Jen Dodge - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I wanted to experience the world outside of the United States, visiting the places and cultures I have studied in so many of my classes.
Why did you choose AIFS’s program in Austria?
I chose Austria for a few reasons. Most personally, it held special meaning to me since my ancestry is part Austrian, and I wanted to discover what was once my family's homeland. I also considered what programs offered English literature courses, since I am an English major, and AIFS provided the best options and location in Salzburg. Finally,I knew the area was breathtaking, and would inspire me every day.
What was your favorite part about Salzburg?
I loved how central Salzburg is to so many diverse and interesting cities and landscapes. Nestled along the German border, it is only two hours from Munich, three hours from Vienna, four hours from Venice, five hours from Prague, six hours from Zurich...the list goes on. Depending on how well you plan, it is possible to visit a dozen countries in a matter of months. The public transportation is incredible and makes it entirely possible!
What made AIFS stick out from the crowd?
I found it very difficult to find a study abroad program which offered English literature classes in German-speaking countries (a language I am still learning). AIFS was refreshing for not only having them available, but making relevant and interesting in regards to local history and culture. For instance, I took a class in European modernism, which focused on the writings of Europeans during the First and Second World Wars; a truly memorable experience since we were surrounded by the very land we read about.
How did the program staff in Salzburg offer support to you throughout your program?
Local staff was very supportive! In the beginning, the Wi-Fi and internet situation was a little hairy, but they got the issues taken care of within a month, and it is my understanding it will no longer be an issue for future students, since the resolution to the problem was long term. Additionally, they have on-hand a local named Andreas who is in charge of all local excursions and will go out of his way to make sure you have the best trip.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I had planned to study abroad earlier in college, so that I could have stayed the entire year, rather than just a semester. The entire experience was so great, I wish I could be there still. There is so much more to see, do, and learn!
How was your schedule organized in Salzburg?
On Thursdays, I would wake up early and head to my English class from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Then, I would usually go grocery shopping to purchase, prepare for, and pack whatever snacks or mini-meals I might need for the weekend. Depending on my schedule, I may also wonder through Salzburg and enjoy the day. Afterwards, I would return to my dorm and wash my clothes, which is best during the day when few other students are around and there is time for them to dry before nightfall. While eating a homemade dinner, I would do whatever course reading was necessary for the upcoming week and pack my overnight bag for this weekends adventure. Usually, I go to bed at a reasonable hour to get a good night's sleep before waking in the early, early, hours of the morning to catch a bus to the train station...Europe awaits!
What did you enjoy doing most outside of the classroom?
I loved hanging out with my roommate, cooking together, watching movies together, or just relaxing and having a laugh. Even though I was thousands of miles from home, there was something very familiar about having a friend to share the quieter moments with.
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I lived in an international dorm with an international roommate. The Hausfrau is careful not to let too many people from one culture stay in the building, so it remains diverse, which proved an exciting and unique experience. I lived with a girl from Germany, and we shared a kitchen with Italians, Romanians, Slovakians, Austrians, Chinese, Indian, French, and Swiss neighbors. Communication was rarely a challenge; most European students speak English.
Was it difficult to communicate with locals?
In Salzburg and most major cities I traveled through, I had almost no difficulty speaking with locals because most employees in restaurants, shops, museums, and hostels speak English fluently. While knowing some of the native language was helpful and appreciated, it was never required. On more than one occasion, patient German speakers asked us politely to “please speak English” for clarity’s sake, so do not feel bad if you do not speak or understand any German.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Salzburg?
Take into consideration the types of technology you are bringing. At my dorm, Ethernet cables offered the only internet connection, and since many modern American devices rely solely on Wi-Fi, the situation was tricky. Make sure to bring at least one device capable of old-school technology so you can connect without issues! Also, since Austrian technology is a few years behind American service, do not expect reliable, working Wi-Fi everywhere you go!
What tips do you have for future students heading to Austria?
Almost one month into my semester abroad, I succumbed to a host of foreign allergies and cold germs that nearly left me bedridden for an entire week, and I was not the only one. Many students were ill as their immune systems adapted to their new environments, and we struggled to find the medicine we usually take in the States. While I did pack my allergy medicine and Benadryl, I wish I had brought my go-to nighttime cough syrup and a few bags of my favored American cough drops, too. The Apothekes (pharmacies) in Europe are very helpful, but when you are sick, you just want to stay home with what works. I suggest planning on and preparing for (the inevitable) illness by bringing your preferred cold-remedies from home, since there is no guarantee you will find their exact version overseas!
What surprised you most about Salzburg?
It surprised me how quickly Salzburg felt like home, like a place I lived all my life. Within weeks, I confidently walked the streets and alleys, used the bus system, and had a great feel for the local markets and nightlife. The atmosphere is welcoming to students living away from home or overseas for the first time, since it is not a giant metropolis...but, rather, a smaller community, easy to venture into and explore.
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
It sounds cliché, but the hardest part about studying abroad really was leaving to come home again. What originally felt like such a long time to be away was suddenly far too brief. The university I became accustomed to, the country I fell in love with, the international friends I made…it was heartbreaking to say goodbye. Make the best of the time you have while you have it, take many pictures, make many memories; you will cherish them after your journey home.
How did your time with AIFS inspire you?
It motivated me to want to work and study internationally again in the future, and promote such activity among other American college students.
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
I do plan to study abroad again! Although I loved Austria, there is a strong possibility I would choose Germany for my next academic adventure. While studying in Salzburg, I frequently travelled over the border and found Germany exceptionally welcoming to students. Like Austria, the public transportation systems are efficient, affordable, and safe while also offering beautiful, clean landscapes, a plethora of cultural history, and a rich selection of museums and national landmarks to immerse into and enjoy.