I am currently sitting in my dorm feeling a bit under the weather so I thought that I would take a moment to explain the program that I decided to go with when choosing where I wanted to go and why I chose this program. There is a lot when it comes to studying abroad and I won’t lie when I say that it can get a bit overwhelming at points. You first have to decide that you do want to study abroad and from there you have meetings to attend to, people to meet in order to be able to first choose where you want to go, then you get to the process of deciding where you want to go. However, when it comes to deciding that, you have to decide a layer of things, such as if the program/location offers major/minor fulfillments, the level of support that you would like, language requirements, GPA and more. I remember when I had gotten the first things done and I was deciding where I wanted to go I either wanted to go to Japan but when I learned that it was more competitive and lower levels of support I decided that maybe it wouldn’t be the best option for me. I knew I had always wanted to explore Europe (I had gone to England when I was in 8th grade) so I narrowed down my options in general location. I had taken Spanish for a long time so an easier location if language would have been a requirement was Spain but I decided that I wanted something different and I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t really a top choice for a lot of other students. England was an option but location-wise within England it wasn’t ideal but on my application I put England as my second choice. Then what really got me thinking was the level of support I would like in a program. If you are going to be studying abroad, you will get this explained to you in your meetings but generally there will be a scale of whether a program is no support, low support, medium support and high support or something close to that. Basically it’s how much you would like your program to be involved. I prefered something medium to high because I am very nervous when it comes to being out of my comfort zone.
That’s when I stumbled upon AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Studies) in Austria. I will admit that not once had I considered Austria at first. However, when reading through the program and reading all of the positive comments made about the location and program itself I decided, why not? Though Austria speaks mainly German and I had no experience with speaking German, there was no language requirement for the program so I thought that I would be okay. Then I looked at pictures of Austria and Salzburg mainly as that is where the program resides. I have lived in Denver Colorado for my whole life so when I looked at the pictures of Salzburg online I was surprised to see that Salzburg looked similar to Denver with the mountains being so close by. I’ve grown up with mountains and that is what makes a place home for me so to see that there were mountains nearby put me at ease.
Going back to the support area of the program, AIFS is at a high level of support which has been great for me. They had planned out things for us to do and day excursions and weekend trips for us to go on. We went to Munich in Germany, Vienna, Prague in Czechia, and then Innsbruck. In between those trips we had outings that we could go on. Some of those outings included: Austrian pastry tasting, a tour of some of the lakes and mountains, visiting a local sausage stand, an Austrian cooking course, going to the Christmas Market and many more fun things. These outings really pushed you to get to meet your peers and to get out and do something which is something that I struggled with in the past. Because of those outings, I have made some excellent friends and connections with some of the students from the other schools. The program in general is pretty small at around 29 students total which is nice because you can meet everyone pretty easily. The staff working in the study center are all very nice and are always willing to help out if needed. The perk of being in a high support program is that they do give you the locations of the doctors that speak english and tips about a variety of things such as travel, safety, food etc.
While the program is not set on a school campus and is very different than what I was used to back in the States with needing to walk to different buildings for classes, the study center is just in a random building with two main study rooms that are used for teaching. When you are in between classes whether you have another class right after your first class or if there is another class in between your first class and your second class, there is an area with chairs and tables that many students sit at in between classes so that is another opportunity to get to know your fellow classmates and make some new friends.
From the beginning AIFS has always encouraged students getting together and even push you to interact with others with the day trips or with field trips during the classes. I made my first few friends literally on the first day of arrival since they had set up a city tour for the students who made it on time (there were some students who didn’t make it until later). That is something that I appreciate a lot because as someone who doesn’t really enjoy putting myself out there all that much, the program pushed me to do so and now I have many friends from DU and from the other schools who I will definitely stay in contact with when we all return in two weeks time.
Overall, my take of AIFS is very positive and I would definitely recommend just checking Salzburg, Austria out. I did not think of it at first but I am glad that I did now. The program staff are all wonderful, the teachers are also amazing and you meet some amazing people. I have no regrets in where I ended up and I am also very sad to be leaving soon.