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Summer series: Seeing Graz through another perspective – Part I

Many students decide to spend their summer doing an internship or working abroad. This year, four of them decided to come to Graz: Yassine Amri (Tunisia), Ana Parfión (Spain), Shu Chang (Hong Kong) and Tereza Palasová (Czech Republic). They will report fortnightly on their work experience as exchange students in the Styrian capital.

Yassine and Shu work together at the coffee shop “incafé” from Jugend am Werk, which they describe as “a really beautiful place: nicely decorated, well-equipped and well-arranged”. Yassine adds about his colleagues: “There is Paul who washes the dishes, he is very calm. Hilga who shakes everyday everybody’s hands before they leave and finally my Austrian friend David, who speaks English and does the role of a translator”. Speaking German with clients and colleagues was unexpected, but they find it quite funny and instructive too. Arriving in Graz, meeting their colleagues and the other exchange students was also a peak of their week “we visited many places and the architecture of the city is just astonishing”.

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Tereza and Ana, on the other hand, work together at the Jugend am Werk “Youth Park” in different projects alongside jobseekers, doing activities like gardening, cooking and handmade production. Both are enthusiastic about their workplace and the city they are living in.

“There is a really nice working atmosphere, people are very friendly and the place is well-equipped, I even got invited to a yoga lesson with my colleagues,” says Tereza, who also mentions that one of the main obstacles she had to face was German. She thought that she could use English at work, but in the end she had to speak in German: “It was okay though, because I expected some use of German and therefore I chose a German-speaking country.”Graz_week1_3

Ana says that the main challenge she had to face was getting the other exchange students to open to her. Since they are living together and they go out a lot, their relationship is constantly improving. On the other hand, she likes seeing how much people from different background, ages and nationalities are enjoying their stay in the company. “They are not only doing it for the money, they really love what they do,” says Ana. She also mentions proudly that this week she could even “present an own project to the company”, for which she is still awaiting approval.

The four students have had an interesting week settling in in Graz and getting to know their colleagues and workplaces. In the next few weeks, we will be catching on with their projects and we will see what they are doing!

Author:  Jennet Essid, Giulia Di Pietro

The beautiful Philippines – why not your next destination?

Any plans yet what should be your next destination? If you haven’t picked what country to visit next, try adding Philippines to your list! It is not a typical vacation detination, where most of the people go. But no matter what you are up to or what your idea of a perfect holiday is, the Philippines will probably have it..

  1. AMAZING PEOPLE 

The Filipinos are some of the happiest people in the world, as reported by many reports including on by the Business Insider. Filipinos are very friendly, open toward foreigners, helpful and very curious and also respectful. They always seem to be happy and smiling. They love to sing and to dance whenever there is an occasion to celebrate.

  1. GOOD FOOD

Philippian cuisine is not that famous around the globe, and I also have never seen a Filipino restaurant outside of the country. But that doesn’t mean that the food tastes bad! It’s quite different from other Southeast Asian cuisines. Rice has always been the staple food in Filipino cuisine. Even McDonald’s serves rice with some of their value meals. Filipinos are meat lovers so almost everything contains either pork or chicken. If you love fresh seafood, from lobster to crabs or tiger prawns, you will find it all for very low prices. If you are into juicy mangoes and pineapples, the Philippines are the place for you. You can have them everywhere fresh and cheap. Filipino food is a diverse blend of Oriental, European and American culinary tastes.Philippines 2

  1. PARADISE BEACHES AND LANDSCAPE

Being one of the largest archipelagos in the world, it’s not surprising that the Philippines have an incredible amount of awesome beaches. If you are into white sandy beaches and turquoise crystal-clear waters, you’re in the right country. The queen of all the beaches is probably the White Beach in Boracay, constantly rated as one of the Top 10 beaches in the world. It’s not hard to find your dream beach or a pristine island over there and having it all for yourself.

  1. EVERYBODY SPEAKS ENGLISH

A big advantage compared to other Asian countries is that in the Philippines over 90% of the population speaks English. It’s the language of the government and the preference for written communication, be it in school or business. It really makes travelling through the country a lot easier, and it will allow you to interact with the locals who will be able to recommend things and places you would have never otherwise heard of.

5.CLIMATE AND WEATHER

With average daily temperatures ranging from 25 to 28 degrees the Philippines have a very pleasant tropical climate. November to April is the peak season there and promises the best, driest weather. They also have a monsoon season over there and loads of rain between June and October. This doesn’t mean it rains all day though – most days it will just pour down pretty hard for an hour or two while the rest of the day it could be clear skies.

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  1. AMAZING NATURAL BEAUTY

Philippines have one of the most diverse wildlife in the world. It is home to a diverse range of birds, plants, animals and sea creatures. There are nearly 200 mammal species in the Philippines. They boat more than 600 species of birds, 300 species of reptiles and amphibians and at least 400 coral species.

The Philippines have some stunning surroundings, the fantastic and probably weirdest landscape you will ever see: the Chocolate Hills in Bohol. But also the Rice Terraces in Banaue and the incredible Archipelago of El Nido. You can climb on one oft he 37 volcanoes, for example the Mount Pinatubo, or see the world’s smallest volcano of Taal and also discover caves, lakes and waterfalls.

  1. IT’S CHEAP

There in the Philippines, your money will go a long, long way! Budget travellers will definitely have no problem making their way through here. Taxi rides around town cost approximately 3€, a decent meal costs 1.50€ and a bucket of beers will barely run you 5€. Not to mention the country’s budget airlines offer some of the cheapest fares in Asia.

  1. SHOPPING, SHOPPING, SHOPPING!

Out of the largest shopping malls in the world, five of them are in Manila. Shopping in the Philippines can be quite a worthwhile experience. There are a lot of places where you can go, it just depends on what you intend to buy or on how much is your budget. Even if you spend a whole day walking through there you will probably not be able to see it all.

 Author: Maike Schüssele

9 Steps to Prepare the Trip of Your Lifetime

You want to finally escape your daily routine and spend some time somewhere on a beautiful corner of the globe. Before you can experience the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Niagara Falls or piazzas in Rom an important to-do list stands between you and your trip. Because traveling or sometimes even planning a trip can be more of a stress the following simple steps will help you make your trip a memorable one.

Set a budget. It’s important to establish a budget as early as possible – even before you know your destination, travel dates or itinerary. It helps you to plan and enjoy the trip within your limits.Your task is to research the costs in your destination at the style of travel you want so you can avoid any disappointment that could arise as a result thereof. Some destinations are generally cheaper than others, but there are ways to save everywhere: travel in the off-season or pick budget accommodations. Always estimate a little more than what you might need.

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Pick a destination. Now that you know how much you can spend, where do you want to go? You have the choice of so many beautiful places all over the world to go to. Depending on your budget some might already fall away. Pick a particular site that’s on your must-see travel list, and plan your vacation around that. Picking a destination is immensly important as it gives you a definite goal. Not only will your trip become more concrete for you and easier to commit to, but it will make planning easier as well.

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Get your documents in order. Depending on your chosen destination you need some important documents. If you don’t have a passport, it will take four to six weeks from the time of application for you to receive one. So make sure to take care of this well before your trip. You already have a passport? Check its expiration date. For some countries you must have valid visas in addition to passports. Check what type of visa do you need and apply for one as early as possible because obtaining one is a complicated process and can take weeks even after you have been approved.

Consider travel insurance. There are several kinds of travel insurance, it’s much more than just medical protection. It covers you when your camera breaks, your flight is cancelled or if something is stolen. Also check your medical insurance coverage to see if you’re covered overseas. If not, you may want to purchase medical insurance to cover certain situations. It’s always the best to be prepared for the worst.

Book your flight. Because your flight will probably be the most expensive part of your trip, you’ll want to book it before anything else. This will allow you to be more flexible with your dates, which is a great way to save money on your flight. So make sure to book your flight about a few months in advance.

Create a rough itinerary. Once you have chosen your destination research sites and places you really want to explore and then figure out which ones you have the time and the budget to get to.

Book your accommodations. Once you planed a itinerary fill on some places to sleep. As is the case with pretty much everything you book for your trip, the earlier you make arrangements, the better – especially during high season. Do a bit of research and keep your eyes open for tiny bed and breakfasts, hostels or even couchsurfing. So you can save more money for other important things on your trip. It’s always better to book your stay if possible so you don’t have to worry about this at night after an exciting and exhausting day.

Pack light and right. Pack only the essential things and start thinking about what you’ll need to bring at least a week before you leave. Depending on your chosen destination, carry clothes that are comfortable and right for the season and especially for the specified weather there.

Have realistic expactations and enjoy your trip. Go on your trip and have fun! Head to the airport, board your plane and enjoy the fruits of your labor. By considering this simple steps you can better organize and prepare for your trip. So you can spend less time worrying about your travel arrangements and more time staring at pictures of castles and amazing landscapes. Enjoy the holiday by managing what you can with the time you have. Embrace each moment, whether good or bad.

 Author:Maike Schüssele

Between Green Landscapes and Pints of Guinness in Ireland

When I told friends and professors I planned to spend part of my spring break in Ireland the most common reaction was – Why Ireland? But I say, ‘Why not’?

Ireland might not have renown monuments like the Eiffel tower or Big Ben, but it does have its own charm ranging from vast emerald landscapes to the malty and bitter taste of a pint of Guinness.

My advice? Go to Dublin with an open mind to experience the city as it unfolds to you.

First, visit the temple bar district in central Dublin. This is the most famous district of the city and deserves a visit from your part both during the day and during the night. Visit the pubs around this area to experience Irish music ensembles and enjoy a pint of Guinness. The Irish vibe provided by the lively music and people singing is truly a highlight. I would avoid Temple bar itself, and suggest you to go to The Long Hall, Fallon’s, and Whelan’s instead.

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If you do wake up the next day, head over to Trinity College and admire the architecture and gardens of this over 400 year old campus. Continue your architecture hunt towards Dublin Castle and admire this iconic construction situated in the middle of a bustling city. You also can’t miss the cathedral and the St. Patrick’s church while walking through the city center.

The highlight of your stay in Dublin will definitely be the tour of the Guinness brewery and storehouse. The tour lasts around 3 hours and students pay 12 euros, which includes a Guinness pint which you will be serving. The tour starts by introducing you to Guinness’ history in Ireland and the original processing involved in crafting this malty beverage. Later on, you are taken to sample small shot sized glasses of Guinness after smelling the different aromas this beverage has. This ignites both your smelling senses and tasting buds, which enables you to taste the different flavors, from hops to the creamy malt. At the end of the tour you are taught how to serve a Guinness and after you served your perfect pint you receive a certificate stating your new abilities. Finally, you get the chance to savor your pint at the storehouse’s sky bar with a breathtaking view of Dublin.

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Ireland is not only about Dublin and Guinness. Our adventure to the famous cliffs of Moher starts at 7am as you drive west towards Galway. Before you reach the cliffs the tour stops at Dunguaire Castle. After a morning of driving through picturesque green landscapes you will most likely arrive to the cliffs at around 3 p.m. We were lucky enough to visit the cliffs on a sunny and clear day, which is unfortunately unusual. The cliffs are not only unique for their breathtaking views, but also for their beautiful and picturesque green landscapes that really portray the essence of Ireland.

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No, of course I did not forget food! Here I have a few suggestions for where to go when you need some energy or a break from beer. At ‘’Super Miss Sue’’ or SMS students) can get a large portion/box of Fish and chips for only 6,50 euros. English speaking countries in Europe are famous for their Indian restaurants and fusion cuisine and Ireland is not an exception. Go for lunch to ‘’Kathmandu Kitchen’’ to experience a delicious and inexpensive full set Indian-Nepalese lunch for under 10 euros.

Even if Ireland is not on your bucket list, plan to visit this majestic country. I promise you will not be disappointed, but rather surprised by how diverse and exciting Ireland actually is. Wait, I forgot to ask you, what are you waiting for? Go explore the emerald isle and broaden your horizons!

Author: Mauro Ortiz

Easy Ways to Kick Off a Conversation When Abroad

No matter how long you stay abroad, it’s the people you meet and the conversations you have that stick with you the most. There are certain topics that can be conversation-sparkers and that give you insight into underlying or fundamental differences between cultures. These are my three personal favorite conversation starters to help you make the best out of your experience abroad.

1. Food

It’s true I am a Foodie. I love food! But far form personal preference; food is part of our culture. You never become so quickly immersed in another person’s culture as when you’re exchanging secret recipes for traditional dishes. Take it a step further and invite someone over for a traditional dish party. There is nothing that gets people talking about their life and values at home than talking about a favourite childhood meal. These moments will be some of the most inspiring you will get to experience in your lifetime.

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2. Favorites

Who could ever be a better tour guide as someone who calls the country you are visiting his or her home? Most people love sharing local secrets with someone who is genuinely interested in exploring their country and culture. Be it a favorite restaurant (I told you I’m a foodie), their favorite park, beach, grocery store, building, quarter and so on. The list is endless and endless are the possibilities for new discoveries within a foreign country.

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3. Anything really 

You are in a new environment and most possibly experiencing moments that will be at the center of the stories you will tell old friends AND new acquaintances at home and across the world. Going abroad is a formative thing in itself, but it can be enhanced by the conversations you will have. We reflect and learn things about ourselves through communication. Engaging in discussions with people from different cultural and personal backgrounds gives you something you cannot get anywhere else. These conversations are facilitators for personal development and can make you a stronger, more self-aware and open-minded person.

The best is that these are the experiences that no one will be able to take from you. So if life offers you the opportunity to go abroad – take it! And make sure you are in 100% and conversing with as many people as possible!

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Author: Chelsea Hladik

Vamos ao Brazil!

Not only is the Brazilian Portuguese, with its soft melodic accentuation, arguably one of the most beautiful existing languages, it also emphasises some characteristics we all instantly associate with this enchanting place at the Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Everyone knows what Brazil is famous for: its colorful vivid carnival, yet adopted by many other countries; for being a crazy football nation with one of the top teams in history (despite the tragic ending during the world cup 2014); for the typical music and dances, such as Samba, that makes you want to celebrate and enjoy life to the fullest; and of course – for the beautiful people, who always seem to embody this unique lust for life that’s nowhere else to be found.

There is so much to discover, while visiting Brazil and its 200,4 Million inhabitants.

The Garden Eden – wild jungles and idyllic beaches

The northern part is famous for the miracle of nature – the Amazonas rain forest, whereas the northeastern part is dominated by some of the most magnificent beaches along the 8000 km coast line. You can chose between more than 2000 bays, most of them lying beneath palm trees, each offering you space to spend some hours in paradise. For some amazing waves and surfing courses check out the São-José Beach, Bahia. Travelling up north you can reach the capital of Bahia, Salvador, which is famous for its traditional, vibrant carnival, vivid culture and old charm.

Or how about visiting the Ceará coast and its urban capital Fortaleza? Over 600 kilometers of white sandy beaches, theaters, modern and colonial architecture, delicious regional and international restaurants and much more are waiting for you!

You know about the Victoria Falls?! The famous Niagara Falls?! Forget them both and travel to the South Western part of Brazil to experience the Iguazú Falls, part of an UNESCO world culture heritage, that mark the border to Argentina and Paraguay. They are said to be more stunning and, with a height of up to 84 meters, more impressive than any other waterfall you have seen before. You can take part in exciting activities such as rafting-tours or just enjoy the marvelous view.

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The big 3 – vibrant metropolises

Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte – the triangle of superlatives in the South East is probably the part where the huge social contrasts are the most visible. Even though the area is well known for its powerful economy, – just remember that Brazil is one of the leading agricultural exporters worldwide, – the society is facing tremendous social divides, extreme poverty and violence in many areas. The infrastructure is, on the other side, better developed, than in any other part of Brazil, with its many universities, educational institutions and well organized transportation system.

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo” is home to the most prominent art collection of South America and São Paulo itself has the reputation as the city of art and design. Thanks to its multicultural character, the city is sometimes compared to New York, – no surprise, because part of the inhabitants consists of Portuguese, German, Italian and Japanese emigrants. Another thing to be excited about when visiting São Paulo is its variety of delicious restaurants, where you can chose between typical traditional and/or international exotic cuisine. If you just want to grab a quick bite, make sure to step by the mercado municipal with its over 300 market stalls and try some exotic fruits and other delicate treats.

While staying in Rio de Janeiro you can not miss out on the chance to visit the iconic estádio-maracanã and the famous beaches Copacabana and Ipanema while enjoying some ice cold agua de coco. To get the best panoramic view over the city take the cable car up the 400 meter high Sugarloaf – you will understand why the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro call their city thecidade maravilhosa”. 

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Life’s essence

No matter where you are, the next crazy party is never far away. It does not matter if you travel in february for carnival or not – any decent-sized town offers an endless amount of possibilities to dance through the night and to enjoy yourself every single day and night.

But what would this all be without the people you surround yourself with?! Exactly – nothing spectacular at all! This is why, to me, one of the most important reasons to go to Brazil is for its inhabitants. Without trying to generalize, it seems that they embody a certain vibe that makes you fall in love with them. The joy they seem to have for everything they are doing is contagious and meanwhile they still seem to be a lot ‘down to earth’ with their love for family, children and strong believes. A little bit like Samba itself: – radiant and always in movement, yet soft and sophisticated.

There is much more to tell you, about places, customs, people, food, cities and nature, but the best way to really get to know Brazil is by going there and finding out for yourself. We cannot tell you what to expect in detail, but we can promise one thing – this journey will be everything but boring.

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Author: Sara Balitzky

7 Reasons To Volunteer Abroad

Each year we ask us the same question “What should I do in this summer?“

We make several plans, do a lot of internet research, apply and eventually end up doing exactly the same as the summer before. This year do something different. Here are several reasons why I believe you should decide to go on a volunteering internship and have the summer of your life.

1. Exploring

Volunteering gives you a chance to explore new countries and cultures in a different way than by just travelling and sightseeing in these countries. Doing a volunteer internship shows you the country from inside out, allows you to get to know the culture, locals and their habits. You will see places and areas you would never have the possibility to go to as a tourist. Some people might have travelled the country but in doing a volunteer internship, they sometimes feel they’ve been here for the first time.

„Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.“ (Robert Frost)

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2. Connecting

Meeting many new and different people is another great aspect of volunteering. Working with young people from all over the world is a big advantage nowadays. This diversity can help you improve your soft skills and give you the opportunity to make friends across the globe. Sometimes, it’s hard to get in touch with local people as a foreigner, but as a volunteer it will be impossible not to get to know them. Another positive aspect is that for your future career, it’s important that you have the skill of adapting to different environments and work in a team with diverse people.

3. Communicating

 By communicating with people you might even soon call your friends, you’re able to improve your language skills or even learn a few words in another language. And we all know that improving language skills, especially English, is always “the yellow from the egg“.

4. Doing amazing things

 We don’t want to forget why we volunteer. Besides many positive aspects, the most important thing is that we can make a difference by helping: helping children learn English, contributing to the environment or helping the locals. For you it’s just a few weeks of exploring and helping, full of new challenges. For them it could be a life-changing interaction. Always be aware what you are able to do and change just in helping step by step.

“The world is changed by you, do something awesome!“ (Kid President)

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5. Getting to know… You

 Just dare and you will see soon that you will learn so much more about yourself than you’ve ever imagined. By volunteering you will experience so many new things and challenges. By doing so, you will truly reach and extend your limits. But in the end you will feel absolutely nothing but self-fulfilment when you look back at what you were able to do in a few weeks.

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6. Learning

After working several weeks on amazing projects and in NGO’s, you will not only improve your soft skills but also gain valuable knowledge and practical experience – for example entrepreneurial experience, which can be helpful for your personal and professional life. Volunteers don’t do it for the money; they do it for the impact.

7. Getting off the couch

Going abroad for several weeks and working there is always a challenge for oneself. You have to step outside your comfort zone and be dare, because nothing will happen if you don’t take the first step. It won’t be always easy, speaking of cultural differences and cultural shocks (be excited for our next blogpost) but you just have to break down barriers. There will always be obstacles or challenges in your life and no one can prepare you for them, but in learning how to overcome them, you will get a feeling that you’re unstoppable. So go outside, dare, challenge yourself and get the hell out of your comfort zone!

And always remember when volunteering:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind“ (Neil Armstrong)

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Thomas stepping out of his comfort zone while volunteering in Ghana

Author: Julia Wünscher

How to Save Money on Your Trip

You probably have already cancelled your dream trip several times due to lack of money; because you need to pay for the tuition fees and accommodation. Unfortunately, you don’t have money trees growing in your back yard. And once again you locked your dream in the cupboard of unfulfilled hopes. We decided to help you and make a list of tips on how to save money on the trip. Don’t hide your key too far away; you might finally open your cupboard after reading this blog.

1. Be prepared

If you want to save money on your trip, you always need to be prepared for it.

Ask your friends, who’ve been in the country you are going to, about cheap hostels, cafes and stores. They might even have friends who will be willing to host you for free.

Don’t spend money on travel guides.

We are sure you will not need it after you are done with your trip. Because you will know more about San Jose in Costa Rica or Cairo in Egypt than any travel guide author does.Go to your local library and read travel books for free, make notes or as most people do these days, just take pictures of the most interesting pages.

Create a couch surfing account.

You don’t even know how thankful all travelers for couchsurfing.org are.  One of the most useful apps for people who like to travel and make friends all over the world. Through this website you will be able to find a free accommodation and get to know the locals, who are always happy to spend time with foreign travelers and show them a city. You just need to write to a person and ask if he/she is able to show you the city and just spend a good time together. They can also give you advices on how to save money in their city and what places aremust-see.

If you are taking a plane, we suggest you to fly on the midweek day. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest times, and try and avoid holiday periods. Some airlines have good deals for students, so use your age and always ask about student discounts.

 Try to choose off-peak times. Going off-season is cheaper and less crowded.

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2. Free stuff is fun!

Many things to see and do are absolutely free like catch a magnificent sunset or sunrise in Cairo (Egypt), play in the Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paolo (Brazil) and swim at the Playa de las Catedralesbeach  (Spain).

Walk as much as you can walk. Get active and see things at a slower pace – walking is free.You can experience more just by wandering around a city and getting lost, talking with locals, and watching people. Explore local markets, wander and take photos, or even hike to the top of a hill for an awesome view.

3. Eat away from the tourist places.

You can just go one street or one block over and it will usually be much cheaper and more authentic!

We also would suggest you try to cook for yourself, if you have an available kitchen. You can experience new cookware, supermarkets and if your host has free time ask him/her to teach you how to cook local cuisine. We promise, it will be fun!

Try and avoid dinner because restaurants raise prices. Fancy lunches are often much less expensive than dinners.

4. Shop for souvenirs, clothes and food where the locals shop. Look for weekend markets and outlet stores.

 

5. Avoid taxis.

We understand that it much easier just to call a taxi and a driver will get you to a place you need. But it can be insanely expensive.

Use public transport where possible.  It costs you less, and is a more authentic travelling experience.

Rent a bike! Looks like this way of transportation has only advantages: cheap price, more comfortable than a bus, slightly faster pace than walking and helps you to stay in shape.

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We hope you are now ready to open your cupboard and finally let your dreams come true! Using these tips you will get out of your comfort zone and gain a new experience. Make a first step and create the memories that will make your life an endless adventure.

Happy travels!

Author: Aigerim Mambetova

AIESEC interviews The Viennese Girl

We sat down with one of Vienna’s most renowned bloggers and had a nice chat about the face behind ‘The Viennese Girl’, her love for Vienna and Wanderlust.

AIESEC: First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us.

The Viennese Girl: Thank you for inviting me!

A: I’ve personally been following your blog now and I’m really interested in the topics you write about, especially when it comes to the tips and details about Vienna and the stories about your travels.

TVG: That was actually a surprise for me, because I didn’t expect that people would like that so much and it’s such a rewarding feeling to see how much my followers value my stories.

A: Before we start talking about traveling and your various adventures in the world, let me ask you first: Who is ‘The Viennese Girl’ or who’s behind ‘The Viennese Girl’?

TVG: My name is Sillia and I come from Athens, Greece. I’m studying at the University of Vienna and I’ve been living here for almost 4 years now.

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A: So, tell me where the name ‘The Viennese Girl’ comes from then?

TVG: The day I made the website I was thinking about different names. Of course, I thought about a lot of options but then I thought that making a new website is like bringing a new person to the world that’s why I decided to call it ‘The Viennese Girl’ and since I don’t have any children yet, so it was like a baby for me. It’s also a very catchy and easy name to remember which is always important!

A: So you don’t actually see yourself as ‘The Viennese Girl’?

TVG: No, I see it more as my child!

A: So describe to us how you see her. What’s ‘The Viennese Girl’ like?

TVG: She’s an international girl and she was born in Vienna, of course! She wants to travel a lot and discover new places everyday.

A: So actually you, Sillia, and ‘The Viennese Girl’ have a lot in common then?

TVG: Well of course, it is my child after all! And I want to see her grow and become successful.

A: As you mentioned before you’re originally from Greece. How did you actually end up in Vienna?

TVG: I was actually feeling a bit down in Greece for personal reasons and I wanted to escape from everything. I had a job, a home, a car, so I was settled down but I still wanted to leave everything behind me. I also wanted to improve my German language knowledge. In the beginning I planned to stay in Vienna for 3 months only, but then I decided to stay longer and didn’t take my flight back to Greece.

A: You’ve been living here for 4 years now and running a successful blog. It’s clear how much you love Vienna. Could you tell us 3 things you love the most about this city?

TVG: The first thing I have to mention is the transportation system, because it simply brings you everywhere, easy, quick & safe! It also works on weekends for those who want to go out after midnight. And compared to the system we had in Athens it is much more reliable.

The second thing I love here is the university. I like that it’s easy for someone from another European country to subscribe! And I appreciate that they give you this chance & then it’s up to you, whether you manage your studies or not.

The 3rd thing I love about Vienna is that it’s in the center of Europe, which means that you can of course travel a lot. You can go to Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Switzerland, Venice or Munich. We’re in the middle of Europe and you can always escape for a weekend trip.

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A: I’d like to ask you more about the blog itself now. You have two main points or topics there. I’d like to talk about ‘Wanderlust’ first. What does this word mean to you? Why is it the 1st headline you have?

TVG: Wanderlust is the love for traveling and discovering new places and cultures. I cannot imagine myself without traveling. I remember that every time I’m about to travel somewhere I become very happy. I also want to motivate other people to travel as much as they can. Similar to what you do with your internships, because it’s important to make it easy for young people to travel.

A: What made you fall in love with traveling?

TVG: It’s an escape from the routine. From the daily life, which is sometimes a little bit boring. All in all, it just makes you happier.

A: Do you think traveling changed you as a person?

TVG: Of course, it changes you. Because once you’re in a foreign country, you need to find a way to survive. You have to become more responsible, because sometimes you’re on your own.

A: So, do you think you would have gone on an AIESEC internship if you found out about it before?

TVG: I would certainly do it, but I don’t know where I would have gone. Do you offer anything in Paris?

A: Most people try to go somewhere far away from Vienna.

TVG: Then I’d probably go to Brazil and maybe volunteer as a blogger there.

A: Your second main topic in your blog is ‘Dear Vienna’. It’s a very catchy name, but what is it about exactly?

TVG: ‘Dear Vienna’ is more of a guide not only for tourists, but also for locals who want to see Vienna through my eyes. I got a lot of e-mails and encouragements telling me to keep discovering new places, so I kept exploring.

A: As you might know, we don’t only send people abroad but we also offer AIESEC internships here in Vienna, so we have a lot of international interns from all over the world. What piece of advice would you give the ones that just arrived in Vienna?

TVG: Well…Just check my blog! And of course just go out and explore the city!

A: We talked before about how much you love traveling. Can you maybe tell me about the trip that changed you the most?

TVG: I think the first trip that I’ve done changed me a lot. I was 18 and I went to the Netherlands because I had a pen pal from this beautiful country. She invited me to stay with her and I went with my mom, because my mom was a little afraid for me to go alone. But she went back to Greece as soon as she made sure they were nice people, she didn’t stay as long as I did. And I stayed with the family the entire time I was there.

A: What did you learn out of it?

TVG: What I learned is that I have to travel more. It will help me to grow as a personality and that staying in the same city or country doesn’t challenge you enough.
There is a nice quote that says: “The world is a book & those who don’t travel read only one page.”

A: Well, that sums it up! So, where is the ‘The Viennese Girl’ going next?

TVG: To Paris!

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A: So we can expect new pictures on your blog soon then! You’ve been to a lot of places but what is the one place you haven’t been to before that you would like to visit soon?

TVG: I’d love to go to Bali. It just looks so exotic and appealing & I imagine it will be wonderful to go there.

A: Let me ask you now about AIESEC. Have you heard of us before we contacted you?

TVG: Yes, I had a flat mate who went on an internship with AIESEC. And I remember how she talked about it a lot and the people she met.

A: How do you think such an internship where you leave your comfort zone can change a person? Imagine a 20-year-old girl from Vienna doing a social internship in Perú. How do you think this experience would impact her?

TVG: It’s exactly what we talked about till now. She’s going to find herself in a very different situation. She has to get along with a different culture and maybe get over this culture shock.

For example, from the countries I visited Cairo was very different from Europe.

There was a lot of poverty and it helped me become more sensitive. And that it’s not only your country, your bubble but there are also other countries, other people that are not living so comfortable or luxurious as we are. Maybe then you start thinking about what you can do for the less fortunate and that’s very important.

There are two types of people: Some just travel, live their experience and go back.

And the others they throw themselves in the situation and become more aware of other cultures and also go back as different people.

A: We have a final question for you. If you would motivate people to travel, what would you tell them the main reason to travel is?

TVG: That first of all, you change your life, you change yourself and it changes the way you think! So to sum it up: to change, to grow, to learn and to become a better person.

A: Thank you so much again from our side for this lovely chat and we wish you an amazing trip to Paris.

TVG: Thank you so much for inviting me and enjoy your holidays!

All photos by Tony GigovInterview by Mohamed Kassem

8 Travel Must-Haves on your trip

It’s always hard to decide what you need to take with you on the trip. Most of the time it seems like you need to take every little thing that you have at home. You never know what is going to happen, right? But it ends up with you paying at least 50 Euros for the overload and you are shocked, because you still had a lot to put in your luggage! You haven’t even packed your favorite blanket and a full-sized pillow! And how about a full-sized umbrella? All right, let us help you to make your trip easier and joyful and not to stress out about unnecessary things.

First of all, please forget about the full-sized umbrella! Who are you, Mary Poppins? There are also free blankets and pillows aboard and in a train (just don’t forget to ask a conductor), so you better leave this stuff at home.

Now let’s pack your bag all over again!

1. Camera

A camera is one of the most important things you will need on your trip. You will want to picture all memories you are going to have during the exchange program. After the trip you can print your photographs, put them into a frame and use them to decorate your room. A good motivation to improve your photography skills! Your little pieces of art might also be the souvenirs from your trip, just use them as a postcard. Save money and don’t fill up your luggage with little statuettes of Christ the Redeemer (Brazil) or The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italy). Don’t forget an extra battery. It would be really frustrating, if your camera would turn off in the middle of the Rio-de-Janeiro parade or the Venice carnival.

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2. Comfortable sneakers

Invest in a comfortable, good quality pair of sneakers. Make sure they have good breathability and water-resistant material would also be a nice addition. Hint for the girls: You don’t need to bring five pairs of shoes; sneakers go with everything!

3. Mini sewing kit

Sewing kits can be very useful for wardrobe malfunctions, missing buttons or even for the things completely unrelated to clothing such as a quick repair of a tent or jewelry quick fix. You will realize the importance of this little lightweight travel sewing kit after fixing your favorite t-shirt for free.

4. Medicine

Don’t forget all medicines that you usually take. Just in case ask your local doctor to write a recipe in English and put a stamp on it, so you won’t have a problem buying the medicaments you need abroad. It’s important to take the medicine for food poisoning, especially if you are going to a country with totally different food cuisine. Don’t forget band-aids for small cuts and wounds. If you’re heading to a tropical place like Costa-Rica, mosquito repellent is also a good idea.

5. Essential clothing

We strongly recommend taking comfy yet smart clothes that can be mixed and matched. Clothes may look light, but they are also bulky, so it is advisable to take a minimum and what you do take should be of decent quality and fit for as many purposes as possible.

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6. Wet wipes and Hand sanitizer

Wet wipes are good for freshening up after some hard travelling or hiking, if you can’t shower or getting some of the grime of world travel off you. Hand sanitizer also comes recommended particularly if you are eating on the go and this is one thing you might struggle to find abroad.

7. Pen and Paper

A pen is always great to have on international flights, since there’s usually a landing card to fill out. Throw in a pad of paper as well and you can use all that airtime to do some work, write letters, or even play Hangman with your seatmate.

8. Smart Phone

A Smart phone includes an alarm clock, a music player, a web browser, a translator and many other useful apps. You will be able to catch Wi-Fi everywhere. Well, do we even need to explain you the importance of it?

Remember, before you pack something ask yourself if you are really going to use it. Cover all possible scenarios and make a checklist of what you need, you may even realize that you’ll need to purchase a few items before leaving.

 

Hopefully, these quick tips will help you pack your bags more efficiently for your trip.

We wish you bon voyage and keep on traveling!

Author: Aigerim Mambetova