What they brought back from abroad: Part Three

Language comes to life in Vienna

Our "What They Brought Back" series will look at eight students and the mementos they keep as reminders of the people, places, and experiences from their study abroad programs all over the world.

Name: Benjamin Heller
Class of: 2014
Major: Political Science
Location: Vienna, Austria
Program: Vienna in Western Civilization
Best part of your trip in 5 words: Morning coffee on the Ringstraße

Charlamagne once said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” If this is the case, Heller now has three souls. (He speaks English, Hebrew, and now German.) After a summer German language course, a quarter in Vienna, and many lively conversations with the international students in his dorm, Heller is already in third-year German, but more importantly, he feels much more comfortable speaking with his German grandfather on the phone.

In addition to practicing a new language, Heller found that site visits added a new dimension to the topics covered in class. For instance, Heller originally found Rule of Saint Benedict, a doctrine of proper monk behavior, rather dry. “But the next day when we went to the monastery,” he said, “and it all made sense.” Heller also experienced an open rehearsal at the Vienna Philharmonic and a scenic hike in the small rural town of Mariazell.

In fact, there was a certain slowness to Vienna that Heller had not experienced elsewhere. “I know it’s ranked the highest in quality in life, and it really shows. It’s just such a pleasant city,” he said. “It’s not as flashy as some other European capitals, for sure, but as far as being happy about life, it’s great.”

What he brought back:

Photo of mementos from Vienna

  • A flask from family friends who live in Alsfeld Hessen, a small middle-of-nowhere town in Germany. Until this year, Heller had only mimed greetings to them, finding himself stuck behind a language barrier. This all changed, however, after a summer German course in Chicago before Vienna. “It was like in The Wizard of Oz, when it’s all black and white, and then the colors appear.”
  • An egg cup, usually occupied by a soft-boiled egg that is cut with a köpfer, or “decapitator” in colloquial German. “The Austrians and Germans militarize their breakfast. There’s [also] a pole with a ball on it, where you drop the ball and it smashes the head off. It’s really intense. They take their kitchen appliances very seriously.”
  • A copy of Charlotte’s Web in German, the first book he read in Vienna.
  • A coffee cup from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the 10th country Heller visited during his fall abroad.
  • Austrian neapolitan wafers. “This is what I ate in Vienna for four months. It’s labeled in English because [they say] only tourists buy them, but I refuse to believe that because they’re so good.”

Posted on Friday, March 15, 2013

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