There has been so much that has occurred since I arrived almost 2 weeks ago-I have had a variety of emotions, faced many new experiences, met so many new people & already developed some very strong friendships. I am so blessed and thankful that I decided to do this because you really don’t know what life is and what the world has to offer till you gather the courage to go out there to see it for yourself! Last time I left you with arriving in Vienna & getting settled in my new home. Now, you get to have a peek into what I had to do once I arrived!
Since international bank transfers are obnoxious as they withdraw extra bank fees that you do not foresee, I already had two outstanding payments to make. One was to the OEAD Housing Office and the other to the OK Program (I will enlighten you in a moment). Since the office hours for OEAD are VERY limited (in Austria, this is standard) I had to plan with ample time to get to the office and find my way. In addition, I had to do the following tasks:
1. Fill out the Meldezettel (Registration Form) to register with the 7th district’s Meldeamt (registration office) within 3 days of arrival into Austria.
2. Set up an Austrian bank account (useful for many different things especially since you need this do do laundry, pay in certain stores and use the chip & pin payment methods). Your debit card is also multipurposeful as it is an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) complete with your picture and the ability to get discounts all over the world.
3. Buy a February monthly transport ticket. Sadly, none of us were eligible for the student rate since we don’t get our student ID cards till Monday, February 13th (my 21st birthday!). We are however eligible to buy the Semester Pass valid from March-July at the student rate because it’s only for students 🙂
4. Purchase the Vorteils card from the Austrian Railroad Company that entitles you to travel throughout Austria for half the price every time and a 25% discount on rail trips outside of Austria!
5. Visit the BuddyNetwork office to buy the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) card, register for trips & meet more exchange students!
6. Check out WU (Wirtschaftuniversitat)-my school & to attend the compulsory information session & introduction to the OK Program.
7. Get a legitimate mobile phone plan!
This To-Do list was not super crazy in regards to the tasks that needed to be done, but more so the fact that the hours for everything are super limited. I’m not going to bore you with the details of doing all of these things, just let you know the funny turnouts along the way. On Facebook, the exchange students at WU have a group and we post all the time about everything under the sun. Since I posted that I was going to register with the authorities the next day, one of the students asked to come with me as well. This is when I met Gonzalo Dancuart from Lima, Peru and we even found out we lived on the same floor right across from each other. I am so grateful that we became friends and for him introducing me to Ursula (also from Lima), Johanna (University of South Carolina) and Brett (University of Kentucky). We instantly became a “family” exploring Vienna together, having adventures and making dinners. These friendships seem like they have been in the works longer than 1.5 weeks-I can’t even describe how much these people mean to me.
When registering with the 7th district, Caterina had to translate everything for me so that I could fill out the form. Since the form is only available in German, it would be pretty challenging to complete without the help of someone else. After the form was filled out, it was a piece of cake to take it with your passport into the office, sit down for a few minutes and get the document that you need. I was impressed that it did not take long and we were probably not there for more than 20 minutes! Since public transportation is outstanding here, I would be using it for everything. I thought that we would be eligible for the student price, so I only bought a 24 hour ticket initially till I figured out how to get the student rate. Unfortunately, I came to find that we needed our official student ID so I had to pay to full E50. Oh well! Now was the bank account. You had to bring your passport, photo, official acceptance letter & matriculation number in order to get a student account. It took about an hour to open the account. Nothing too exciting, just surprising to see how LONG it took. Our consultant was very nice and helpful which is something to be thankful for. Although, it would be 2 weeks to get my debit card so I’m glad we got this task done immediately upon arrival.
Going to WU Vienna for the first time was interesting. It was easy to get on the Ubahn (subway) Rail 6 to Spittleau and then to walk up the snowy road to school past what looks to be a Dr. Seuss building. With the school in sight, I was excited to explore. First order of business was to visit the Buddynetwork office to buy my ESN card and register for the Carnevale trip to Venice, Italy. Gonzalo and I were not able to contact Ursula, Johanna & Brett because they did not have mobile phones yet but guess who we ran into as soon as we made it to the Buddynetwork office! ALL 3 of them 🙂 After getting our ESN cards & registering for the Venice trip, we chatted with all of the exchange students that were in the building. Surprise, surprise-they are all Canadians! Oh Canada. Out of this informal meet and greet, we formed an even larger friendship circle of close to 20 people that literally travels in a pack. Let’s just say, it’s nice to know that we already had bonded and were established even before our school’s first info session!
Since I still had to pay that OEAD housing payment and failing to get there (and find the place) between the limited window of 9-12am two times beforehand, I decided to go by myself and was determined to conquer this task. The directions were still not clear to me (even for the 3rd time) so I had to pay attention. After getting off the U6 at Alter Strasse, I walked the wrong way for 5 minutes, proceeded to turn around and get on the correct tram that would take me (fingers crossed) in a familiar direction. Nothing looked familiar, I didn’t know if I should stay on and just hope for the best or get off the tram. A few stops down, I decided to step off the tram and walk towards what looked like the City Center. I was convinced that I was in the 1st district and I politely asked an Austrian girl if I was headed in the right direction. To my luck, I was just two blocks down from my destination! After finally reaching Ebendorferstrasse, I saw the HUGE, beautiful OEAD office and signed in for an appointment. It was easy to pay for my debt and then be on my way! With this small accomplishment behind me, I was able to be productive the rest of the day.
Later, I arrived at Westbanhof off of the U6 and registered for my Vorteils card. I still had to ask for translation at the desk because everything was once again, only available in German. Check, done!
Another day, I tried to use my phone to text and call people and found that I could not. My prepaid card was already out of minutes & texts after a little over a week?! Since we put E10 on my card, that should have lasted the month of February since most plans cost anywhere from E7-E15/month. I decided to get a bob simcard and borrow Eva’s Sony Ericsson phone that would allow me 1000 minutes,1000 texts & 1GB of data to access the internet and applications all for E12,80/month! MUCH BETTER.
On Friday, February 10th, we had our compulsory information session at WU to be debriefed on everything and learn about our school! Lunchtime at the WU Cafeteria:
Following lunch, we had our welcome session for the OK Program (the student-run cultural immersion program that takes place for 3 weeks in February till school starts). We got to meet all of the leaders, learn what we would be doing & where we would be going for the next few weeks. We were each assigned a group and it was ironic that Ursula, Johanna, Brett, Kristen, Mike, Courtenay, Amanda, Therese & I all ended up in the same group since there was 5 groups consisting of ~30 students/group. After being acquainted with our group, we ventured to the fifth floor via the stairs to our meeting room. In Austria, the staircases repeat so this was like climbing a mountainous 10 flights of stairs. After we all sat down in a circular fashion, we went around introducing ourselves, where we were from, why we chose Vienna, what we liked to do, etc. We had quite the diverse representation and it was fun to play a few icebreakers to get to know each other better. We talked about embarrassing moments, Austrian stereotypes, our plans for meeting the next morning at 7:20 am for our day trip to Graz, Austria and followed by the grand tour of WU. In my next post, I will tell you some funny stories and all about the day trip to Graz-tschow!