Kelly McGrath - 2013 Program Participant

View of the Staatsoper from the balcony of the Albertina  in Vienna

Kelly on the balcony of the Albertina, one of her favourite museums, with the Staatsoper in the background.

Why did you choose to study abroad?

My university and my mother really encouraged it. I heard nothing but good things about studying abroad, and I really like traveling, so the combination of those things piqued my interest. I wanted to experience something different too. I had lived in the same place my whole life and I was simply ready for something new. Also, as a musician I had studied so much about Vienna in my music studies classes, so I thought it would probably be a good place for me to experience first hand.

What were your housing arrangements like in Vienna?

I lived in a flat with six other music students. We lived in a beautiful old building just off of one of the biggest outdoor markets and a few blocks away from one of the major shopping streets in the city. The subway was only a block away too. With the subway, it took maybe fifteen minutes to get to the IES Abroad Center. The Center was within walking distance too, so it took about twenty five minutes by foot. Naturally, our flat was fully furnished. Our apartment building had several other apartments with IES students too, so we were always close to many students in our program. I shared a room with two other girls, but it was a really big room, so space was never an issue. We could even practice in the apartment!

What was a normal day like as a student in Vienna?

During the week, I had German class first thing in the morning. The rest of the day consisted of some combination of other classes, practicing, and homework. I was given a lighter workload than what I had normally at my home university, so I was able to split my time evenly between studying and exploring the city, traveling, etc.

Votivkirche church in Vienna, Austria

Kelly at the Votivkirche, one of her favourite churches.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced studying in Vienna?

Some of the biggest challenges I faced abroad were learning the language and the culture. I went into it all having never taken a German class, so the language was completely new to me, and German is a difficult language to learn. As I said before, I wanted to experience something new and different, and don’t get me wrong, that was exciting, but it came with challenges too.

Change and getting used to a different way of life is naturally uncomfortable for most people. Everything was different from what I was used to and had grown up with. I come from Los Angeles, and Vienna is very different from LA. Also, trying to learn a different culture in a different language just added another layer of difficulty. Studying abroad opened my mind to understand there are simply different ways of doing and thinking about things.

What do you love about Vienna?

It is difficult to express why, but I fell in love with Vienna. I loved how much music, art, culture, and history the city had, how many opportunities there were to experience artistic masterpieces of so many kinds, how much delicious food there was, and how beautiful the city is with all of its old architecture. Vienna is a city of museums. It has almost every kind of museum you can imagine, so there is a lot to learn! Vienna is a small city, so nothing is very far, and there is still so much to do.

How has your experience studying abroad in Vienna impacted your life long-term?

Now I live in Vienna, so had I not studied abroad, I most likely would not live here now. As I touched on before, studying abroad really gave me a new perspective, a new way to think about things, and opened my mind to new possibilities.