Grüß Gott aus Wien! Austria as the Unexpected Heart of Central Europe

S16 Reiss 1Finishing up my third week in Vienna and can’t believe I’ve been here this long already! I’ve been participating in an orientation program the past three weeks including an intensive German course for three hours a day, four days a week in the morning and tours of Vienna and surrounding cities such as Linz and Graz in the afternoons and Fridays.

Coming to Austria, my main impressions were that I was going to study business and German and enjoy the high culture that comes with the Viennese lifestyle. Other than that, I had slim expectations for my journey, planning to travel to other countries across Europe and leaving Vienna often. Little did I know, Austria has a huge cultural and historical significance in the shaping of our modern world. During the orientation program I was able to visit Belvedere Palace (home of the most powerful Austrian general), the National Library (the world’s first public library), Austrian Parliament, the Musikverein concert hall, Schloß Schönbrunn (palace of the Austrian court) and also take tours of Vienna, Graz, and Linz. And on my own, I’ve visited Salzburg and the home of Sigmund Freud in Vienna.S16 Reiss 2

Before I left for Austria, when telling some people I was going there, people mostly thought of the Sound of Music, some people knew about the culture, and others just knew Arnold Schwarzenegger. Learning so much about Austria over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gained tremendous insight into its very important part in world history. The Hapsburgs, Austria’s ruling family for 700 years, married all of their children off to world leaders to acquire land. Most famously, Marie Antoinette to King Louis XVI and Marie Louise to Napoleon. The Hapsburgs eventually fell when Archduke Franz Ferdinand (heir to the Austrian throne) was assassinated in Sarajevo and Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, starting World War I. Besides the country’s political/historical significance, the cultural significance is beyond important. Vienna is home of the world’s greatest composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms, Strauss and more, the Vienna State Opera House, Painters such as Klimt and Schiele, and the father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud.

S16 Reiss 3Besides enjoying and exploring Austria, I am very excited to begin classes next week. Part of the reason why I haven’t started yet is because at my university, WU Wien, the professors can choose when they want to teach their classes and can teach them anytime between the official start and end of the semester. In this system, some classes meet 5 hours each session, 2 or 3 times a week for a month and a half long period and others meet 3 hours each session, twice a week, for 2 months and there are many other variations. This upcoming week, I attending my first Viennese Opera, Il barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini and traveling to Budapest for the weekend with the exchange students club on campus.

Peter Reiss is a sophomore in GWSB pursuing a BBA with concentrations in International Business and Finance, with a minor in music. He is currently participating in a GW Exchange program with the Vienna University of Economics and  Business. Follow him on Instagram at @thepeterreiss and read more about the program here.