In all honesty, I was hesitant to go on exchange. Life in Sydney is so good and Austria is so foreign. I’d partaken in one in high school to Berlin and had loved that so I don’t know why I was so skeptical. Maybe it had something to do with the fact I’m not the biggest fan of the Sound of Music.
I broke all social boundaries, Facebook messaging people I’d read about on this blog, hoping they’d convince me to pack up my life and move to Dornbirn, Austria for 5 months. Somehow they did and I’m now here. It’s a small, super picturesque town on the western side of the country, very close to Switzerland (to the point a friend accidentally cycled there late one night instead of going home), very close to Germany and very close to Italy. It’s defined by the surrounding mountains, cyclists and baked goods. Oh my goodness, to not have come would’ve been a regrettable mistake. (On a side note, if you’re in the same position, you’re more than welcome to message me. The least I can do after all the help I received. Additionally – bit of a self plug – but I have a blog which goes a little more in-depth about Austria http://www.madeleinevontrapp.com which may help.)
Although it’s only been three weeks and time has flown by incomprehensibly fast, I feel like Dornbirn is a home away from home and I’ve know my classmates for ages – whether that be the quiche-making French boys, the Chilean girl who shreds on the slopes, the Polish boy on my floor who always gets locked out, the Belgian who only eats pizza and drinks beer or the Americans who are the only ones who understand Australian sarcasm and can trump it. There’s a group of 39 exchange students are we’re honestly almost inseparable. Many of us have our own little kitchens in our rooms but each night we’ll eat dinner together, catch up on the day and laugh. Of late, local students have started to join us as well – a testament to how friendly and welcoming they are. They’re happy to drive us round, show us the town and help out with homework.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Dornbirn either, despite being a small town (which I was nervous about having lived in Milsons Point for the past 15 years.) Weekends and afternoons are filled with ski trips up nearby mountains, hikes, eating out, pub crawls (sometimes even organized by the school), thrift shopping (#studentlife), cooking together, watching movies, hiring vans and going for weekends in Munich/Innsbruck/Neuschwanstein Castle or even using the 24 hour facilities of FHV. They’re a fantastic, small university, with really in-depth teaching and a practical outlook on the design degree. My animation stream has 6 students and 4 industry professionals as tutors which is preeeetty awesome. We’re so well looked after here with 5D Mark III’s able to be borrowed, Phantom cameras, FREE printing even at A1! They’re so happy to help and always go above and beyond.
All in all, I’d seriously recommend coming here – you don’t have to speak German, you don’t even have to like small towns. You’re right on the border of so many countries geographically, making it easy to travel and you’re living next door to people from so many countries making it easy to scab free accommodation for when you do.
Here’s a few pictures.
Making pavlova for friends at a pot luck dinner