Thursday, August 31, 2006

Kevin - August

I am Kevin and a senior music student. I am currently studying in theIES-Vienna program in Austria. First, a brief description of the program-after we arrive, we are required to go to an orientation to figure out housingand some survival German for those who have not taken any German before. Oneis not required to know German to study in this program. The next part of theprogram is a 3-week intensive part. We are required to participate inorientation activities, advising appointments, and intensive German everyday.
As part of my preparation for coming to Vienna, I have also been studyingGerman all summer (reading a little, and listening to CDs). I think I havegotten to the point where I can hold small conversations with Dr. Caltvedt andorder food, though I still don’t know what everything is called yet.
The orientation started on August 24 and this week we have started intensiveclasses. I arrived on August 19th. My early planning this summer was for theevent of any terrorist threats and scares, giving me a 5 day buffer ofdelayed/cancelled flights. This indeed has already happened and while I wastraveling home from New York City, making a usual four hour excursion withline waiting into one that was over 11 hours from door to door.
In arriving early, I had the chance to walk most of the city for the first three days. I arrived by myself, and took this extra time to also observe howpeople behave in Vienna. I stayed in the cheapest Hostel I could book sinceJuly, and have met many travelers passing through. People passed through fromPrague, Israel, three ladies from Australia (not in the same night), England,Canada, Mexico, and France. After walking most of the city, I had also had alesson with a Piano teacher I found through the internet. I have beenobserving how people order in cafes, supermarkets, and the behavior on thesubway.
After getting settled for five nights, I had to move my luggage (two bags anda backpack) to the West train station for the orientation program. After beingaround the city, by my self for five nights, it is easy to see a lot ofAmerican stereotypes. A lot of students were speaking pretty loudly inEnglish, and when we left for the bus, they left empty bottles on the ground.It is also interesting, after studying culture shock, to see students in thehoneymoon phase. Perhaps I am in this phase. I arrived with no problems, onlya few slight delays, but I do not feel great exhilaration like many otherstudents. The next phase of culture shock, though I do not remember the name,is for September. It is also interesting being a spectator of other students.I try my best now not to stick out too much by not wearing clothing thatreally stands out (on the subway, Austrians stare at people wearing shorts),and speaking only German (to sales people or waitresses).
Though my German is not perfect, it is good enough to order, hold very smallconversations (perhaps over the weather). During my first two days, I had ahard time speaking German because I had no confidence and a little bit of fearfor it. I would enter a bakery and tell them I understand only a littleGerman. I have for only 3 months learned German and then order. After peopletold me that my pronunciation was pretty good, I had no problem ordering forthe next three days. I still lack some confidence because I don’t know whatall the food is called in the bakery, and the signs don’t always correspondwith the items. I have also been lectured once by a Taxi driver about thedifference between Gasse and Strasse, and have only irritated one sales womanso far when I asked her to repeat the price (if she spoke English, I probablywouldn’t hear her anyway).
Though other Americans said Austrians were mean, I find them to be prettyfriendly. They seem to be helpful with directions if you ask. The landlordseemed also pretty friendly in helping me get moved in (the check in process).
The housing was determined by a lottery process during orientation, and I havebeen moved into an Austrian dormitory. I made this choice to try to improve myGerman, and perhaps understand Austrian culture better. There were alsoapartment options, and home stay (none of them were vacant by my number).Perhaps IES has different living quarters in a city such as Milan, but inVienna, there really is not any room for dorm type buildings.
The German placement process was also determined on orientation weekend, and Igot placed in Intermediate German II (which is equivalent to the fourthsemester of College German. This is pretty scary, especially considering thatI have not taken German before. The first two days were pretty hard. I triedIntermediate I on the third day. And am happy with it.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Valerie Slegesky said...

My name is Val... I'm in the CPE pre-study abroad class this semester. I'm going to Oxford this spring. I think it's really cool that you were willing to go somewhere where you don't speak the language. One of my friends is from Germany, and he's told me how particular they are about people messing up their language. Your observations about other American students and culture shock are really interesting; I'll definately be watching my behavior when I go now. I hope the dorm and everything else is working out well for you.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, the dorm is working out for me. The best part, as I have written (Auf Deutsch) is being able to meet foreign students, and make different cultural observations. The first month and a half, the dorm was being used for students going to language school. The Austrian school year does not start until October. I have been able to meet people from both France, Italy, and Japan.

There are also interesting attitudes from different countries. First Many people in the southern countries tend to think of everyone else as being cold and bitter (climate and personality). This I hear, from a french student, is also true in southern portions of France. The attitude of the northern countries is, the south is lazy and they do not work (they also thought, over lunch, it was funny when I said "in Italien sie arbeiten nicht" of course this was also in front of the italien lady I had met). She also thinks Italians are lazy.

It has been two months, and I have seen a bit more culture shock. Right now I believe it has more to do with the language (It is not very easy, especially if one has never studied it before). It takes quite a while to get comfortable with simply ordering in a cafe. However if one tries, the austrians seem to be pretty friendly, and more than happy to help.

I suppose this entitles me to share a quick cultural difference story real quick (before the internet stops working again).

The grocery stores are quite different, smaller, and one must bag their own groceries. Ofcourse to use a shopping cart, one must have a card to the store or pay a 1 euro deposite. Or one like myself just simply walks around the grocery store holding my groceries.

They dont give out bags and dont bag groceries (they are already doing you a favor by simply ringing up totals). sooo... after they check things through, you have to run to the otherside of the counter and catch the groceries before he or she throws them onto the floor (it happens to the older people and is just too bad). And when I dont bag fast enough at the end, then they start piling the next persons groceries on top too! European grocery stores are like a sport.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Indeed, the dorm is working out for me. The best part, as I have written (Auf Deutsch) is being able to meet foreign students, and make different cultural observations. The first month and a half, the dorm was being used for students going to language school. The Austrian school year does not start until October. I have been able to meet people from both France, Italy, and Japan.

There are also interesting attitudes from different countries. First Many people in the southern countries tend to think of everyone else as being cold and bitter (climate and personality). This I hear, from a french student, is also true in southern portions of France. The attitude of the northern countries is, the south is lazy and they do not work (they also thought, over lunch, it was funny when I said "in Italien sie arbeiten nicht" of course this was also in front of the italien lady I had met). She also thinks Italians are lazy.

It has been two months, and I have seen a bit more culture shock. Right now I believe it has more to do with the language (It is not very easy, especially if one has never studied it before). It takes quite a while to get comfortable with simply ordering in a cafe. However if one tries, the austrians seem to be pretty friendly, and more than happy to help.

I suppose this entitles me to share a quick cultural difference story real quick (before the internet stops working again).

The grocery stores are quite different, smaller, and one must bag their own groceries. Ofcourse to use a shopping cart, one must have a card to the store or pay a 1 euro deposite. Or one like myself just simply walks around the grocery store holding my groceries.

They dont give out bags and dont bag groceries (they are already doing you a favor by simply ringing up totals). sooo... after they check things through, you have to run to the otherside of the counter and catch the groceries before he or she throws them onto the floor (it happens to the older people and is just too bad). And when I dont bag fast enough at the end, then they start piling the next persons groceries on top too! European grocery stores are like a sport.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Eddie Breitweiser said...

Hey Kevin, it's Eddie from the Music Department.

Kudos, as Val said, for diving into a culture where you were unfamiliar with the language. Over the summer I studied in France for a month and I know how difficult it can be to study in a country where you DO know the language - I can only imagine how difficult it must be, but it seems like you were well-prepared.

If everything works out, I will be going to Paris in the Spring and studying in a conservatory. Can you comment on any differences/ observations with European teaching or approaches to music? I understand that the specifics will still vary between Austria and France, but any advice would be much appreciated!

10:51 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

It's great that you are doing so well out there. As Val said, I'm going to try and be very aware of my actions and dress etc. I don't want to be a lemming but I don't want to stand out or put people off. Have you had any problems making friends, hopefully you have met alot of people that are NOT American.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Eddie,

Austrian happens to be still on the Old Europeans system of education. That
means that class work, in the University (though I study with IES-abroad),
many students dont go to class. First of all, the things covered in class dont
matter anyway, and the emphasis is on the final test. So, if your ready for
the test, then why bother wasting time in class. One is expected to go to
outside materials to find information.

This is good if one is motivated. Even if one isnt motivated, one can simply
retake the class (and it is not very expensive). It costs 300-400 euros in a
semester for classes in the actual universität (different if your an exchange
student of course) but if one can also show that his or her parents are
working, the govornment pays back (I forgot how to spell reamburstment and am
trying not to risk being too stupid).

the criticism of american education is that one is sort of spoon fed. Though
this may be true, one is also required to do more work (you cant pass doing
nothing). That is why I do Enjoy the american education system. Because of
this system in austria (which I hear is changing) they have not been rated
very high in education. My history professor said that only Tukey and Portugal
are right below Austria.

In terms of music, It is useful to examine how one grows up in 'highschool' in
austria. Americans I believe now spend about 6-7 hours in classes for
highschool , however Austrians only go to school for the first half of the
day. In the second half, one can play a sport, or learn an instrument (This is
true concerning grammar school, I am not exactly sure for highschool, but a
lot of people hangout on the streets after about noon). In all of this one may
see better musicians (perhaps) being that they have spent more time
practicing. That means in college, they expect a lot more professionalism, and
preparation. Less time is spent on "liberal arts" type classes and more on the
concentrated music study. And specifically concerning Austria, Music theory is
taught a little different (combining form analysis and theory at the same time
rather than splitting the classes up)

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Missy,

Traveling, is a wonderful opportunity in europe, but at the sametime, many
travelers regret only offering a hand to the Austrians by the end of the
semester. Making friendship takes time. In Austria, one can have 10-12
acquaintances but only a few real friends.

I have not had trouble finding acquaintances that I talk to almost daily, but
I havent made any real trustable dependable friends yet (not even with
americans)- my personal view of friendship corroborates a little bit with the
Austrian one (not neccessarily something I had trouble adjusting too).

Because Austria is sort of a melting pot of Europe (Especially vienna), It is
easy to find people from many different cultures. The french Person, who I met
for only a month, has already invited me to his apartment in Marsaille, and we
have even go to the Opera together. Even an Italian person I have met has
given me her email, telling me not to be lazy, and to email her. Today I even
met a Russian lady who was nice enough to talk to me (only in German, funny
who I was able to keep up) at the Sushi bar, and she bought me lunch
(Champaign, Sushi salad with red beets, and some bread). She wrote down her
store number and told me to visit her.

I have even been over to the house of the violin Coach after rehearsal, and I
take lessons in my Piano Teachers apartment (he even took me to his teachers
concert for free). So to answer the question, I ahve met a lot of close
acquaintances but friendship takes time.

Even when talking to people, it is very good to know what is appropriate to
talk about, how not to impose yourself in their culture, and to sort of, go
with the flow of things.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Eddie B. said...

Kevin,

Could you address some of the challenges in adjusting to the new music school, i.e. did you have to relearn theory in solfege, differences in terminology, practice space/time, etc.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not actually studying in a music school, but am taking some music courses with IES. IES is an american institution.

My piano teacher uses fixed Do for solffeige (which isnt too hard to get used to).

I am taking a music theory class, which is taught by an Austrian professor in the Conservatory. The first difference is that there really isnt any busy work. The second is that form and analysis and theory are combined in the same course. The third is that he is offerring a completely different perspective and is talking about things that arent taught in the US or in any other european countries. THis is relating to rhetorical devices in music. Its quite an interesting course and we spend all of our time looking at music works (full works and not excerpts), and we listen to the music before we analyze it.

The other music class I am taking is structured like a senior seminar and it is studies in Classical Symphony. THe teacher feels the need to do remedial work for many students in the course who are not yet ready. That means we have spent a lot of time doing some remedial things because not everyone in the course is a senior.

However we have started a new unconventional project. Because we are in vienna and we have access to the National Library, we are researching and putting together an unscholarly performance edition of a Wagenseil Symphony (wagenseil is a preclassical composer who is mostly forgotten). This project has entailed actually going to the National library, and looking at and copying real scores (they are over 200 years old). We have been tracking down information concerning the province (how the library obtained it), and background information (which isnt easy to find). During the last 3 days (wed thru friday) I have spent the whole day in the library looking at microfilm of a very old dissertation. It has been quite fascinating, not to mention a once in a life time experience, because what we are finding has mystery behind it. This is another story in itself.

In terms of practice, IES has 4 practice rooms in their main building, and then 5-6 offcampus rooms with pianos. I have been allowed to schedule 3 hours a day (in various rooms). I havent been practicing as much as I did in the states, and I am working on a lot less. It also doesnt matter too much because I am here for the experience and not just the music. It is quite difficult to experienc everything if you spend a lot of time in a practice room.

I have also started reading a book over famous pianists, and one reccomends studying abroad. First of all he said that the quality of the teacher in the abroad site may be of lower quality, but the most important part of this education is broadening ones horizons. I certainly havent really been stressing myself about practicing (I have plenty of time for that when I come back too).

1:24 PM  

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