Klara Blazek - 2014 Program Participant

Ruin of Burgruine Dürnstein in Dürnstein, Austria

Exploring the cliffs and ruins of Burgruine Dürnstein in Dürnstein, Austria.

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

My entire family is from Czech Republic, so I grew up traveling to visit my relatives a lot, as well as visiting other European countries. This early exposure to travel and other cultures made me want to explore and learn even more on my own. When my sister decided to study in Prague, I was still in high school, but I knew I would want to live and study abroad somewhere too. By the time I was in college, the question was not if I was going abroad, but rather where I was going to go!

How did you decide upon IES’s program in Vienna?

One of the cities I visited with my parents during high school was Vienna, and while browsing through cities and programs, I remembered how much I enjoyed our stay there and thought it might be a good choice for me. I also wanted a place that spoke a different language and was in an ideal location for travel to other countries. Vienna seemed to be the perfect choice, and IES was one of the few programs that went there!

What was your favorite part about Vienna? 

I loved the amount of history in the city. Everywhere I turned there was another historical landmark, and another Hapsburg to learn about!

What made your program stand out?

I think this program is unique because when deciding where to study and live for a few months, Vienna is not usually the first place people think of. So, the program tends to have students that really thought about where they were want to go, instead of just choosing a well known city blindly.

How were you supported by the local IES staff during your program?

The IES Vienna staff is incredible. They are all so kind and helpful, and are constantly on the lookout for things the students can participate in and how to enhance their experience. I was able to take a ballroom dancing class, attend a Viennese ball, eat at the best Heurigers, and go to the best Christmas markets, all because of the resources provided to me by the staff.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I studied more German before I got to Vienna. I came in just knowing "Danke" and "Auf Wiedersehen" and that really amplified the culture shock for me. Even though I took German while I was there and truly learned a lot, I wish my language skills had been better so that I could have communicated with the locals more to get more out of my experience.

Describe a day in Vienna during your program.

Every day I took public transportation to the first district to get to Palais Corbelli, our beautiful IES center, where I had class every day. I'd stop by the office and ask the student assistants for some cafe recommendations, and then head over there with some friends. Other times, instead of a cafe, I would visit a museum or another historical spot I hadn't been to before. I tried to live by my friend's advice to "do one new thing a day", no matter how small.

On the way home I'd stop by Billa, the grocery store, and attempt to use my German with the cashier. I'd cook myself some dinner and then later head over to a nearby bar hang out with my friends and to meet some locals.

What was your favorite activity outside of your coursework?

My favorite activity was traveling and exploring, whether that was in Vienna, in Austria, or in other countries. I got to wander around the vineyards of Vienna, ski in the Alps, and visit seven other countries!

What did you like about your accommodation?

I lived in an apartment with two other girls from my program. We got along really well and had no issues with our landlady. It was the perfect size for the three of us, and had almost everything that we needed from kitchen utensils to bed sheets.

What did you learn during your time abroad that has stuck with you?

While abroad, I feel like I learned a lot more about myself and what I am capable of. I feel more comfortable being outside of my comfort zone and being independent. These skills are so important to me now that I am home and looking towards finishing up my schooling, looking for internships, and getting my foot in the door.