Erfahrungsbericht - My stay in Austria

Mairi beim Wandern in den Bergen um Mittersill

Erfahrungsbericht von Mairi aus Estland über ihr Erasmus-Praktikum in Österreich am Studiengang Physiotherapie.

My stay in Austria

My name is Mairi and I am from Estonia. I am a second-year physical therapy student in Tartu Health Care College and did my traineeship in Mittersill, Austria for two months.

At first, I did not even believe I could go because of the pandemic. It was not until I was at the airport, that I realised I am actually going. Before departure I had been up all night packing and just spending the last hours with my closest people. So, when I finally arrived in Mittersill, I had not slept for over 36 hours. It all felt like a dream – sun was shining bright, it was like 27⁰C, huge mountains everywhere. Then, I accidentally got off on the wrong stop and one of the mobility coordinators picked me up and drove me to the place I was staying at with her electric blue Mini Cooper Cabrio. We drove on a highway in a valley, the biggest mountains I have ever seen all around us, wind blowing through our hair and the sun just heating us up. The whole time I was more than certain none of it was real.

I went to Austria 10 days before my actual traineeship started because I was supposed to quarantine. At Vienna airport they told me, quarantine is not necessary because it counts as a work trip. So, now I had 10 days to do whatever I want. The first few days I just went hiking where ever I could. I have always loved hiking, but I guess I never knew what hiking really was until I got to do it in Austrias nature. I come from a country that is so flat, that the highest “mountain” is only 318 meters above sea level. Now I was living in a town that is almost three times as high.

Internationale Koordinatorin Barbara Kern mit Mairi
Internationale Koordinatorin Barbara Kern mit Mairi

Fotocredit: Barbara Kern

After a few days, the weather got quite bad, but I was allowed to start my traineeship earlier, so I did that. I was shocked to find out that my research in Wikipedia, which stated that Austria is the top 6 European country for its English-speaking population, was wrong. At least in small towns such as Mittersill. At the hospital, barely anyone spoke English well enough. Only younger physios and other trainees. After my first day in the hospital I was really disappointed about my decision to do my traineeship there. It really felt as if I am not going to get enough experience and it was all going to be a waste of time. Fortunately, I realised soon enough, it was just the first day.

I think the first three weeks were the hardest mentally, I really missed home and felt out of place since most of the time I could not understand anything that was going on or what people are saying. As time went by, the more I got into the swing. I was lucky enough to have my supervisors quite young and therefore we did stuff together outside of work as well. I think that really made us closer and soon I started to feel better about everything. I hiked every possible chance I got, I looked up and asked others what places they recommend visiting and kept myself busy. We had many boardgame and cooking nights with the little group that we had developed from the hospital physios and trainees. Those were a lot of fun.

After about one and a half months I felt as if I was not missing home at all. I really felt settled in, had my own routine and did not care as much about not knowing how everything works here and what people are saying. I knew I could always just ask anyone if I am unsure about something.

My time there was definitely one of the most influential experiences in my life so far. I got to experience a different culture and learn so much more than I ever could have in the comfort of my native country. I made friends for hopefully a lifetime and since every new person you meet sort of leaves a piece of themselves in you, they really spiced up my mosaic. Even though my stay happened to be at the time of the coldest and rainiest spring in 25 years and during a lockdown, I still feel as if I got to do everything I wanted and even more.