Home away from home — UI student got a taste of a new culture while she studied abroad in Austria

From adjusting to the unique culture to losing her luggage, nothing brought Willow Vero down while she studied abroad in Austria.

It wasn’t just the Kebap sandwiches or the cobblestone streets that made Vero’s experience studying abroad so special, but the historical culture and the stories she created while she was there.

“It was an all around good experience,” Vero said.

Vero is a senior at the University of Idaho majoring in international studies. As part of her degree, Vero said she is required to study abroad for at least 12 weeks.

Another requirement of the degree is taking a foreign language class. Vero said she chose German, given her previous experience with German classes in high school.

Even after years of studying the German language, Vero said it was still hard to assimilate to a German speaking country while she was abroad.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking at times when you didn’t know certain words for things,” Vero said. “It would be frustrating at times when all you wanted to do was ask someone where the ketchup was and didn’t know how to.”

Leslie Kiebert | Argonaut
Senior Willow Vero holds her Austrian flag on the Hello Walk on Friday.

The language wasn’t the only reason she studied abroad in Austria. Having previously visited Austria in high school as part of a summer exchange program, she said she was familiar with the country, which made the choice a little easier.

The stories she made in Austria had time to grow as she studied abroad for almost six months. She lived in Graz, Austria, from September 2015 to the middle of February 2016.

Rather than studying abroad through the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), where individuals usually spend their time with other American students, Vero said she joined the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), and spent most of her time with European students.

“I was going to an Austrian university, and taking classes with mainly all Austrian students or other Europeans,” Vero said. “My professors weren’t American or anything.”

A large part of studying abroad comes from what each student takes with them. Vero said the trip was an impactful learning experience that she was able to connect to her international studies classes.

“It puts you wmore in touch with what you’re learning,” Vero said.

Even though it was a learning experience, Vero said there were some things that were difficult to adjust to — including the food.

“It was really not very good,” Vero said. “The traditional Austrian fair is basically just a fried piece of meat with potatoes and a giant beer.”

Although the food may have been hard to immerse herself in, the culture was not. Not only did she stay in Austria for the whole six-month period, Vero said she also visited many other European countries while overseas.

Vero said the independence she had during her time abroad was one of the most rewarding parts of the entire experience. From planning her own trips to living in a new country, she said the independence is what made her realize she was ready for the real world.

“My two best friends were studying abroad in Switzerland and Germany at the same time I was there, so I went and visited both of them,” Vero said. “I also went to Hungary, Istanbul, Turkey, Slovenia and Italy.”

Visiting other countries shaped Vero’s study abroad experience into what it was, she said.

Vero’s best friend Kristen Heier, who Vero visited in Switzerland, said she really enjoyed having a friend who was close by during her time abroad.

“It was really nice knowing that I had a friend who wasn’t an entire ocean away,” Heier said. “We were in two different countries, so we were still able to have our own individual experiences, but close enough to feel like I had someone there.”

The two made memories together in Europe by taking a trip to Turkey, Heier said.

“Between getting lost in the airport, cruising the Bosporus and wandering the markets at night for Baklava and Turkish delight, nothing beats having your best friend there to explore a new country with,” Heier said.

Savannah Cardon can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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