An Austrian Adventure
My AIESEC experience, an internship with a startup company in the Austrian city Graz, started with the longest Flixbus ride I had ever taken. While sitting in the bus I had plenty of time to imagine how my experience was going to be. Was I going to be completely submerged in the Austrian culture in a few weeks, eating Wienerschnitzels while being dressed in Lederhosen and singing songs from the Sound of Music? Not entirely, as it turned out, but I did get to enjoy a lot of Austrian food and culture.
The moment of arrival
After many dreary hours in the bus, I was picked up by an AIESEC member upon my arrival in Graz, who immediately took me to what turned out to be one of my favourite bars in Graz after showing me my room. Since it was Saturday night, we enjoyed some Austrian beers there and talked a lot about Graz. The next day I met a few more AIESEC’ers, who showed me around the city and taught me a lot about Graz and its rich history. We climbed the Schlossberg, a big hill in the middle of the city from which you can see the entire surroundings, which makes it a perfect place to admire Graz.
The following day it was time for my first day at work. I received a warm welcome with a very nice lunch, and after being introduced to everyone and everything, I received my task for the next couple of months: redesign a product used for analyzing pharmaceutical and chemical thermoplastic samples in laboratories. To help me make design choices by making small prototypes, I was given full control over the 3D-printer next to my desk. For an engineer like me, this is a dream: endless opportunities and fun.
Exploring the local culture
Over the next few weeks, I got to know Graz even better and met a lot more AIESEC’ers. It was fantastic to immediately be taken in by a large group of young people, all of them ready to have fun and show me around. I hung out a lot with everyone from AIESEC, going to bars, participating in pub quizzes, going for walks and hikes around the city, or just having fun at their office. I explored Graz and Austria as much as I could, going snowboarding in the Alps, hiking in the mountains around Graz, and going for a ‘Buschenschank’, a traditional wine and ham tasting. Austrians love good food and drinks, and I never hesitated to get a literal taste of their culture by eating and drinking the local cuisine.
The startup environment
I really started to enjoy the work I was doing at the startup. The atmosphere was great, the work was fun, and I met many interesting people in the building our office was in. It was an office space for startups, so there were many interesting startups around, ranging from electric delivery bikes to artificial intelligence software for airplane routes. I also had fun with my colleagues next to work, including going to ‘Fasching’, the Austrian celebration of Carnival.
Through my workplace and AIESEC I found out Graz has a lot of startups. Graz is home to three universities, from which young entrepreneurs graduate with fresh ideas they develop in Graz. This makes it a very nice place to work, with a very entrepreneurial atmosphere. I joined AIESEC to a ‘Startup Spritzer’, an event where people working at startups meet and share their ideas. It was amazing to see all the young entrepreneurs giving shape to their ideas.
Shorter, but just as good
Unfortunately, my time in Graz was cut short by the outbreak of the corona virus, but I still had a fantastic time there. All the fun I had at work and with my friends from AIESEC will stay with me for a long time, and I would recommend anyone to seize the opportunity to go on an internship with AIESEC!
This post was written by AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth.