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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Life in Vienna

This is a picture of me looking down on the long-lived Austrian mountain town, Murau. Filled with skiers in the winter, its local brewery is well known (and well loved) across most of Austria.

If asked on the street what they thought of Austria, nine Americans out of ten would conjure up images of Kangaroos or the Sound of Music. At best, public memory can recall that the country played some role in the first and second World Wars, if only as a matter of proximity. In spite of this, I came to the heart of Austria to study for the 2004 fall semester and I haven’t regretted a moment of it.

Life in Vienna is a fascinating mix of old and new. There’s something distinctly quaint about European life; everyone, it seems, walks a daily path that’s been traced for centuries into the past. In our world of plastic wrap and lunch to-go, many Europeans still go to daily food markets for vegetables, hang up every piece of wash, and travel by train more often than by car.

At the same time, this is still a very modern city. Many of the clothing styles are above and beyond the curve (compared to what you see in Dallas). You can find any number of chain restaurants and retail stores ranging from Hooters to McDonald’s. Ask any person on the street (though you may need German, Italian, French or Turkish to do so) a question about American politics or the policies of the EU and you will receive an energetic response.

Yes, Austria and Vienna have played an important role throughout history but they continue to play one today. Vienna remains one of Europe’s most prominent cultural centers, and you cannot help but find operas, symphonies, and musicals playing nightly across the city. The collections of art amassed under the discerning (and rich) hands of the Hapsburg rulers are worthy of any nation’s capital, and the long tradition of Vienna’s embroiled political significance continues to this day in the strong educational scene for aspiring international diplomats.

Life in Vienna has been very different for me; it’s given me a much more international outlook on the world and taught me much about history, in general. Living in a place that has played such a unique role in the historical development of a modern Europe encourages you so much to actually appreciate and learn the history. I’m sure that long after I’ve returned to the States, I will look back on Vienna, Austria, and Central Europe with an empathy and fondness that would be utterly foreign to me had I not had the opportunity to study here.

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