International Summer Program 2008
by Henry Mayman
When I cautiously gave up a month of my summer vacation for the Sommerhochschule program I did so in the hope that it would give me a good basis for the second year of my degree. However, I strongly believe that not only has it given me a great basis from which I can build upon in the coming years of my degree but also my future career and social life.
Upon arrival at a bus stop on the edge of a village in the Austrian Alps I was picked up by the program’s mini bus to be taken to The University of Vienna’s Summer school campus on shore of Lake Wolfgang. We were then shown to our accommodation and I found myself sharing with a Ukrainian history student, which was indicative of the international and interdisciplinary nature of the course. To help settle in and get to know the other students, a formal opening ceremony was held. This comprised off an introduction to the program, the courses and the staff, as well as a talk from the President of the Austrian Supreme Court about how European law had affected the Austrian legal system.
The daily timetable started with lessons from 8.30am and continuing through to lunch at 1.00pm. The curriculum was varied and included topics on European law, history, and art; this meant that the participants came from a wide range of disciplines, which included, amongst others, Law, Politics, European Studies, Engineering and Economics.
Lunch was followed by a sports hour where we were given the opportunity to learn windsurfing, tennis, go to the sports hall or simply relax on the shore of Lake Wolfgang. For those of us who took part in one of the four German classes, which ranged from absolute beginner to advanced study, lessons began again at 3.30pm, finishing in time for the evening meal at 6.00pm.
Our evenings were filled with voluntary dance classes in which we were taught, in preparation for the Midsummer Night Ball, the traditional Viennese waltz and other dances. In addition to this, twice-weekly interdisciplinary seminars were held which included talks from guest speakers. The topics of the seminars were varied and included talks on culture, literature, the impact of the ‘No’ vote in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty, 10 years of the Euro, and Human Rights and Art.
On one evening the program had arranged a chamber concert at a local hotel whereby a string quartet from the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra performed us. This is something that I personally never thought of myself as going to voluntary; however I thoroughly enjoyed it and could see myself going again.
At the weekends, the course coordinators organized events to which participants could either attend if they wished or pursue their own activities. The events organized included an excursion to the picturesque local town of St. Wolfgang, on the shores of the lake. Here we were met by the Mayor, who having given us beer and pretzels took us on a tour of the museum. Other weekend activities included hikes, an excursion to the former concentration camp Ebensee, as well as a trip to Salzburg, which included many of the sights that were featured in the film the Sound of Music; this was followed in the evening by a trip to a casino.
One weekend I, together with friends from around the world, went to Vienna for a 24 hour ‘flying visit’. This involved a whistle stop tour of the sights, kindly lead by our Austrian hosts who were at the University of Vienna, which included the Museum quarter, Opera House, the Austrian Parliament, Mozart’s house, as well as other tourist attractions.
In addition to the arranged program a tradition of the course is to encourage participants to organize further events, which for us included the Ukrainian and Korean Parties, which gave us an insight into their cultures; and the ‘worst dress sense’ party, to name but a few. On carrying on another more informal practice of the Sommerhochschule, and being easily lead, one found himself with others at 4.00am swimming without attire in the lake.
Within Strobl itself Billy’s Bar made up the evening’s entertainment with its vibrant atmosphere and music. Whilst on campus a further bar saw us sharing national drinking games with the British contribution of ‘Save the Queen’ being a favorite.
Also during our time at Strobl, the annual Seefest was held, with live music, water sport displays and fireworks being amongst the day’s activities.
The end of our time at the Sommerhochschule saw a Candle Light Dinner followed by the Midsummer Night Ball, which included some of the students showing their talent in the form of performances such as duet by a Violinist and a Pianist and an accompanied performance by a classical singer. Those of us that took part in the dance class started the Midsummer Night Ball with the Viennese waltz. The next day the Closing Ceremony took place in which the transcripts and certificates were given as well as final speeches.
As I said in my opening paragraph I had hoped that this program would help to give me a foundation of knowledge for the second year of my studies. However, I discovered that it would give me much more than that; introducing me to many amazing people, their ideas and cultures from around the world. Having chosen law based courses I was also able to gain an insight into the many different legal systems that the other law students had brought with them from their home countries.
One other great consequence of the course is the fact I now have a list of couches and floors I can sleep on anywhere in the world for free!
Henry Mayman, Great Britain, 2008