The Mole Diaries: Innsbruck

by fionasjournal

This article was written by Sarah Harrison, published on 23rd January 2012 and has been read 4579 times.

Sarah Harrison, a Modern Languages student studying German, Russian and Dutch at the University of Sheffield, is just coming to the end of her British Council placement in Innsbruck, Austria. Next semester, she'll be heading out to Saint Petersburg to continue her studies! But here, Sarah shares all the insider knowledge she's acquired over her time in Innsbruck: where to find accommodation, picking up the accent, what to pack, and how to make the most of the amazing snow...

Innsbruck: The Basics

When I first applied to the British Council, I didn’t really know where I wanted to be. I am an avid skier/snowboarder, and I knew that I didn’t want to be in a big city. I decided to take a risk, and to apply to an area I knew nothing about. Luckily, my gamble paid off, and I was placed in a beautiful city called Innsbruck.

Innsbruck is the capital of Tirol, which is located in North West Austria. Innsbruck is about an hour and a half from Munich, 2 hours from Salzburg and 6 hours from Vienna. It is located in the heart of the Austrian Alps, surrounded by stunning mountain views and beautiful forests. Innsbruck itself has a population of 90,000 people, 30,000 of which are students. Innsbruck is classed as a city in Austria, but in England, Innsbruck would probably be seen as a big town. The centre is fairly small and concise, with its historical Altstadt as well as the more modern and funky shopping areas. There are plenty of pubs, bars and clubs to keep you entertained, and many restaurants and coffee shops to try out during your stay in Innsbruck.

Things I wish I knew before arriving in Innsbruck…

1. Finding accommodation is the most difficult thing you will encounter when you get to Innsbruck.

Finding somewhere to live is stressful enough, but unfortunately the University of Innsbruck does not have a lot of student accommodation, and you are therefore fighting for a spot against 30,000 students, a lot of whom will be in the same boat. Obviously, I don’t want to scare people heading to Innsbruck, but I have to be realistic. When I was looking, there were 25 people chasing one place, and students are not always the best at responding! My main advice to conquer this is to LEAVE EARLY. Spend your summer sending emails, and then head out at least 2 weeks before you start. As scary as it is to leave home before you really need to be there, you do not want to still be searching when your placement or courses start. The best website to use (and this will literally be your homepage for 2 weeks) is Boersen. It refreshes every morning at 10am, (not on weekends) and is much better than wg-gesucht, which is another website you can use if things dry up. One plus point for any incoming students this year is that Innsbruck just hosted the Junior Winter Olympics, and word on the street is that the Olympic Village is being turned into accommodation, so things may be easier for you this year. Average rent price varies from 250-400€, depending on how close you live to the centre.

2. You get paid a LOT doing a British Council placement (YAY!), but you don’t get paid for ages. (BOO).

Just a little budgeting warning. You get paid a shedload for virtually no work, (1088€ for 13 hours a week, it’s a win win situation), but you don’t get paid till mid-November, so just bear in mind that you will only have your student loan, and possibly your Erasmus, to get you through two months of rent, food, and essentials.

3. Always be prepared.

If you are doing a British Council placement, you always need to have at least one lesson plan up your sleeve, as some teachers like to surprise you and expect you to teach a 50 minute lesson on the spot. The British Council website is full of lesson plans, so it’s worth checking them out just for a backup.

4. You will eventually overcome the Tirolean accent and dialect.

A lot of people instantly reject Austria as a Year Abroad destination because they have heard many horror stories about the Tirolean accent. It is present, but after a few weeks you will grow accustomed to it, and even pick up a few phrases yourself. Don’t let the idea of a different accent scare you before you even arrive; the majority of people speak Hochdeutsch so you will have nothing to worry about.

5. Innsbruck Airport isn’t open all year, and when it is, then it is susceptible to closures.

The airport only opens at the beginning of December to international flights, and you can fly direct from Innsbruck to Bristol, Liverpool or London Gatwick with Easyjet. That being said, when the Winter comes, you need to keep an eye on the weather. Innsbruck airport has one of the most difficult landings in Europe because of its location (but also a spectacular descent, must be done AT LEAST once,) so if the visibility or the snowfall is bad, the airport will be shut. I discovered this on the 22nd of December when I was flying home for Christmas, and I had a massive drama with rescheduling flights and getting to Munich Airport so I could just get back to the UK. Most flights get diverted to Munich in this case, but some do get cancelled, so be prepared for sudden changes.

Things you MUST do whilst in Innsbruck.

1. Go skiing.

If you’re there for the winter, or the whole year, get a Freizeit Tirol card. It gives you access to 16 Skigebiete, and free access to pools and ice rinks. If you are a student, it costs 280 Euros, but it is DEFINITELY worth the investment! Best slopes so far have been Seefeld, Axamer Lizum and Ischgl.

2. Watch some ice hockey.

It is always entertaining, and a massive sport in Innsbruck, so check it out.

3. Watch some ski jumping events.

These tend to happen in February and March at the famous Bergisel Stadium, and it really is a sight to behold. These are well advertised, so get tickets before they all sell out.

4. Go up the Bergisel Ski Jump.

The view is brilliant, and the Ski Jump looks onto a cemetery; bit scary if you were about to jump off!

5. Go up the Nordkette.

The Nordkette is north of Innsbruck (clue is in the name), and can be reached by a cable car that leaves from the centre. The views are breathtaking, and the slopes up there are pretty good too.

6. Go to Oktoberfest.

If you head out early, reward yourself by going to Munich for Oktoberfest. It is definitely a once in a lifetime experience!

7. Buy a Dirndl, if you are a girl, and Lederhosen if you are a boy.

You cannot leave Austria without one, enough said.

8. Join some clubs!

The USI (University Sports Institute) has a range of clubs to sign up to; check it out at the beginning of term.

9. Travel!

It’s worth getting a under 26 Vorteilskarte, which gets you 50% discount on journeys made within Austria and 25% off in Germany. Vienna is a must, as well as Salzburg.

What to pack…

You will need:

• Passport Photos

• A good winter coat

• Summer gear; it can get quite hot here!

• Skis/Snowboard

• Laptop

• Leaflets from your hometown (to show your students!)

• Sturdy shoes

• Formal attire for Maturaballs

• And a positive attitude!!

Our Mole Diaries are insider city guides written by students about their experiences, filled with top tips and recommendations. Please view our 200+ Mole Diaries arranged by language, and if you'd like to contribute, do find out more about becoming a Mole!

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