What I learned from my Study Abroad trip to Vienna, Austria in July, 2019…
One of the most painful parts of this pandemic has been losing our sense of comfort going out in public places. Comfort sitting inside restaurants, comfort going to large social events, and certainly, comfort travelling. Now, I would not call myself a “Traveller” with a capital “T” by any stretch of the imagination. When people would push study abroad programs at the University of Florida, I would immediately think to myself, “That’s just not for me”. Looking back, deciding to take a chance and sign up for study abroad ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s been almost 2 years since I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria as part of my Business Masters program at UF, so I decided to take a trip down memory lane to share the wonderful lessons I learned on that trip.
As Billy Joel says in his hit song Vienna, “You’ve got so much to do and only so many hours in a day.” After studying abroad in Vienna for three weeks, I developed a deeper understanding of Joel’s meaning. I always assumed that he was either literally talking about Vienna or that Vienna represented the concept of vacation in general. I now realize that it is much deeper than that. The entire song is a metaphor for peace, and the city of Vienna is a manifestation of that peace. Instead of sweating the small things and worrying about getting as much out of every day as possible (a very Western way of thinking), living in Vienna taught me to get out of my comfort zone, be okay with not being in control, go with the flow, and truly live in the moment. I now realize that I do not need to rush to the “finish line” of peace and happiness, but that “Vienna waits” for me. I will get there when I get there, and it is okay if other people get there first. Of course, this is a very difficult concept to accept for someone who is in the entertainment industry, because it is a non-linear career path that causes everyone in it to find success at highly different rates. However, between what I learned socially and from a business point of view, I believe I have a much better perspective on life that I will now take with me wherever I go in both my personal life and my career in the Arts/Entertainment industry.
Socially, I am most proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone and going with the flow. Usually, I would have planned every second of the three-week program. However, I decided to make like the Viennese and simply take it easy, allowing whatever plans to come along. On that note, Europeans are much more relaxed than citizens of the United States in terms of how easy-going they are in their everyday lives. As frustrating as this could be for someone like me who was used to trying to be as efficient as possible, I could not help but feel the tranquility in the air while walking around and exploring Vienna. There is something about the atmosphere that is truly serene. Keeping with the mindset of going with the flow, I traveled to Salzburg the first weekend and Budapest the second weekend of the three weeks. Theoretically, I could have saved money on the tickets and better planned out those trips, but instead, I bought the tickets the night before each trip and simply did whatever my new friend group wanted to do, and I ended up having a great time both days. I learned that going with the flow is nice, but that I’m still much more comfortable with more structure. So, perhaps I still need to find a balance between the two.
From a business perspective, I learned some unexpected lessons from travelling around Vienna. Probably the most important lesson I learned and will take back to my work as an Artist is the concept of making every single aspect of something as beautiful as it can be. While this may seem to go without saying, I could not help but be in awe at some of the museums and palaces I visited, for they made every inch look gorgeous. For example, possibly the prettiest room I have ever been in was at the Belvedere Palace. Everything from the more obvious structures like the floors and the staircases, all the way down to the minute details like the handles and windowsills were all exceptionally beautiful. In the United States, a place like this may be beautiful on the inside, but it would almost certainly have plain, stone stairs leading up to it. I got out of this the concept that I should not create art that has ugly “staircases”. To explain further, a lot of playwrights will have lines that are not that beautiful but lead up to the important “punch- line” lines that leave impressions on the audience. It is as if they are saying, “Don’t worry about this ugly staircase-just get to the beautiful room.” After seeing how beautiful Vienna’s staircases are, I now want to create art with this thought process: “Sure, the ‘room’ is the grandest part, but why not make the ‘staircase’ lines that lead up to the most important lines beautiful as well!”
Along with the beautiful palaces and castles, I also explored some terrific Art museums such as the Albertina Bastion and the Leopold. From these incredible museums I realized a fundamental truth about human nature:
Just as we have an evolutionary desire to procreate, so too do we have an instinctive desire to create.
This further explains why the Arts are so intertwined with what it means to be a Human Being. After looking at some of the paintings and sculptures and just glossing over them, I decided to take a deeper look at each work of art. By doing this, I realized another fundamental truth (this time, about observing art):
Look at anything, whether in art or paintings or theatre or life in general, then look again and try to find something new that you didn’t see the first time.
By observing this rule, I was always able to discover a new detail that the artist had placed there for only the most keen observer to notice, and I always felt like I was discovering a hidden treasure chest! Of course, these works of art were so magnificent that I am sure that if I looked at them a third and fourth time, I would find even more little nuggets of gold. When reviewing a business plan or checking over a piece of art that I am considering producing or being a part of, I now feel inspired to truly look with a keen eye, as if I was looking at a masterpiece painting and trying to find the hidden gems inside.
From the courses I took at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (Vienna University of Economics and Business), I learned some highly useful business tips and philosophies that I look forward to applying to the rest of my career.
From my International Human Resource Management course, I learned the following:
- “If you just create an environment for a shark, the cat will drown.”
- How you are judged at the end of your career is not on how well you did, but how well you developed others.
- As humans, we naturally want two things: to grow, and to connect with others.
- If you say “Don’t think about a pink elephant with yellow spots”, someone will think of a pink elephant with yellow spots and then cross it out in their head. So, if you say, “I’m not here to exploit you,” they will hear “exploit” and then have to cross that out, opposed to saying, “I’m here for you.” They will think of that.
- People tend to overestimate challenges in the short run and underestimate challenges in the long run.
- HR tries to get everyone’s individual desires/motivations to streamline in the same direction as the motivation of the overall company.
- You get what you measure. It is better to measure results than time.
- Extrinsic usually kills intrinsic motivation.
- “Companies never succeed, people do.”
- “The grass doesn’t grow faster if you pull it.”
- “Focus on solutions, not problems.”-Viktor Frankl
- When hiring: Not about is this person good or bad in general. Is this the right person for this particular culture?
- New employees usually make the decision to stay or leave within first few weeks. They may stay for a few years, but they made up their mind within the first few weeks.
- The brain will do what it can to confirm its own hypotheses.
- When a person discusses a piece of art, it usually says more about the person than the art. What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than Paul.
From my Creativity and Entrepreneurship course, I learned the following:
1. “You’re typically as good as your last deal.”
2. “Fail early, fail exhaustively, and fail cheaply. Fail fast.”
3. “Never take a sales pitch appointment right after lunch, because they will fall asleep.”
Whether you’re in the entertainment field, the business sector, both, or neither, I hope these insights helped you the way they have helped me!