I arrived in Leoben Monday last and have spent the week settling into my new home for the next five months! Just want to start by saying that I can already tell I will love it here. The town is beautiful and the Austrian culture is very apparent. Some of the older generation still wear traditional Austrian clothing around town, something that I must say I was quite surprised to see. I have yet to try the infamous Austrian Schnitzel, but I doubt it will be long before I get the opportunity. My first official class at the Montanuniversitut University was yesterday afternoon, and I can already see some differences in class structure that will take some getting used to. Some of the main differences are that lectures are held once a week in a 3-hour block (instead of three 1-hour blocks throughout the week), class examinations will be given orally by the professor to the student, and the class size is about a fourth of that in Golden. I am really looking forward to seeing how the rest of the semester pans out!
I also wanted to share some of my experiences in Europe before coming to Leoben. After a few weeks spent in Texas with family and friends, I left the States with bags filled to the brim with clothes, ski gear, hiking gear, school supplies, and a few other random supplies that may prove useful in my five months abroad. I began my European adventure by visiting some of the exchange students from Europe who were studying at Mines last year. After becoming close friends with them during their stay in Colorado, I was very excited to have the opportunity to visit them in their home countries.
First stop on the list was The Netherlands, where I would visit Esmerelda and Lina. The excitement and anticipation running through my body as the airplane taxied through the Amsterdam flight deck was enough to keep me wide awake as I made my way through customs, to the taxi port, and on to Esmerelda�s house. After exploring the city, wandering around the canals, trying out the local cuisine, and visiting museums that contain some of the most famous works of art in the world, we traveled to Rotterdam to visit Lina. Some of our excursions in the city included a city-wide �post-work gathering� held once a month, where I was able to meet some of Lina�s friends, as well as attend an international film festival where people from all over the globe came to share and enjoy independent films. I soon found out that both Rotterdam and Amsterdam were very cultural cities, though in very different ways. Rotterdam embraced more modern culture, as it was essentially rebuilt from the ground up after WWII, where Amsterdam embodied its very old historical roots. During my stay in Holland, I noticed that in general, the people and lifestyle are very similar to those in the U.S., the major difference being the mode of transport, almost entirely by bike and public transportation. I must say I love it, and do think that this is one area that could use improvement in the U.S.
After a week in Holland, I boarded my next plane to Trondheim, Norway, to visit more friends who went on exchange at Mines’ Heidrun, Tone, Eirik, Anders, and fellow CSM student Kohl. The weather that far north, while definitely cold, did not look nearly as chilly as Colorado with all that snow they had a few weeks ago! Once again, I felt so lucky to have such amazing friends, welcoming me into their homes and teaching me how to make some of their favorite Norwegian meals (all of which were delicious). The city there is beautiful, a river running through it, right up against a fjord, with mountains in the distance. Again, I noticed some differences between the lifestyle here and that at home. Some of the major differences were the price of goods and once again the mode of transport. Coming from a nation with a capitalistic economy to one based on socialism, I was not used to such high taxes on everything in the stores, and must admit the high prices may cause a bit of trouble for broke college students wanting to stay for any extended period of time in the country. That being said, Norway is so beautiful that I have already decided I am one day coming back to explore the rest of it, traveling through the open air and visiting the mountains I have seen so many breathtaking photos of!
Well, that pretty much covers my time in Europe so far! I�ll post another entry once I have attended a few more classes and really gotten to know more students and locals here in Leoben. For now, though, I must go. I am meeting another student I met on exchange at Mines for lunch. This one, however, is actually from Leoben, so hopefully I will be well acquainted with the city and its people soon enough.