I've begun noticing some things that are different about studying in Austria and studying in America.
- Austrian lecture halls are REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE. At first glance, they look pretty similar to American lecture halls (at least at the University of Minnesota), with the stadium-style seating and the professor podium and desk at the bottom. But take away those plush individual movie-theater like seats that one is accustomed to in America and add long rows of wooden tables and wooden benches and suddenly one has the need to start kneeling and praying as if at a Catholic mass. In overcrowded lectures students squeeze together like sardines in a can and personal space disappears as students basically sit on the lap of their neighbor. It's also impossible to cross one's legs, because there is a giant metal bar under the long wooden desk/table preventing legs from being lifted an inch off the ground. Falling asleep is not an option for obvious uncomfortable conditions. At the University of Minnesota, on the other hand, everyone has their own soft comfortable seat with a personalized desk that can be folded down to allow leg crossing, sleeping, etc etc. Guess that's where a portion of my thousands of dollars' worth of tuition went back in the day.
- I write in block letters. Is that an American thing? If I remember correctly, when I edited my peers' written work in high school and at the University of Minnesota, they also wrote in clear block letters. Austrians write in this swirly looking chicken-scratch that makes it impossible to peer over my neighbor's shoulder and try to write down what they had written when I didn't understand the professor. It makes me super self-conscious about my very legible handwriting all over my page. It screams "LOOK AT ME; I"M NOT FROM HERE!!!!"
- Professors receive recognition at the end of every class as the students knock on the tables; it's like the Austrian/German (European?) way of clapping. But, it takes place at the end of every class. Not just the first class, not just when there was a guest speaker, but at the end of every class.
- Students don't really go to lectures-- or at least I have the feeling that they don't. I know several people who are signed up for classes that they never go to for multiple reasons ranging from scheduling conflicts to plain laziness. No one pays tuition (except us fine Ausländer) so there's not much of a reason to justify sitting in the aforementioned uncomfortable lecture hall when classes are free. In America, when we skipped a class, it was like throwing $300 out the window. I kind of still have that mentality, even though now I'd only be throwing maybe five euros out the window if I didn't go to class.
I'll post more differences as I encounter them along the way. Now it's time to read for my Germanistische Sprachwissenschaft (German linguistics) course.