The delay in this entry has been completely ridiculous and for that I entirely blame the miserable month that was January. Unlike Edinburgh, Vienna lets you to enjoy the run up to Christmas exam-free. More than that, they even go as far as allowing a Christmas market in the middle of campus, which acts as a kind of siren to lure all those students who are trying to walk through its glowing mini-village of Christmas cheer to the substantially less happy place of the library. Being offered Gluhwien and Christmas punsch (which has a deceptive amount of alcohol in it) directly outside of class is one of the many Austrian traditions I notice that would not be allowed, never mind encouraged, in Scotland.
So while I kept updated with Edinburgh’s stressful December exams and the sport of trying to find a seat in the library via Facebook, I was free to enjoy the finer things in life; on-campus gluhwien and a comparatively work free month.
Returning to Edinburgh airport for Christmas was slightly disorientating. Even though most people in Vienna are willing to speak English for ignorant Brits like myself, I suddenly found myself in a country where everything was in my language. No more mixing up which toilet I should go in because I think ‘herren’ sounds more feminine. I could overhear conversations on public transport and understand them; definitely more entertaining. I could do more than just helplessly point in shops (although not being fair to myself; I can now actually order a coffee in German – improvement). Nevertheless, the difference was startling.
Not knowing what to expect from the exams here was really daunting. Vienna University does things differently, grading students not only by exams, but by continuous class presentations. This was a terrifying prospect; standing up to face the judgement of a class of around thirty. I’ve begun to miss the anonymity of an essay. However, studying English literature in a class of Austrians who have English as a second language does put me at a bit of a vantage point. I often feel like a bit of a fraud in my classes as they stumble over pronunciations. I’m almost apologetic for my understanding that Lady Berwick has a silent ‘w’, and automatic ability of correctly placing quotation marks.
After stressing out at the thought of five exams, I was relieved to find exam papers that seemed to aim primarily at testing the fact that students have read the books in English rather than German. I was actually asked in one paper that I had been particularly stressed about, ‘What is a simile?’. After that I was substantially calmer.
The best thing apart from very generous questions that allow for relieved post exam fun? Giving students a month off for said fun. Semester doesn’t start till mid-march which gives plenty of time to enjoy the centrality of Austria in Europe, and forget the fact that you may have in fact have forgotten what a simile is and thought the question was trying to trick you. Time off is very necessary.