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A Tour of the Bundesländer: USTA Welcome Events, October 2018

Over the last few weeks, this year’s US teaching assistants have been adjusting to their lives in Austria, and Program Officer Dune Johnson spent that time traveling to the various provinces to meet the 2018-19 cohort. For some, this month has marked their first intrepid steps into Austria’s vibrant culture, while others have returned for a second year to delve further into everything this beautiful Alpine country has to offer.

During the tour of the Bundesländer, Dune asked the USTAs to share their first impressions of Austria or, if they had returned for a second year, what they had missed while they were away for the summer. Below is a selection of their responses.

First-year USTAs

“My first impression of Austria was everyone’s hospitality and how different the dialect is from Hochdeutsch.”

 “My first impression of Austria is that the culture here is much more caring about our shared world and the people who inhabit it.”

 “Austrians know a lot about American movies and American music—they know all the lyrics, which really impressed me.”

 “I have never lived in a small country, but I feel that Austria is, in a way, a massive small town. Most Austrians I have met thus far have an excellent understanding of the country’s geography and what the people from the different provinces are like. I cannot do that with many of the US states, only general regions of the country.”

“I’ve noticed that the people are very friendly, but you can never assume that people will know what you want, you always have to ask and be very clear about what you want.”

 “From what I have seen thus far, Austria is the wealthiest country I have ever lived in, and the living standards here are higher than anywhere else I have been. Many Austrians don’t know how blessed they are to have grown up here and live here today.”

“There are diversities of personality in every country, and Austria is no exception.”

“Austria is breathtakingly beautiful, but its people can be a seemingly contradictory mix of those who only want to eat organic food, drink bottled mineral water, have frische Luft every day by opening the windows no matter how cold it is, and walk everywhere but also chain smoke like there's no tomorrow: a health-conscious smoke cloud?”

“Austria in three phrases: Ask and you shall receive; Work-life balance; and Käspätzle.

I think the people are super nice, I love café culture, and I feel like it’s a comfortable but exciting place.”

 “I feel that the people are very nice, but they’re very set in their groups. So they’re happy to give you directions, but they might not really invite you to many things if you don’t make it explicit that you want to be invited.”

“Austrians are very direct, and that is at times surprising to me to have someone straight up ask me quite personal questions right off the bat.”

“Austria is like the fairytale that most Americans imagine. When I think about it, I think it’s the most perfect country that the world has.”

Second-year USTAs

“I missed Austrian restaurant culture, the slow, relaxed pace, the not-awkwardness of tipping, and especially the 24h availability of coffee and/or wine!”

“I missed the Gastfreundlichkeit, I missed when I would go over to my friend’s house and they would be like, ‘we have slippers for you. Your feet look cold, would you like some slippers?’”

 “When back in America, I found myself realizing (and missing) how in touch with nature the Austrians seem to be.”

 “Over the summer, I remember going in to work on Labor Day and thinking about how much Austrians value holidays and down time and wished for a moment that I could be relaxing with my family instead of working.”

 “I love dialects, I think the dialects are so interesting.”

“The thing I missed most about Austria while I was gone was the awesome new food that I tried while I was here, like Kaspressknödel, which I’d never had before and is now one of my favorite foods of all time.”

“I missed walking around on Sundays and feeling like I had the city to myself because everything is closed and everyone is at home.”

I really missed the mountains – because I’m from Wisconsin – so when I was home, it was weird looking out on the horizon and seeing nothing. I really missed that feeling—and I didn’t realize what the feeling was until I left—that feeling when you’re in a valley, it feels almost like a cradle, a comfortable place. Something about having open horizons makes you feel more exposed.”



Browse through our Facebook album for more photos from the tour of the Bundesländer.