Vienna in Western Civilization

The Ferdinand Stern Civilization Program in Vienna
Several students walk past shops as they approach the palace.

Program Term:


Language Requirement:



 Eric Benjaminson

Application Deadline:


The Vienna program is a civilization-based program designed to provide students with the unique opportunity to study Central European history and culture in Vienna, the lively capital of modern Austria and a city of great beauty and historical richness.

    At the center of this intensive, quarter-long program is a three-course sequence, “Vienna in Western Civilization,” taught in English by Chicago faculty, which follows Central European history from ancient to modern times with some focus on Vienna. In addition to this sequence, which meets the College’s civilization requirement, students take a fourth course in German language, designed to help them navigate the German-speaking milieu. Excursions to sites of historical interest in and around Vienna complement classroom work and allow students to connect first-hand with the architecture, historical sites and artistic treasures of the Habsburg Empire. In addition to these shorter exercises, the program typically includes a longer excursion to another Central European capital. Through this exploration of Vienna, students will be able to connect classic texts with surviving monuments. It is expected that they will treat this fascinating city as their fifth course, engaging it as they would an assigned text.

    The program is headquartered at the University of Vienna, a major European institution of higher learning, dating from the fourteenth century with a diverse international student body. Learn more about what the city has to offer at Virtual Vienna.

    Program participants typically live in the Residenz Molkereistrasse, a modern student residence hall designed according to environmentally responsible, energy-efficient principles. It is located in the Leopoldstadt section of Vienna near the Prater Park (with its famous Ferris wheel). Like their Austrian peers, students will make their way to the University using public transportation, which is ample and user-friendly.

    Students usually reside in single rooms arranged into apartments. Each apartment includes a common area, kitchen, bathroom, television, and internet access. The building also includes bike and laundry rooms.

    It is important to recognize the cultural context of student housing in Austria and understand that the amenities of the student apartments may vary. Although some of these differences may take some getting used to, remember that cultural differences extend to all aspects of your experience abroad. Having realistic expectations for your term in Vienna will help you approach the study abroad experience with a positive attitude.

    Participants in the Vienna program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They take and receive credit for four courses: the three courses in the civilization sequence and the German language course. The civilization sequence meets the College’s civilization requirement. Students who have already met this requirement may use these courses as electives. Their use, partial or total, in a program of study (major) must be approved by the undergraduate chair of the student’s respective major. The language course will normally count as an elective. This course is neither keyed to Chicago’s German language sequences nor equivalent to any specific on-campus course. Course titles, units of credit, and grades are placed on the College transcript.

    The Vienna program includes an optional three-week pre-session devoted to intensive German language instruction for students eager to make significant progress in their German. This opportunity is available to students at all levels of German (students will be placed on the basis of a diagnostic exam). Classes will meet approximately 20 hours per week and will be taught at the University of Vienna Sprachenzentrum. Because the Vienna program already offers the maximum credit for a quarter’s work (four course credits), the German Language Pre-session is officially a noncredit option. Instead, the evaluation of the pre-session work will be folded into the grade for the regular language course (GRMN 15001). There is a modest surcharge for instruction and accommodation.

    Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Vienna program during the 2024–2025 year are listed below:

    Autumn tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Vienna Civ program fee: $5,960

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • passport/visa fees
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • health insurance and upfront payments for care
    • other miscellaneous expenses 

    Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $275 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Vienna is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

    Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The Vienna program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

    The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the civilization sequence is taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take German on campus before the program begins.

    Because of the considerable demand for the Chicago civilization programs abroad, no student may participate in more than one of these programs. Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

    To discuss the Vienna in Western Civilization program and the possibility of participating, please contact Eric Benjaminson.