CT Dialogue: Reconnecting With A Traveling Sorority Sister, A Study Abroad Interview
This year, the spring semester of our sophomore year, my sorority sister and roommate Tory moved out of the Delta Gamma sorority house and hopped on a plane to Vienna, Austria. As a sophomore, it’s uncommon to take a trip abroad, but after being accepted into a finance program through the University of Illinois, she packed her bags for a semester-long trip touring the European country. Although we’ve been separated for over five months now, I was able to catch up with Tory and have her answer a few questions about her experience overseas.
Q: Why did you choose this location to study abroad?
A: It has a really good program through U of I, where the classes have very flexible hours and known not to be too difficult. Also, I liked how central Vienna was in Europe and I knew it was a very clean and safe place to live.
Q: What were your living arrangements like in Vienna and how did you travel around and commute to classes?
A: Everyone in my program lived in an international dorm that was actually very nice and had rooms that were very spacious and included our own bathroom. We were just a ten minute metro ride away from the heart of Vienna and then about a 30 minute commute from our University. When getting around Vienna, we always used the public transportation system. The metro, trams, and buses are extremely easy to use and could get you almost anywhere in the city in less than a half hour.
Q: How did you live like a local and embrace the culture in Vienna?
A: For our program, we were required to take a German class for the first 4 weeks we were there, and this gave us a chance to understand both the local language and also more of a cultural background of Vienna. We always ate at local restaurants where we could try the traditional Viennese cruising and would also try various Viennese beers and wines whenever eating out. Living in the dorm, we had our own kitchens and no meal plan, so we would always purchase our own groceries from local grocery stores.
Q: What was the most amazing cultural experience you had?
A: One of the most amazing cultural experiences I had was traveling to Morocco and getting to go on an excursion through the Sahara. Morocco was so different than any other place we had visited, and it gave us a chance to see a completely different way of living than what we were used to. It was an unforgettable experience that really showed us how lucky we are and how differently people live in the rest of the world.
Q: What other locations were you able to visit?
We went just about everywhere! We went to Switzerland, Prague, Budapest, Germany, Ireland, London, Italy, Morocco, Southern France, Belgium, Paris, Greece, and Slovakia.
Q: What are the top 5 sites to see?
1. Cliffs of Moher in Ireland: I believe it was about ten euros to get in, with no student discount, and it was one of the most unbelievable acts of nature I’ve ever seen. When we were there it was pouring and freezing cold, but the views were breathtaking.
2. Swiss/Austrian Alps: We went skiing and paragliding in the Alps, which was very expensive, but just hiking through them or taking a cable car up is always worth the trip. It is so peaceful and it feels like nothing in the world matters when you’re up there.
3. Tuscan Vineyards in Florence: We paid to do a tour (no student discount) but you got to see Italy in its natural, preserved beauty. The wine and food was fantastic, the people were some of the nicest we’d encountered, and you felt like you traveled back in time for the day.
4. Town of Oia in Greece: We went here for sunset and it was the classic Greek town you see in all the movies. All the houses are white, built right into the side of the mountain, and have donkeys taking you to the sea. It was filled with authentic Greek shops and restaurants; a great place to relax and take in the scenery.
5. Hiking in Cinque Tierre to see the 5 towns: In Cinque Tierre, hiking is one of the best ways to get from town to town. The hikes range from 30 minutes to a couple hours and give you a breath-taking view of the sea and the mountains. You also get to walk through the tiny, picturesque towns that are filled with great Italian food.
Q: How has this study abroad trip impacted you?
A: Studying abroad gave me a completely new perspective on the world and showed me how little I have seen or learned about places outside the US. I gained a new appreciation for culture and nature and fell in love with almost every city I went to. I cannot believe how lucky I am to have had this experience, and I would give anything to go back and relive the adventures. At times it was difficult to communicate in a foreign country, but being abroad taught me how to enjoy the simple aspects of life and every moment you have. It was, by far, the best four months of my life.
Q: What advice/tips would you give to anyone planning to travel abroad?
A: Be prepared to spend an outrageous amount of money, but know that every penny is worth it. Also, pack light and only bring clothes you won’t mind wearing all the time and will most likely be ruined. Finally, don’t expect to be comfortable all the time and be ready to always step outside your comfort zone to get the full experience.