Meredith Dungar - 2008 Program Participant

While earning her degree in German and Journalism and Advertising at the University of St. Thomas, Meredith has the opportunity to join IES Abroad in Vienna to study European Society and Culture. Her experience abroad helped expand her education enormously, by allowing her to explore Austria and the German language.

Meredith enjoying time at sea while studying abroad in Austria
Meredith enjoying time at sea while studying abroad in Austria.

What was your accommodation type? What did you like/dislike about it?

Apartment. I loved the people that I lived with. We would do family dinners and became quite the family. But, I wasn't completely immersed in the language at home. I was out of my apartment and I only took classes in German...but I think I would have liked to speak the language more. 

What place do you highly recommend participants visit? 

Wow, what a difficult question... there is so much in Vienna. I'd probably say any Heuriger (wine tavern) in Vienna.

What lessons or things did you learn while interacting with the locals? 

Staring. I know that sounds crazy, but Austrians are known to stare, and if you make eye contact they don't smile or anything, they just are staring. I find myself doing that all the time!

Also, any time you're in a super touristy spot (i.e. Stephansplatz or Opernring) you have to know nein, danke, they are going to try to sell you tickets to shows that are pretty much high schoolers performing, and tickets will be expensive. Just ignore them, and/or walk confidently and they'll assume you're a local. 

What's the best food or drink you tried in Vienna? 

My roommate Dieter's schnitzel and potato salad, but you can get really good food at the Heurigers too! You can get dinner served on a sword at the Centimeter -- very fun, and delicious. Most places do it authentically in Austria, checking out mountain towns throughout Austria, we were never disappointed. 

How did you cope with culture shock? 

Honestly, I had just spent three and a half months traveling to third world countries on Semester at Sea, so Vienna was comfortable for me. The only time I felt like a super awkward American was the first time we went to the grocery store and we needed to buy lots of spices, oils, etc. to fill our pantry. Austrians don't do that, they go to the market every day, and we quickly got used to that, it was easy enough there was a market between school and our apartment. 

Would you recommend the program to others? 

I would because I love Vienna! Vienna’s a great place to learn the German language. I think it sticks out because it's different than going to Western Europe, it's a great way to be closer and begin to explore Eastern Europe.

What was your favorite part of IES’ programming during your time in Vienna?

Class trips were a blast!!!