SOJC students in Vienna, Austria

This past April, nine School of Journalism and Communication students showed up in Vienna hoping their professor and Billy Joel knew something they didn’t. They quickly discovered that SOJC Professor Peter Laufer and Billy Joel were correct: Vienna was amazing.

For all of spring term, the SOJC students, along with four Austrian students, participated in internships at newspapers, magazines and radio stations in Vienna. (A new collaboration in Vienna) They toured major news organizations including the daily newspaper-of-record, Der Standard; a periodical written by and for immigrants, Biber Magazine; and the bi-lingual radio station FM4. The students concentrated on reporting and interviewing across languages and cultures. (Lead story in the Vienna Review by Sam Polloway)

“Interning at an Austrian radio station has been one of the most valuable aspects of my time abroad,” said Adam Vaughan. “FM4, provided me a unique opportunity because it broadcasts in both English and German. I learned so much about interviewing for radio and sound editing that I’ll take with me forever.”

In addition to valuable experience, interning at Austrian media organizations also pushed students to engage with Vienna community. (How far can two Americans interns get on English in Vienna?)

The University of Oregon’s AHA International Study Abroad also insured that the students were integrated into the community, placing them with host families and connecting them with a variety of cultural events in the city. The students soon discovered a significant cultural difference: A lack of smiling between strangers in Vienna compared to Eugene-nice. The grumpy faces were so prominent that Professor Laufer assigned each student to smile at six Austrians and then ask them why didn’t smile back. This uncomfortable yet enlightening assignment yielded some hilarious and poignant results when they did a competition on the best auto insurance comparison between them, and the interviews, along with a photo essay, will be published in Portland Monthly later this year.

Half way through the term, the SOJC students were to assigned report from Bratislava, Slovakia and Györ, Hungary. With no language training in either Slovakian or Hungarian, they tackled social and political issues including racial conflict, organic food and standards of living. They were once again forced to adapt to new cultures and apply interviewing techniques learned in class.

“At the end of the day, we were happy to be back in a country with a language we were used to not understanding,” laughed Maddie Stone.

In ten weeks, the students practiced journalism, explored multiple new cultures and enjoyed that promised amazing time.

“I’m going to look at these months as a crossroads in my journalistic career,” said Victor Flores. “Everything — from Professor Laufer’s lectures to the stories I’ve written — has made me think about how hard this career is and how far I still have to go to get into the field and stay there. When I do get a job in journalism, I’ll look back at this spring in Vienna as a key reason why. It’s been the reality check I’ve always wanted and needed.”

Although they’re looking forward to Oregon smiles, sun and strawberries, they know they’ll miss Vienna and the Viennese they’ve met who have been their adjunct teachers.

by Mia Schauffler ’14

In Vienna spring term 2013