A Different Structure

I remember going on campus tours of different universities in high school and mentally keeping track of who had the best amenities. Georgetown’s campus was really consolidated, which I liked. But the student housing at Washington University had the best beds and the best dining hall, and UNC-Chapel Hill had the nicer gym. Indiana had an art museum and a concert hall on campus where I could see traveling musicals for free as long as I volunteered to be an usher. American college campuses have everything you could possibly need in four years. Georgetown’s designed so you never really have to leave campus unless you want to. You live on campus, eat on campus, learn on campus, work out on campus, shop on campus.

University of Vienna? Not so much.

The campus of the University of Vienna spreads out across the central districts of the city. The Hauptgebäude (central building), where my German classes are, is situated next to the city hall building, the national library, and Parliament. But the business and economics building is five stops away on the tram on the banks of the Danube, and the sociology, foreign language, and philosophy departments are in separate buildings further west.

Instead of a dining hall, they have separate ‘Mensas’ in the different buildings, which remind me most of the kind of cafeterias you find in the Smithsonian museums. There’s no meal plans, rather it’s pay-as-you-go with discounted prices for University of Vienna students.

The University of Vienna, despite being the largest and oldest university in German-speaking Europe with over 90,000 enrolled students, has no workout facilities. Rather, they partner along with other local universities with the University Sport Institute of Vienna to host different sports courses across the city at discounted prices to university students. I’m enrolled in two Zumba courses at the Economics University across town, that only cost me 20 Euros each for the whole semester. It’s nice, but it has weirdly made me miss Yates. I miss the idea of just going in and running on the elliptical whenever I feel like it. It’s hard for exchange students to have gym memberships in the city, because most of the facilities require a minimum yearly membership.

The academic buildings here also are almost strictly for academic courses and professors’ offices. There’s no real equivalent to spaces like the HFSC that provide just a lot of study spaces. Even the library has very limited seats, and you aren’t allowed to bring in food, drinks, or backpacks. I prefer to study in a café, where I have everything I need as well as easy access to food and a bathroom, but I can already tell this will be relatively expensive.

There’s also no such thing as on-campus housing. Most students live in apartment shares in pretty much any district of the city. Some exchange students do this as well, but Georgetown has the students in Vienna live in international dorms run by an Austrian exchange company. I essentially live in a glorified, brightly painted Henle.

The other big difference: How much time I actually spend going to class. I am required by Georgetown to take two lecture courses and two seminar courses at the University of Vienna, all of which must be in German (but only two actually count toward my German major??), but I spend a lot less time actually in class. The concept of Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday classes doesn’t really exist here — classes typically meet only once a week for 90 minutes. I’m currently enrolled in five classes, so I literally only have to go to class five times a week (plus one discussion section), rather than five courses = 10 classes per week, not including discussion sections.

Have I mentioned that I have only had one week of class? The summer semester here runs from the first week of March to the end of June. So, I really have not had much work yet, and we have a two-week Easter Break coming up the week after next. Only time will tell how great of a workload I will carry this semester!

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