Why am I surprised (or: Universität „Red Tape“ Wien)

Today my red tape marathon at University of Vienna began. SPOILER ALERT: I’m not going to make my final exam date that I planned for END OF APRIL.

Step two (1)

I study at three different departments (German, History and Education/Licensure). That means: Three different office hours. „Office Hours“ in the Austrian sense: It’s open twice a week for two hours. Tuesdays is Education-Day, so I grabbed all my things (diplomas, validations, the form I filled out 5 years ago) and went to turn it in. I filled out the second part of the form I filled out five years ago and gave it to the nice lady at the counter. She took it, went to her little archive and pulled out the duplicate of the form, I filled out five years ago. She gave it to me and asked me to copy what I just filled out on the form that I filled first out five years ago onto the duplicate of the form I filled out 5 years ago. When I told her, that I was done, she asked me TO COME BACK IN 4 WEEKS TO GRAB THE SIGNED FORM THAT I FILLED OUT FIVE YEARS AGO. After looking really sad and desperate (I practiced in front of the mirror) she put the form that I filled out five years ago on another pile, so that it only takes 3 weeks. The person who signs all these forms filled out five years ago apparently has only one signing day a month.

Step three

When I get it back, that’s not even close to getting my degree. There are two other forms I filled out five years ago that I have to turn in at two other offices. When I get those three back (I hope four weeks is the limit, but it might as well be longer), I have to go to a place that is euphemistically called Students Service Center. It’s open – boy I don’t know, there’s no website where I could find that information, but as far as I remember it’s 6 hours a week. Good thing there: the queue is especially long since all students who study languages or various histories have to go there to hand stuff in.

Step four through seven

When I turned my three forms that I filled out five years ago in, I’m still not even close to my final exam. I have to wait: at least 4 weeks. Then I have my diploma, which means I can turn in my thesis. To turn in my thesis physically I have to upload it to a plagiarism controller first. This ridiculously expensive program controls if I plagiarised. It takes one week. For a machine. To run my thesis through Google. After I waited in line at the Service Center again and they accept my thesis, I have to wait two weeks to take my final exam.

Step eight – the bonus round

Does that mean I’m done? Well, yes. If you don’t want to have commencement. If you do want to show your family what it’s worth to put you through school, you have to register. There’s only 4 commencements per semester. There’s a waiting list. There’s a line at the Service Center where you have to register for the waiting list. To get a commencement date THIS JULY, (next date: September) I have to be done with my final exam END OF APRIL. To get a final exam date END OF APRIL, I have to turn in my grades in JANUARY. To do that, I’d have to be done with my courses in the spring term(2). Without any petty looks, sad faces and desperate bribing attempts it takes one year from your last exam to your commencement. With all these obsequious gesti it still takes a semester.


I had my final regular exam on March 2nd. My thesis is done. If I’m lucky my commencement will be in July.

Rant over? Hell, no.

(1) I spare you and me the part where I take exams and wait for grades for a month or more. Grades I need to get this whole process, that is coming up, started.

(2) For classes in the winter term you get graded not before February. See me.


There are a couple of things I realized when I came back from Wooster (1). One is that everywhere in Vienna are clocks. There are public clocks, provided by the city government (2). On every second lamppost there’s a clock. Is anyone still wondering, why Non-Europeans (and A. Schwarzenegger) think we’re a socialist country? Public clocks or barbarism.

But there’s another thing that is so typically viennese that I had to go abroad to find it strange. Imagine a crowded subway/bus/tram. Actually, it’s not even that necessary to be crowded for the scene to happen. There has just has to be a small jam in front of the door. Person A wants to get out. Instead of asking the door blocking Person B to step aside, A stands behind Bs back – it’s best done when B can’t even try to see A. A then looks grumpy for a while because rude B doesn’t notice A. Doors open. Suddenly barks A: STGNSEOS?!?! Which is Viennese for: Do you get out? (Steigen sie aus?). Don’t be mistaken by the questionmark. It’s never a question. It’s an order. It’s an insult. It doesn’t only say: Get out of my way. It says: Get out of my way you stupid, arrogant, knowingly door blocker. Especially sneaky As manage to bark it at the very moment the door closes again, barely making it out, so that B acually feels like s/he did something wrong. It goes without saying that tiny old ladies have a huge advantage hiding themselves behind Bs back. Die Jugend hat eben kein Ideal.


(1) Yes, I realize it’s been nine months – almost as long as I ever was in Woo Town.

(2) Actually the watches were just recently bought by an insurance company, since the city wanted to cancel this great service.

Medieval Literature

It’s not that no one told me that would happen: I kept the worst exam for the last minute: Literature of the Middle Ages. As always when I’m procrastinating, I come up with reasons, why the subject I’m suppost to study is not worth studying and has no right to exist what so ever. I never had as many reasons, why this class should be banished from the curriculum. The Top 5:

a) It’s not a science, It’s a believe

In Literature of the Middle Ages you don’t study facts, you study assumptions. Every Professor teaches different assumptions. One prof teaches that Gottfried didn’t finish Tristan, becaue he died. The other one claims that he took a break for reasons unknown and died years after he stoped writing. One prof says that Ottfried (1) didn’t actually state his name in *fill in text here*, the textbook says he did. This goes on and on.

b) It’s all built up on one guys assumption

Karl Lachmann constructed his theory in the 19th century. Everyone works off of his thinking.

c) It brings back puberty angst

Remember Latin? The language where you could actually translate every word (with a little help) and the sentence still didn’t make any sense? Well think of how frustrating that was and then imagine having words in front of you that seem to be your language.

d) It’s religiously discriminating.

I am a poor heathan boy. I don’t know what the first commandment is (until someone reminded me that it’s the first things Bartlet says in the West Wing Pilot) and I really don’t care that much (until, you know…). But in medieval literature everything is about the first commandment (which is not, btw: you shall not cheat on your wife – if that even is one) or any other commandment. Not knowing anything about Christianity is a huge disadvantage.

e) Just because it’s old, it isn’t good

No one would ever think of academically working on a poem that solely rymes bread and dead. But when it’s old, everything is forgotten and we pretend that its really important literature.

Rant over. 11 days to go.

(1) Might not be Ottfried but another guy.


Libraries work differently here, than they do in Wooster/the U.S. There are basically two systems: Either books stand around on shelves, you can look at them, but you can’t take them out (in most departmentlibraries) or Books are somewhere hidden and you can take them out but you don’t see what you get beforehand (in the mainlibrary). For an american students ear that might make no sense what so ever, but indeed it has some advantages (which are, recognizable, outweighed by disadvantages). For example, you know that the books are there, when you go to the library. Exept when they are not, because they were either lost temporarily or used by another student somewhere in the library. (Very engaged – or desperate – students then run from one end of the library to the other, searching every stack of books regardless if its user uses them at this point). Also, spoiled american student, if you think that since we can’t take books out of the library, the study comfort is much higher, you are dead wrong. While your glorious bottox is probably sitting on one of this comfortable reading couches right now, I am sitting on my wooden chair in a wooden cubicle (no, Diplomanden in Austria don’t get their personal cubicle). Because why should it be comfortable to study?

The library system of the hidden book also has a lot of advantages. … For example…aehm…that you don’t have to schlepp your books from the shelve to the counter! Some disadvantages, like: you really don’t know if you can use the book and if you don’t, you wasted your time and the time of three librarians that were needed to retrieve your book. Oh glorious mainlibrary, how many times did you surprise me with disappointment! Wether the book was only a brochure or just had a great title but the content was just not right, you made my day so many times …. not. (1)
In the department libraries, the ones where you actually can look at the book and decide beforehand if it’s helpful, there are two legal ways to take a book home: There is a weekend rental (Friday morning through Monday noon) or you are a Senior/Diplomand (2). Its not like in Woo, where every librarian knows roughly who’s a senior and who’s not. As long as librarians don’t see your student I.D. they can’t tell. But since I came back, three different people at the library confused me for being a Diplomand. How they tell, you ask? I have no idea, but I have the slight feeling I may start being to old to not be a Diplomand, which I technically am not yet. But since it is a matter of a few weeks for administration reasons, I don’t feel that bad….well bad enough to write this post.

(1) This not joke is dedicated to Georg.
(2) Since the Austrian University system doesn’t have classes like the U.S. does, the term „Senior“ has nothing to do with the U.S. term. In fact, Austrian Seniors or Diplomanden are most likely somewhere in their 6th+ year and you are a Senior as soon as you have an advisor for your thesis.

Over Weight

I have to admit, the pun doesn’t work in english. But really, that doesn’t hold me atop (1). But let’s try real english for once. I did everything I could to eat everything good for me but bad for my body in my first week back. The term soulfood might come to mind, and indeed, all those great dishes had a soul once. (Well, not c)
At this point, after having ate a Blunzengröstl today, I can proudly say, I succeeded. American food has the hardly earned image to be not very healthy. For some reason, Austrian food doesn’t have this image. It should. Mjam things I ate last week:
a) Schnitzl
b) Cordon Bleu
c) Knödel mit Ei
d) Blunzengröstl (2)

The first is to Austrian food like steaks to American: It’s meat, it’s great and it’s everywhere. The Schnitzl comes in it’s original form of Wiener Schnitzl and in a gazillion different version, from Jägerschnitzl (with mushrooms) to Pariser Schnitzl (eggs instead of breading). Since the original Wiener Schnitzl meat is veal and therefore expensive (3), it sometimes comes in the variations Schweinsschnitzl (pig) or Kinderschnitzl (children). Regardless of the meat, it can be described to an american as the delicious big brother of pork chops.

Cordon Bleu is a variation of the Schnitzl. It sounds french but it isn’t (4). It’s the Schnitzl Version of a Calzone: Within the delicious Schnitzlmantle you’ll find a delicious piece of melted cheese and ham. Calzone meets American Grilled Cheese with Ham.

It was surprising, that the American cuisine doesn’t know Knödel (dumplings) at all. There is a wide arrangement of great dumplings, from Marillenknödel (apricots in a dumpling) to Erdäpfelknödel (potatodumpling) and of course the mother of all dumplings: The Semmelknödel (bread roll dumpling). It’s a food you could also find in Lowry. The concept is really simple: Take yesterdays dumplings, throw them in a pan and mix’em with eggs. Voilá there you have your Knödel mit Ei. De-licious.

Blunzengröstl is like David Hasselhoff: You love him or you hate him. (5) It comes in a pan. Usually with Sauerkraut. Blunze is mixed with potatoes, onions, maybe some peppers, ect. What is Blunze, you ask? Well…that’s the catch (the delicious, awesome, mmmmjam catch): It’s clotted blood. Mahlzeit!

(1) Little German Dictionary: aufhalten, literally „to hold atop“ means: that can’t stop me.
(2) Looking at this list, it strikes me: I totally forgot to ate Schweinsbraten, but then again, I had it once at the German Dinner in Wooster
(3) Some people, babytarier, don’t eat it, because they think an animal should live a happy life in a butchers stall before it gets slaughtered.
(4) It probably is.
(5) For some reasons, Americans can’t accept the fact that D.H. is AWESOME. It’s a little bit like Arnold: He’s a star in a country, but not very appreciated, where he’s coming from.


So now I’m back from Outer….I mean Wooster. And nothing has changed. Everything has changed. Everynothing is the same. It feels a little bit like coming back from a longer vacation. (Evil spirits might say that’s where I’ve been)

I would say there are three kinds of changes:

1) The nothing has-changes
Everything feels like I’ve been gone for 4 weeks. The weather is the same, my friends and I click instantly and there are now awkward moments of silence or estrangement, even the people in the Jonasreindl, where I bought a coffee and a
Aboriginies Weckerl mit Gouda everyday, are the same. (And they still recognize me. And give me a welcome back coffee)

2) The Was that really always like that – Changes
I still turn around surprised when people speak German around me on the street. Yes, it must be pretty funny to watch, when I walk along a street. But after all, yes, it really always was really like that (the german speaking, not me turning around).
The biggest thing you see when you come back to Vienna after a while is, that everyone complains. About everything. All-the-fing-time. You have to give them credit though: In no language other than Viennese complaining would sound as great: It’s moaning, sorrowful and full of pain. So, why, if they have this great tool, shouldn’t they use it? Hell, I would use it. In fact, right now. Imagine how much better this post would sound in Viennese! Movingon.

3) The Wow SOMETHING has – Changes
Not much on this front, but in lieu thereof (love leo) huge (pregnancy pun intended). That’s right. The ice is broken (I let this one pass) and I from now on, will be no longer Generation Child. I will be grown up. Generation Parent….Who am I kidding. I will be the first one fighting with the infant about a toy. And I would win. Because I could take it in a heartbeat. Movingon.
Also, there is a new subway. Or an old one extended rather. 5 new stops. Just like that. (And by „Just like that“ I mean: 5 years of digging and another x of planing).
Also, all my friends have jobs now. Jobs as in: I’m in the office at 8 in the morning. And me? I will be a fulltime thesiswriter and a halftime friend. And I do have a monkey on my back. Man, writing in english makes having allusions so much simpler.

What I’ll miss

It is obvious that I will miss a gazillion of awesome people. It is only consequent to praise in this entry only material goods. As always in random order:

Life Saver Sours (Wildberry)
Dr. Pepper Diet
Bagels with Cream Cheese
Order at Amazon.com and everywhere else without shippingfees and taxes (and the weak dollar)
Streamed TV-Shows on the broadcasting homepagese and hulu
In general: unlimited use of the internet. As in: Google Streetview, Movie Times,…
Good medium Steaks
Wrtiing Center
Free cultural events on campus
The (mostly theoretical) possibility to watch a good NHL, NBA, NFL, MLA game live
The saturday afternoon in front of the TV watching three NFL games in a row
Unknown cities in close proximity
The fact that Lowry does my groceries and cooks for me three times a day
Smokefree bars
Taco Bell
Good Burritos
Bagpipes (only sometimes)
Marching Band
Playing ice hockey
Gallows Milkshakes