I’m a WFU student who hates my study abroad

Sullivan’s travels in Austria don’t live up to the hype


Cooper Sullivan

Cooper Sullivan is not enjoying his semester abroad.

Cooper Sullivan, Senior Writer

The best advice if you are thinking of spending a semester away from Wake Forest: don’t. 

I don’t care what the study abroad office tells you, it’s simply not worth it. If you haven’t learned yet, the American college and university system is a business, and each employee is a greedy, sleazy salesperson just itching to close their next deal. The study abroad office is no different. Think Danny Devito from “Matilda.” They promise beautiful slick sports cars but instead deliver chunky bricks of sand. 

They tell you one thing but conveniently leave something important out. If only there was something like CarFax for this type of situation to let you know what you are in for before you make the wrong decision like me. Here are a few things I finally translated once I went abroad.

“You can try new and authentic cuisine…”

If you can get to the restaurant in time. Everything closes super early, and the grocery stores close even earlier. I have been lucky enough to find an Irish pub that stays open late — McDonald’s.

“You meet a bunch of new people…”

Get ready to love icebreakers and fun facts. My life has become an empty and endless cycle of “name, hometown, major.” 

“Learn a new language…”

Everyone here yells at me. What’s worse is when they realize I can’t understand what they are yelling, they only yell louder. My professors say that these people are just speaking German normally, and they are actually quite friendly. I don’t buy it. 

Adventure outside your comfort zone…”

A lot of businesses here only accept Visas and cash, which means for the first time ever, I am without Daddy’s Platinum Black AMEX. I have to pay for everything all on my own, and he always takes forever to pay back my Venmo requests.

“Everyone is a big football fan…”

Happy that spring football leagues survived in Europe? Don’t be naive. They mean soccer. You cannot escape it. People watch it on their phones; it’s on in every bar; the kids play it in parks. I don’t get why they keep pretending to find it entertaining. The World Cup has been over for months. 

“Everything is so close together…”

This means you have to walk everywhere. Grocery store down the block? Walk. Pharmacy that’s two blocks over? Get to stepping. The subway stop you can see from your front door? Take the heel-to-toe express. The art of curating a perfect playlist for your 15-minute bumper-to-bumper drive to the gym is one these Europeans do not understand.

“Study topics that you can’t study anywhere else…”

I have a big gripe with this one. First off, there is no studying going on. My classes are almost never in the classroom, but out on the streets or at a museum. How are we supposed to learn without a PowerPoint if we are surrounded by distractions? Second, the classes I do have are absolute jokes. Art? History? Art History?! Give me a break. How am I ever going to get a Big 4 summer internship if instead of learning addition and subtraction, all my professors talk about is Viennese painters and their impact on early-20th century Europe? 

“Learn and experience a culture different from yours…”

Germans only eat beer and sausage. Italians of all ages chain smoke and drink wine for breakfast. If a Croatian man is wearing a tracksuit, chain and cologne, he is in the mob. But did I need to leave my house to find this out? No, I watch TV. I already knew all this. The lesson here? All media portrayals are accurate, broad generalizations apply to everyone and any stereotype you come across is true.