Spring Summer 08

The Core


Off to the Races

Practice Makes Perfect

Portraits of the Artists


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Irrefutable Fun

Broadened Horizons

The Searchers

Fair Trade

Diamond Anniversary

Project Help

From Maroon to Marine

Dinosaur Discoverer

Go Ask Alumni

Beyond the Quads

Fair Trade

A welcome Austrian invasion.

A recent agreement between the College and the University of Vienna is fostering cross-cultural exchange in a new way. In fall 2007, the University of Vienna hosted the College’s civilization abroad sequence in Vienna for the first time. In return, the University of Chicago welcomed five Viennese students to its campus for the winter and spring quarters this year.

A study abroad company previously ran the Vienna civilization abroad program. “We wanted to switch to being hosted by the university because we felt that would be a better vehicle for our students to meet Viennese students, to feel they’re part of university life, and to give them more integrative mechanisms into Viennese culture,” says Martha Merritt, associate dean of international education in the College. This year, Chicago students in Vienna received a student ID giving them the same access to facilities and discounts that Viennese students enjoy.

“We built into this agreement an opportunity for Viennese students to come to Chicago just as our students have been given new access to the University of Vienna itself,” Merritt explains. Florian Sidlo, Sandra Ortbauer, Claudia Macho, Sabine Wimmer, and Alice Bogner were the first to venture to Hyde Park under the agreement.

“These five Viennese represent what I like to call the principle of reciprocity in our relationships,” says Merritt. However, she points out that the agreement between Chicago and Vienna goes beyond a student exchange. Members of the University of Chicago’s faculty continue to teach and build academically rich excursions into their courses for the Chicago students studying in Vienna. The Viennese students attend regular University of Chicago courses while here. This allows them to experience Chicago’s unique educational style and compare and contrast it with the University of Vienna’s.

“Back home the readings are something between 40 to 60 percent of what I have to read here,” Florian Sidlo says. “We have to make at least one big presentation, on which we usually write our paper. So the main focus is on the presentation, the paper, and participation.”

“In Vienna, every now and then in some seminars we do readings and discuss that in class, but the students don’t really like it,” says Sandra Ortbauer. “I found out here that it’s very helpful and it makes a lot of sense to do it this way.” She also praises the quality of Chicago’s faculty. “The teachers I have are really motivated and enthusiastic about their topics.”

Ortbauer, an international relations major, and Sidlo, who is studying English and history, both plan to graduate in 2009. Neither knew much about the University of Chicago before applying to the program, but they believe the experience will provide insights into their chosen areas of study. Sidlo is considering writing his thesis on the depiction of Native Americans in literature and film. Ortbauer, who has visited Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Panama, has pursued her interest in Latin American studies—not available as a major at the University of Vienna—at Chicago.

To help the Viennese students acclimate, the College has invited them on excursions with other foreign students and provided an academic adviser familiar with their needs. The ultimate goal is to facilitate interaction between the visitors and other Chicago students while letting relationships develop organically.

A new student advisory committee for study abroad formed by Merritt is helping her office hone the facilitation of cross-cultural student relationships— particularly between the Viennese and the Chicago students who studied in Vienna. But even at this early stage, Merritt views the University of Vienna partnership as an unqualified success—and a prototype for the future.—C.R.