#AlexgoestoAustria: Two Months Abroad!

So I meant to post about this for a while but got so sidetracked and then when I had time I decided I’d rather take a nap. Ha. For anyone who isn’t aware, I am currently in Austria for the semester! I’m not studying abroad exactly, it’s a bit different. I’m going to school for engineering and as part of our program, we’re required to complete three co-ops–which are basically just paid internships–and for my last co-op I had the opportunity to do it through a company abroad. Naturally having never been outside of the US, I jumped at that.

I am here from the end of August until December 18th and most of that time, I am working. I literally just came here to work, no classes, no homework, just work. The company I’m working for is called AVL. They’re kind of a big deal in the automotive world. They work with things like combustion engines, chassis, and simulation programs. That’s the part that I’m working with, simulation programs. Not to get too technical on y’all but I’m working on a project that is trying to use vehicle-to-vehicle communication to track how a loss or interruption in signal effects the advanced cruise control feature of a vehicle. If you don’t know what advanced cruise control–or ACC–is, it’s the new fancy thing like normal cruise control except that sensors on the car sense when you come up behind another car and instead of you having to press on the break and take the car out of cruise control, the program uses sensors to automatically slow down your set speed to match the speed of the car in front of you until the point that you can pass it, at which your car will automatically speed back up to it’s original set speed. And then vehicle-to-vehicle control is something that I know not much about but is entirely mind blowing. It’s robots guys. ROBOTS. (Kidding, mostly.) In the future the goal is to have safer driving by having all vehicle on the road operate autonomously. This means each car will have transmitters that communicate with another car. In the case of ACC, the vehicle you are following will ideally transmit it’s position, speed, acceleration, etc. to your vehicle which will then process the information and automatically adjust things accordingly.

Really the whole thing is magic. That’s what I’ve decided engineering is, magic, because how on Earth is any of that even possible. For my co-op here I am not doing anything that deals with that crazy, intense stuff. What my responsibility is using a fancy simulation program to create and run a simulation where one car is following another with ACC and collecting data. So not as exciting as the in-depth stuff, but still really cool and I’m definitely learning a lot that I didn’t know before. Heck, I didn’t even know ACC or vehicle-to-vehicle communication was a thing before my co-op!

So since all I’m doing here is working 38.5 hours a week, that means I have way more free time than I’m used to–coming off of school full-time and work with varying semesters of classes and two jobs mixed in for three years. Free time is an unknown concept to me! I would be using absolutely all of it to travel Europe and see sights on the weekend but traveling is expensive and let’s face it, I’m still a broke college student regardless of the temporary co-op. That being said, I’ve still been able to go around the city I’m in, Graz, and take lots of pictures and see all the gorgeous old buildings, and of course shop.

Around the City:

I’ve taken a lot of pictures around the city of Graz and below are some of my favorite ones.

Austria #11
Kunsthaus Graz!
Austria #10
Trams!
Austria #9
So many little shops!
Austria #8
Tight streets of the city center.
Austria #7
Pretty buildings!
Austria #6
Fountain in the park.
Austria #5
Such winding roads lined with statuesque old and gorgeous buildings.
Austria #4
The cafe on the river.
Austria #3
Parallel parking is a must if you live here.
Austria #2
This is the main building on the campus that I work. There are many, many buildings.
Austria #1
Like the cat!

I come from a small town in Michigan so being in a city so old, with so much history is completely baffling to me. I think in my hometown the oldest buildings we have are maybe like 60ish years old? Here, in Europe, most buildings in the cities are older because the areas have been populated for a great longer time. I find myself having mini existential crises, where I’m standing on the side of the street and I think to myself about all the people who’ve stood where I’m standing. What time are they from? What did they do? What became of them? And yeah I’m kind of weird and find myself doing that almost everything place I go but Europe is older than the US so the possibilities are endless here. I actually find myself standing and thinking for way longer than usually acceptable.

 Bärenschützklamm

Very recently I went to Bärenschützklamm which is about a 45 minute drive from Graz. Bärenschützklamm, pronounced like bare-en-shootz-clam, is a waterfall/gorge and also a natural monument. Back in 1901 they opened up a climbing route to experience the gorge. To get to the actual climbing route, you have to hike up the hills and mountains for about an hour and a half. It’s all uphill and hiking, so no pretty pathways, you’re walking on uneven dirt and rocks. Once you get to the climbing route, you are climbing up still, but this time, you’re criss-crossing the river on wooden ladders an footbridges. The hike through to the gorge is about another hour and a half. At the end of the climbing route there is an old cabin that serves as a restaurant where you can refuel with some of the traditional Styrian dishes and drinks. (When I went, we refueled with some Styrian beer called Gösser, which is like 60% lemonade and 40% beer.) From the ‘rest stop’ there’s another hour and a half climb back down to where you started. Let me tell you the climb down is the worst because the whole time you’re climbing on rocks and you feel like you might trip and tumble down the rest of the way. It didn’t help matters that I was a klutz.

Adjusting the approximate times it ends up being almost a five hour ordeal but it’s so worth it. We went on a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket. The air up there in the hills by the river is so unbelievably fresh. I only have like 70% lung function so the whole hiking to a higher elevation thing sort of made me nervous but there were very few times when my breathing was labored and I attribute that to the cleanliness of the air. The scenery was beyond breathtaking. I’ve never been on a hike of this level and even though I was sore for five days straight, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the hike: (I apologize if they’re gridded weirdly, I am not one with the formatting.)

Bärenschützklamm #18 Bärenschützklamm #17 Bärenschützklamm #16 Bärenschützklamm #15 Bärenschützklamm #14 Bärenschützklamm #13 Bärenschützklamm #12 Bärenschützklamm #11 Bärenschützklamm #10 Bärenschützklamm #9 Bärenschützklamm #8 Bärenschützklamm #7Bärenschützklamm #6 Bärenschützklamm #5 Bärenschützklamm #4 Bärenschützklamm #3 Bärenschützklamm #2 Bärenschützklamm #1

It was entirely an unbelievable experience and I recommend if you are ever in Austria, to check it out because it’s so worth it. (And also a sidebar: If you want to tone the buns and thighs take up hiking once every couple weeks because I could barely walk the next couple days after. Best. Workout. Ever.)

More To Come!

As I said, I’m here in Austria until December 18th and have at least two more big events planned as of right now including a trip to a concentration camp memorial and a trip to Germany where I will see Mara (Book Marauder) and we shall do all of the fun things! If you’re interested in seeing some of the things I do/buy/eat/see/etc. here in Austria I do post pictures every once in a while on my Instagram with the hashtag #AlexgoestoAustria so feel free to follow along with me in this once in a lifetime journey!

Questions?

If anyone has any questions about what it’s like going abroad for a semester–say if you’re looking into doing it yourself in the future–leave them in the comments!

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