IES Abroad - Vienna
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Richard Devery

Major: Political Science; Comparative Literature
Minor: German
Hometown: Lebanon, OH

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I did research on the Penn State Education Abroad website and spoke to an education abroad adviser. Also, a professor of mine told me Vienna is a beautiful place to live and would make a good study abroad location.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I have been studying abroad in Vienna, Austria. I am studying Central European society and culture through the lens of this beautiful capital city. My classes cover a wide spectrum of topics, such as the current migrant crisis and the EU response, sustainable energy practices of European countries, Central European art, and the literature of authors from this richly historical section of Europe. The experience has also helped me vastly improve my German language skills. It has been a very immersive experience into a new culture that has helped me grow as a global citizen, and given me a better perspective of the world and its issues.

It has been a very immersive experience into a new culture that has helped me grow as a global citizen, and given me a better perspective of the world and its issues.

How did this experience impact you academically?

So far I have gained valuable experience speaking and living among native German speakers. As a German minor, it has been my goal to improve my speaking comprehension, and living in Austria has helped me immensely. Already I have been able to see tremendous gains; more so in the three months I've been here than the two and a half years at Penn State. The overall experience has shown me that a culture is very nuanced and requires work outside the classroom in order to be understood. Above all, learning takes place at multiple levels and through many people, not just a professor in a classroom. It has been an experience-based learning environment, where personal ambition, curiosity, and self-motivation are crucial to one's development as a student and world citizen. I believe that those skills will translate well to life at Penn State and anywhere else I go in the future.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I would ideally like to work in foreign service after college. The Department of State offers many excellent opportunities for recent college graduates with jobs in embassies abroad, as well as other positions in Washington, D.C. I would like to work in an embassy after school, and this study abroad experience has helped me to gain valuable language skills and cultural insight to an area that is a hotbed of diplomatic activity. The experience has shown me how critical it is to understand a culture before one can work in it. I may never work in Austria, but this experience has shown me the necessity and importance of dedicating oneself to understanding the people and history of a place where you will be working (assuming it is abroad).

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes. Nothing has been more rewarding and eye-opening than experiencing a new country for the first time.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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