Gaby (21’) is a rising junior studying Political Science and German Studies and minoring in Gender and Women’s studies. She returned about a month ago from studying in Salzburg, Austria for her sophomore year, and is originally from San Jose, California. She’ll be answering a few questions about her study abroad experience, and how that’s impacted her now that she’s back in Portland.
Why did you want to study abroad in Salzburg?
Having the opportunity to learn more about other areas of the world and traveling is what drew me initially to studying abroad, but with all the different programs that UP offers, it was hard to decide where to go. I ultimately decided on Salzburg, because I would be able to go for the whole school year and learn more German. I took French in high school, so I surprised myself with the decision to take German in college. I ended up taking the accelerated German class my freshman year, which encouraged me to decide to study abroad in Salzburg as well. I was very excited to have the chance to speak German in a German-speaking country! Austria is also very centrally located in Europe, and I was looking forward to doing some traveling.
What types of classes do you take while studying abroad?
In Salzburg, I took German of course :), and other core classes such as Theology, Philosophy, Fine Arts, and even a music class. This ended up helping me get a lot of core classes done. We were also able to take one class in the fall semester at the University of Salzburg, which was taught by many interesting people, and covered information about Austria that I found very thought-provoking.
Do you have any advice for staying on track with classes while you’re abroad?
At times it could be challenging to juggle school work, with the desire to go explore and travel, but the course load ended up being fairly manageable for me. Sometimes though, I had to make the decision to stay back to do work, when my friends were doing something fun. My biggest tip would be to try and find a balance where you’re getting all your work done, but still traveling, exploring, and making the most out of your time abroad.
How do you connect your major with your study abroad experience?
One of my majors is German, so I was able to directly apply what I learned language-wise in Austria to the major. For Political Science, I’m mostly interested in international politics, which we got a firsthand look at when we visited UN City in Vienna, and the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France as a group. I was also able to visit the Reichstag in Berlin and The Hague in The Netherlands. Getting to learn more about the different governments in Europe, and different cultures was also very impactful. Studying abroad and beginning to learn another language has also opened up some opportunities in the realm of internships that I’m looking forward to pursuing.
Did studying abroad impact you when you got back to Portland?
I was worried about the transition back to the U.S., as I had been gone for about 8 months and didn’t really know what to expect. I had previously been warned about reverse culture shock, but in my case, I didn’t really experience any of those problems. The only thing that really shocked me was that I could understand the people talking around me again! I’m originally from California, so I was looking forward to getting back to Portland for the Summer after being gone for a year. From all the exploring I did in Europe; I feel like I have a different perspective coming back. I feel more comfortable going places on my own and doing things that I enjoy without worrying about it.
What was the best part about Salzburg?
This is a tough question! There were so many great aspects of studying abroad, and of Salzburg. If I had to choose one part of the program that I consider the best, it would be all the great, lifelong friendships I made.
Has studying abroad changed any career, or future plans you had made?
It really solidified my plans to work in foreign affairs. I really enjoyed Europe and can see myself moving back there one day! I also feel more confident that whatever career I end up in will all work out somehow.
Did you travel anywhere else while you were in Salzburg? What were some of the best places you visited?
Yes! I ended up going to 11 counties during my time in Salzburg. My favorite places were probably Amsterdam, Athens, London, and Rome. Specifically, in Austria, I though Innsbruck was amazing! At the end of the year, I also went to Paris for my birthday with some family, which was a fantastic experience as well.
What was your biggest take-away from studying abroad?
I found a lot of confidence in myself that I didn’t know I had. I’m much more willing to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I’ll forever consider this year as one of the best of my life!
If you’re interested, here is a link to some of my favorite pictures from my study abroad experience: https://photos.app.goo.gl/59Xdt8AYejCjJCeN8
Feel free to ask any questions you may have!