight hours… and then I’m done! Is that not one of the most awesome things ever?
I’ve learned a few things about how the class sessions and courses here are different from the ones back at home that I’m used to. For one thing, it’s very common to knock on the desk after a professor finishes a lecture. One girl told me it’s kind of like applause, and if no one knocks when the class is over it means that the students all though the professor did an exceptionally terrible job. It’s also common to knock once or twice if you have a question during a lecture. It’s kind of like raising your hand, but I think I actually like knocking better because you can raise your hand for a while without being seen by the professor.
Another thing that’s a little bit different, at least from Maryville College classes, is that (at least, during the first lecture of the class) if a student decides that the class isn’t one they want to end up taking, they can just get up and leave. Here at JKU if you aren’t present for the first lecture of a course you are automatically unregistered for that course, so if students don’t sign in they just get dropped from the course. Because of this, many students sign up for more classes than they need, and then they get to go and check the class out to see if they’ll find it useful.
One thing in particular that’s different that I’m excited about is that one of my classes will have an oral final. I’m used to having spoken finals in language classes, but this one will be for my religion class. The professor explained that we’ll be put into groups and that for the final first each person will present a portion of the class. Then the second half of the final the group will discuss and debate about a particular topic. I have never had a final exam quite like that, so I’m excited to see how it will go.
All in all, I think my classes will be very interesting. They’re not very big, or at least not as big as I thought they would be, and it looks like they will all be taking a part-lecture-part-discussion format. The class that I’m most excited about is my religion class. It’s called The Impact of Religions and Value Systems on European Culture. The professor is visiting from a Catholic school in the city, and he pointed out the fact that it’s interesting this class is even being offered, as JKU has no religion department. He used that point to then discuss the current public discussion about religions in Europe, and I think this class is going to be absolutely fascinating.
Even though I think it’ll be a challenge, I’m also excited about my German class. I really want to be able to learn as much German as I can while I’m here, so I also signed up for a “tandem learning” program at the school. I’ll be paired with a native German speaker who wants to improve his or her English, and we’ll help each other with our respective languages. I think that it’s a fantastic idea, because it would be very easy to just slip into the habit of using English most of the time here. And I don’t want that to happen!
I’m especially excited for this coming weekend because the international group on campus organized a ski/snowboarding trip! We’ll leave on Friday and come back on Sunday. I am so excited because I have always wanted to learn how to snowboard, and now I’ll get the chance to do it in the Alps! I have a feeling I’ll probably actually spend most of my time on my butt while I’m out on the slopes, but I don’t have any doubt that I’ll still have fun. Once again, I’ll update with pictures next time!
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz
This weekend was absolutely amazing! We went on a trip to Budapest, and it was incredible. We left bright and early on Friday morning for the four-hour trip. I love the fact that travel options to different countries are so vast here. When we arrived in Budapest we checked into our hostel, which was surprisingly very nice! Only three people to a room. The day we got there some of us went to the Szechenyi Bath, one of the abundant bath houses in Budapest, a city know for it’s hot springs. I had never been to a spa or thermal spring before, so it was especially exciting. There were a few indoor baths that were lovely, but we spent most of our time in one of the large outdoor baths. It was freezing outside but the water was so warm. It was absolutely amazing and so relaxing.
When we got back from the bath-house we went for dinner and Palinka tasting at Szeged Restaurant. We were served traditional Hungarian food (mine started with a Goulash soup that was delicious). The Palinka (pretty much a Hungarian schnapps) was pretty good. We tried three different types, and I couldn’t really place the flavor of the first one or the third one, but the second one had a cherry taste. My favorite type, though, was one we got at a different restaurant the next night. The next morning we had breakfast at the hostel and then went on a city tour. The architecture of the city is magnificent. Our fist stop was Hero’s Square, which was constructed for the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of the Hungarian people in that area. There are statues that depict the leaders of the different Hungarian tribes.
Our next stop was to see the Parliament building, and our tour guide told us a little more about the history of Hungary, and then we went up to the Castle District, which provides an absolutely breathtaking view of the city.
Finally, we stopped even further up the hill and looked out over the city and the Danube.
After the tour, we got a little time to explore on our own, so one of the other girls and I took a tour of the Opera House. Our guide told us that despite war and various other catastrophes the Opera House survived all of these years completely intact. She said that a bomb once actually was dropped right on the building and fell onto the stage but didn’t explode! After that we went down to the river then walked across one of the bridges. We went up to Gellért Hill after that to see the St. Gellért monument. It commemorates a missionary bishop who was martyred in about the year 1000.
We had another delicious Hungarian style dinner and tried a different type of Palinka that I liked the best. It had some spice tastes like cinnamon, but I feel like there were also some apple and honey flavors in it too. All in all it was a great weekend and I can’t wait to go back sometime! But it was really busy and I’m exhausted. I start classes tomorrow and I’m looking forward to beginning the semester.
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz
Another week has absolutely flown by! I can’t believe I’ve been here for two weeks already. I had a real shock when I realized I’d only be spending another four months here… To some that may seem like a long time but I feel like at the end I’ll be looking back not knowing where the time went.
Monday was my 21st birthday! Not that it’s really that big of a deal here because the drinking age is younger, but I was very excited! Some of my friends surprised me with cake and presents, and I felt so lucky! That night there also happened to be a Carnaval party, so I had two reasons to celebrate. Carnaval is pretty much just one giant party – you can dress up in costumes and everyone celebrates. Some of the other students and I decided to use our bed sheets and go “toga style.” It was a great time!
I’ve continued to have German class this week, and I’m learning a lot. I successfully managed to ask a server at a restaurant some questions and he understood me! I like to count the small victories. I also did my laundry this week and that is definitely a process… I needed to bring my dictionary so I could get an idea of what the washers and dryers said. And in the end my clothes weren’t all the way dry! I’ve registered for classes, and so far it looks like the scheduling pretty much works out. I only have a class conflict on one day. Most of my classes meet once a week for a couple hours, but my German class will meet twice a week. I do have one class I might be taking that only meets for one day… for 8 hours! We’ll see how that goes. I finally got my bankcard this week, and it works so that made me really happy.
On Saturday I went into the city with some friends to visit a flea market. Apparently flea markets and open-air food markets are pretty common. I really enjoyed looking through all the things people had to sell. There was everything from books to bikes to dishes to clothes to chandeliers. Afterwards we had lunch and then I took some more time to check out some of the stores in the city center. There are so many bakeries… I have to fight myself not spend all of my money there! I went into one store called Thalia, and it turned out to be a bookstore. A four-floor bookstore! I was in heaven! I also went to a store called Kika that’s a little bit like Ikea. They have furniture and other various household goods. One my way back it seemed like the tram was delayed for some reason (haha I couldn’t read the scrolling message…), so I decided to start walking back to the University. It was a beautiful day and unusually warm, so I enjoyed the walk immensely. I can only hope that Spring might be around the corner, but I'm not getting my hopes up too much as it's supposed to get colder later this week. Eventually, though, a tram did stop by so I didn’t have to walk all the way back. Saturday night my mentor here and the other members of our group of exchange students met the last member of our group. She’s from Korea, and she had to stay there until recently because she needed to be present at an interview, so she only arrived here the day before yesterday. We took here to the grocery store because we knew it would be closed today! Later while we were hanging out I decided that I wanted to make cookies despite the fact that I didn’t have a baking pan, all the right ingredients, or any measuring cups or spoons. Surprisingly, they turned out to be edible.
I’ve pretty much spent today doing things around the flat. This morning some other girls on my floor and I cooked breakfast! One girl made homemade pancakes that were absolutely delicious (there were some strawberries to go with them!), and I brought eggs, toast, and some fruit. I have my first test tomorrow. It’s for the Pre-Semester German class that I’m taking here, and despite needing to know a lot of vocabulary I think it’ll go well. Or, at least, I’m hoping that it will! Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I’m going to a Cultural Sensitivity Training course, and then Friday we leave for Budapest for the weekend! I’m beyond excited, and I can’t wait!
Ok I think this post was a little bit more manageable haha. I’ll post more pictures next time! Especially a lot from Budapest!
Elizabeth Hiatt Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz
Wow what a week! I’ve come to the realization that I probably need to post more than just once a week at least for these first couple weeks – so much has happened! I’ll try to condense it into a manageable summary.
I moved in officially last Sunday. I live in the Julius Raab Heim dorm here at JKU. What’s nice about this place is that it’s also used as a hotel, so it has a lot of hotel amenities! Downstairs under the lobby are an indoor pool, an indoor full-sized football (known in the states as soccer haha) court, a small dance studio, three piano rooms, and pool and foosball tables. On the level where the lobby is there is also a restaurant that isn’t too expensive. I haven’t eaten there yet, but I’ll have to try it out soon.
One interesting thing about Sundays in Linz – a majority of the shops and grocery stores close down! That was a little bit of a surprise for me. So far I’ve only been able to find a gas station that is consistently open on Sundays.
I share a flat-style apartment with two other girls. I’m in a double room with a girl from the Czech Republic who’s already been here for a semester, and a girl from here in Austria lives in the single room. They are both very nice! We share a bathroom and a small kitchen that has two burners and a small fridge. We’ve got a pretty great view!
On Monday the international students had an orientation session, so I got to meet many of the other students. We got all kinds of information about enrollment, registration, classes, university facilities, and upcoming trips. There is a group on campus called REFI, and this semester they are planning trips to Budapest, South Austria for skiing and snowboarding, and Prague. I’m going to try to go on all of them if I can! They sound so exciting. We took a tour of campus and got put into mentor groups. Each group has one or two students from the university to help them. So then, our mentors helped up pay our student fees, set up a bank account, and set up passwords for the JKU online systems.
Wednesday I had my first German class! I am taking a Pre-Semester language class, so we have it for about three hours a day. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to learn more. Wednesday night there was a pub crawl, so we got to go around Linz and check out some of the better pubs. The first one was called Bar Walker, and it was pretty much a sports bar. I really enjoyed the second one, which was called Café Valdes. If was kind of a Spanish style café, and I even got to speak to the man who was working there in Spanish! I didn’t think I would get to practice Spanish very much while I was here. The next one was Bar Bug’s, which is a bar and a club. They were playing American pop and hip hop! The final bar we went to (we skipped the very last one) was called Segabar, and it was much more laid back. All in all it was a great time!
On Thursday I had to take care of some administrative business like finalizing my account information, paying my rent and housing fees, and meeting with my coordinator here to discuss classes. Here, because the Julius Raab Heim isn’t owned by JKU like MC dorms are owned by Maryville College, I am responsible for paying my own rent. JKU and Julius Raab Heim just have contracts so that many students live here. Then, we had a meeting to learn how to use JKU’s online registration system for classes. I have to register next week, and it looks like all my classes are going to work out, so I’m happy about that.
Thursday night some of the students organized a trip to A1, a club close to the city center. It was really nice! There were three rooms: one more traditional, one techno, and one pop/hip-hop. In the more traditional room they played some German songs and… you’ll never guess… Backstreet Boys! I really couldn’t believe it! We spent most of the time in the pop/hip hop room, and it was another fun night!
On Friday I had German class again, and that night there was a birthday party for one of the other students. On Saturday we went on a trip to Schlierbach and Steyr. Schlierbach is a monastery/school, and now they make stained glass and cheese there. We went on a tour of the building, which I found contradictory in the most wonderful way. On one had, we saw the cheese-making facilities, which were very industrial and sterile.
On the other hand, in other parts of the building we saw baroque style rooms, a library, and the church. All of the ornate detail was absolutely incredible! No matter how many times I see baroque style architecture and décor it will never stop amazing me. Despite being breathtakingly beautiful, the library was absolutely freezin. Our tour guide told us they kept the room cold to better preserve the books.
After the tour we got to taste cheese that had been made right there, and it was absolutely delicious!
That building also had a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape.
Next we took a 45-minute ride to Steyr, which was a medieval town and is located in Upper Austria. We stopped to have lunch and ate at a traditional Austrian restaurant. Absolutely delicious.
Then, we took a tour of the city, which used to be a big source of iron production. The architecture there is absolutely beautiful! I think it’s the epitome of what a lot of people might consider a quaint European town.
Even though it’s only been about a week I feel like I have been here for so long. I have met half a lifetime’s worth of good people, and this is only the beginning! Almost everyone here has been very friendly, and I’m enormously grateful for that. It took a couple days, but I’m finally used to the time difference! I’m starting to settle in too, and I even found myself calling Raab Heim “home.” Haha the people I was with when I said that gave me uncertain looks until I explained that I meant the dorm. I still miss my MC home and Georgia home, though, but Skyping helps a lot!
Ahh… even though I tried to make it concise I’m afraid this is the best I can do! I’ll try to make my future posts a little more manageable! But I’m sure once semester classes start up my blogging might revolve a little more around my homework haha.
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz
I can't believe that tonight will be my last night in the US for five months! It seems like it's not actually happening... but I do indeed have a flight to Frankfurt and then to Linz tomorrow, and I'm so excited! I've never actually blogged before, and apart from just saying that I'm surprised I am as prepared to go as I am at this point, this will be a pretty sparse post. But no worries, I will have much, much more to say once I arrive in Linz (where it's currently 10 degrees...). It's a good thing I packed warm!