Anisha Solanki: My Year Abroad in Munich and Vienna

Meet Anisha Solanki, the 3rd year German and English Lit student currently living abroad in Vienna!

Hi Anisha! Thanks for chatting to me about your YA! So you've spent half the year in Munich and then half the year in Vienna? Could you tell us a bit about it and what you’ve got up to?

I spent the first half of my year completing an internship at a PR agency in Munich. It was quite intense and high-pressure but provided me with incredibly valuable experience and I became really close friends with the other interns at the firm. I lived in a privately-owned block of flats rented out specifically to students and young professionals; my flatmates and I got on amazingly well which was without a doubt, the best thing about my time in Munich!

I’m now undertaking a six-month internship in the International Office at a university in Vienna. I get to take part in the university’s International Programme, so in addition to living with the Erasmus students in student accommodation, I take classes and go on excursions for our courses with them. I loved Munich so much that I was reluctant to leave but thankfully Vienna has been just as incredible!

 ‘One of Anisha’s favourite photos from her year abroad, taken during a party at work for Alex’s birthday (the girl in the centre)’

Did you do any traveling whilst you were within each place?

I didn’t have many opportunities to travel whilst I was in Munich. I was incredibly busy and worked just under 40 hours a week, and whenever I did have time I wanted to spend it in Munich with my flatmates, or with my friends from work. I did, however, visit Salzburg twice for the Christmas markets there: once for a Durham reunion and once on a road trip with my flatmates! Munich is close to Switzerland, northern Italy and the Alps, and is surrounded by beautiful lakes and quaint small towns, so if I could change anything about my time there, it would have been to have travelled more!

My hours in Vienna are a little more flexible so I’m making up for the lack of travelling whilst I’m here. Vienna is pretty much on the doorstep of Eastern and Southeastern Europe; so far we’ve visited Bratislava, Prague, Maribor in Slovenia and Zagreb in Croatia and have plans to travel to Hallstatt, Graz and Linz. Budapest is only a few hours’ drive away so I’d love to go there at some point too!

 ‘Anisha with friend Franzi at Oktoberfest!’

What about the language? Do you feel you have grown in confidence in both speaking and reading in German?

I work full-time and speak, read and write in German with my colleagues, and all my flatmates in Munich were either native speakers or almost fluent in German, so the language immersion is most definitely real. I recently read back some of my old German essays and could only cringe at how I used to write, but hey, at least Year Abroad is doing what it’s supposed to and improving my German!

 ‘Anisha with her flatmates in Munich, who got on incredibly well!’

What has been the highlight of your year abroad so far?

This is a hard one. The whole thing has been incredible but the most memorable highlight is the Weihnachtsfeier (Christmas celebration) that the Managing Directors of the agency I worked for in Munich threw for us. It’s a well-kept secret every year, and the only instruction we were given was to be at the office at 8am on the penultimate morning before the Christmas break in ‘warm clothes and sturdy shoes’. Rumours flew around the office. Hiking in the Oberbayerischen Alps? Tobogganing at Tegernsee? We drove up to Dinzler, a famous coffee roaster, for breakfast, and then onwards to a hot air balloon centre near the Austrian border. It turned out that the Weihnachtsfeier this year would be an afternoon of hot air ballooning over the Tyrolean Alps! It also happened to be the birthday of one of the interns, so we celebrated with a mulled wine toast over the mountains. It was the most perfect day and I’ll never forget it.

Has anyone come to visit you? What did you guys get up to if so?

Two of my best friends from Durham came to visit me for the most wonderful long weekend ever. We had great weather so I showed them all the main sights, saw the city from a rooftop hotel bar, cooked dinner with my Erasmus friends and went on a big night out to Volksgarten, one of the best clubs in Vienna. The rest of the time we pretty much spent day-drinking in my favourite bars around the city and catching up on everything I’d missed in Durham. A successful trip all round.

 Anisha with Rahul and Jess (also 3rd year students at Durham) who came to visit for a long weekend during Easter!

What has been the hardest part of your year abroad so far?

I’ve had a lot of nightmares, from being fined 60 euros on the tram for a genuinely innocent mistake to falling down the stairs in the U-Bahn and spraining my ankle for a solid 3 months. What I found the most difficult at the beginning, however, was learning how to express myself in another language. Sure, I can order in a restaurant and write emails at work, but it’s incredibly difficult to genuinely be yourself when you can’t express yourself as fully as you want to. How do you crack jokes, talk to people at parties, debate politics, all in another language and culture? It’s something that nobody warns you about. Having native speakers as friends definitely helped, but I’m still learning!

Anisha with some of the Erasmus exchange team during a trip to Prague

And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone else heading abroad to travel/study - what would it be?

Do whatever you have to in order to be happy. You will constantly hear about how you should speak the language as much as possible, don’t have friends that you only speak English with, join lots of clubs, put yourself out there. And yes, you absolutely should take every opportunity available to you and try to immerse yourself in the new cultures and languages, but not at the expense of your mental health. It’s okay to speak English. It’s okay to have a night off after a long day at work/university to call your family, watch Netflix, or just hang out with your flatmates.

Year Abroad, just like life in general, is about balance. Don’t compare your experience to everybody else’s expectations of a ‘Good Year Abroad’ – do what is right for you, and have an amazing year however you choose to!