Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Erasmus in Innsbruck

Picture the scene: anywhere you look, wherever you turn to, you can only see mountains. Used to hills being the highest you can get in Belgium, the sight of those huge, breathtaking mountains leaves you speechless. I spent my Erasmus in one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited: Innsbruck.

The University of Innsbruck is certainly not like here in Namur. One of the main differences is that students have to make their own class schedule. Because of this there is not a fixed group of students like here in Namur, instead they change all the time. Courses in Innsbruck were a bit disappointing. They have this system of Pro-Seminars, in which students hold presentations and have a debate afterwards. However, there was this one course, it was ONLY presentations and a few of the students spoke horrible English!! And really, just presentations? The teacher did not do anything!

At first I was worried that I might not have a lot of contact with Austrian students. However I was pleasantly surprised. When students heard that I was foreign, they immediately spoke more slowly and clearer. The Austrians, with whom I had class, also helped me lot to understand the teachers because some of them...well I wondered if it was even German they spoke! I mean, one teacher was really difficult to understand; I think he spoke some kind of dialect. I guess I will never know. But it was not only the teachers I had difficulty to understand. They were two boys in my student residence, they were from Bayern, and I could no understand a SINGLE word of what they said. I mean, the conversation always went something like this: he says something and I reply “Wie, Bitte?” he repeats, and I repeat “Wie, Bitte?” he repeat and I just smile and nod. But I did not worry too much about it, because others students in the residence, who had known those two for a few years, assured me that they also could not understand a word! Talking of my student residence, I rented a double room just for me. Plus I had my own bathroom! I stayed in the student residence Hertha Firnberg, where there were few Erasmus students and not once did we speak English with each other. I was worried that we might be tempted to speak English to have it easier, but everyone really made an effort to only speak German. The residence was located on the outside of the city, so I had to take the bus. There were buses every ten minutes and I never had to wait very long. What I noticed was that a lot of the Austrians had their own bike and were surprised that I did not have one. That was weird, I mean, we are in the middle of the mountains and people ride bikes here! I guess they are used to it.

There was also this organization, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), which organized a lot of events such as the Tyrolean Night, the Halloween Party or the Pub Crawl. A lot of the Erasmus students attended those, so it was always fun to go out and have a wild night. This is how I met most of the students I got to know during my stay.

Enough about the university, let’s move on to the city. Innsbruck is a really old city, so there is a lot to visit, but the main attraction was, for me anyway, those magnificent mountains. If you are brave you can go on foot and “climb” to the top of the mountains. I pride myself on not being crazy so I took the cable car. But once you are up there you can only think “Wow”. You get the most beautiful view of the city and the world below. In the distance you see a few villages spread across the valley. I admit I was tempted to sing “The hills are alive with the sound of music”, just to be one of THOSE tourists.

This was in the summer, but when winter gets there, we are talking about something else entirely! Everybody goes skiing. When you get on the bus, you have to be careful not to get a ski in the eye. Even in class, some students are already dressed to go skiing once class is over.

All in all, I recommend Innsbruck as an Erasmus destination. Forget Köln or Berlin! Innsbruck is the place to be if you want to live an unforgettable experience.

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