Mackenzie Toher - 2014 Program Participant

The Kärtnerstraße in Vienna at Christmas time.

A view from the Opernring, down the Kärtnerstraße.

What inspired you to apply for an international program?

I decided to apply for an international program in order to gain experiences and perspective through travel and learning about different cultures. As a music student, I also wanted to gain a new perspective on the playing and teaching of classical music.

Why did you select IES Abroad? What about Vienna? 

I chose IES Vienna because they had a strong music program. Vienna is such an important place for classical music as well so I was excited to be somewhere where classical music is highly valued and where a lot of music history is rooted.

What was your favorite part about studying in Vienna?

My favorite part about the location was that Austria is so centrally located in Europe. Because of this, I had the opportunity to travel to so many places I never thought I'd see, like Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Salzburg, and many more. I also loved being located in a city, because Vienna has so much to offer. I was constantly discovering new areas of the city and finding my new favorite cafes or bakeries.

What made the IES Vienna program unique?

The IES Vienna program is unique because of its location. Vienna is not a major destination, like Paris or Rome, which meant that it was easy to escape the tourist crowds and really experience and assimilate with Austrian culture. Also, there is no "typical" looking Austrian, which gave us an awesome opportunity to practice our German without instantly being recognized as Americans.

How supportive was the local IES Staff in Austria?

The staff was incredibly supportive. We came to them for questions about things from booking flights to where to find the best apfelstrudel in Vienna. They were always patient and very sociable. The professors were always very excited about the topics they were teaching and really encouraged student participation and discussion.

What is one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I had spent more time exploring other parts of Vienna. You can get very trapped in a routine, but it is good to break it and walk a different way or go explore another district.

Explain a typical day during your program.

I would usually get up and go for a run along the U4 or in the Schonbrunn gardens, eat breakfast, and take the U4 to IES. I usually had class in the morning, a class on Gustav Mahler on Monday, Wednesday and German on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. After my morning class I would practice viola for a couple hours and then go to Austrian Art and Architecture on Monday, Wednesday. On Mondays in this class, we'd have a lecture, and Wednesdays we'd have excursions. After class, I would go to Billa to get groceries, go home and cook dinner, hang out with friends, and go to bed.

What was your favorite thing to do in your free time?

My favorite thing to do outside of IES was running in the gardens of Schonbrunn. It was absolutely gorgeous and I always found something new to see every time I ran in there. I also had a favorite bakery around the corner and a few streets down from IES that had my favorite apfelstrudel of all time. I would go there a lot with friends to grab a pastry. I also loved going to concerts in the Musikverein.

What was your accommodation like in Vienna?

I lived in an apartment with three other girls. I really liked the independence of living in an apartment and being able to cook for myself.

In what ways has studying abroad in Vienna changed your perspectives?

My time abroad made me much more conscious of other cultures and filled me with a desire to travel. It also opened up my eyes to the possibility of living abroad some day for a longer period of time.