I’ve been in Vienna, Austria for a week and a half now and have only now had the time to write a blog post! There’s already so much to write about – I’ve had probably the best week and a half of my summer. But first, let me tell you about the reason I’m in Vienna, which is an internship at The Vienna Review, Vienna’s largest English-language newspaper.
First and foremost, I’m surrounded by words, all day, every day. Even better (though it’s hard to beat that), I’m surrounded by articulate, worldly minds discussing everything from the current political situation in Uzbekistan to when to use capital letters after colons to how German is a language that is constructed, unlike English, in such a way that allows for the simultaneous consideration of parallel ideas (as my editor puts it, “It’s no coincidence that two-thirds of the greatest philosophers of the past 200 years all spoke German as their native language.”)
My first week at my internship at the newspaper was the busiest of the summer for the paper (and the busiest of the summer for me!) While normally a monthly publication, the months of July and August were combined into one issue, and I happened to arrive the week the paper was to be printed and distributed. My duties this past week mostly included researching, coming up with article titles and subheadings, writing, and enough editing and proofreading to make any grammar girl’s (like yours truly) dreams come true. My friends and family will be delighted to know that I have learned more grammar and editing rules in a week than I have in a year – and I’m only getting started.
A little info about the paper. The Vienna Review prints about 5,000 copies every month. I’m finding that its content reflects its readership – it’s cultured and sophisticated, publishing articles and stories about everything from the floods in Central Europe to Iran’s green movement to reviews of nights at the opera. Once printed, copies of the paper get mailed to subscribers and delivered around town – last Friday, I paired up with my friend Hannah to deliver copies of the paper to a bunch of cafes in the 8th and 9th district. What a way to explore parts of this city, and what a fun morning :)
Life in the newsroom is a whirlwind! Especially during weeks like this past one, time doesn’t exist in here (I may be writing this while I take a lunch break). It seems to me that running and producing a newspaper is more often than not organized chaos at it’s best – and the energy that fills the newsroom is really exciting. And the people are so interesting! It’s fascinating being surrounded by such an international bunch of writers all day long. Our International News editor is Serbian, the Photo editor is Swiss/Italian, our Managing Editor is from Aspen, Colorado, the journalism/media students are Austrian, Polish, Croatian (the list goes on), and our Editor-in-Chief hails from northern New York (connection!) but has lived in Vienna with her kids for fifteen years. For about half of the staff, English is not their native language, making it even more humbling to see such a sophisticated and well-written paper being put together by such a diverse group of people.
It was hard sitting indoors in the newsroom for most of all last week, being on the computer and reading constantly, but the lovely Danube River is a two-minute walk from our building. For lunch a few times, I bought a cheese sandwich at the supermarket around the corner, walked to the river with Hemingway tucked under my arm, and spent a few minutes sitting in the sun next to the water. It’s hard to beat summer in Wien. The weather has been incredible, the city is alive day and night, and, although it’s an old and historic city, Vienna is such a fun place to be a young adult in.
And I’m loving good ole European public transport as much as ever. It’s so easy to get from one place to the next in Vienna. A hectic jumble of intersecting lines, switching trains, and jumping platforms, mass transit is convenient and liberating. I could go on about trains forever; the July/August issue of the paper that just came out, in fact, includes a revised essay about trains I wrote about a year ago. My editor asked to see it, liked it a lot, and asked if they could include it in the issue. A photo I took of a old train track in Auschwitz was put with it, too! When the online issue of the paper comes out, I’ll post a link – the article/essay is a full-page spread and is titled Navigating the Rails. I also wrote a commentary for this issue – I came up with my own topic and chose to write about how all of Africa was holding its breath for Ghana to win last Friday (they just barely lost to Uruguay in penalty kicks.. I don’t want to think about that game anymore) and what it would have meant for all of Africa if Ghana would have made it into the semi-finals of this World Cup (they would have been the only African nation to ever have done so). The article is titled Can Ghana Do It?
So, even better than learning rules for editing has been learning about the process of putting together and publishing an issue of a newspaper, more of which I’ll definitely write about later. And I’m learning how to write quite concisely, which, for a Creative Writing major who is used to writing pieces like descriptive and narrative essays, is not the easiest thing to do. But it’s important, especially in the world of journalism, and I’m here to learn. And I’m doing just that!
The day before the paper went to print I was in the newsroom from 9am until 11pm, and the last person left at 6am. The next day, shortly after we all came yawning back into the newsroom, the papers arrived! It was so exciting getting my hands on a hard copy of what I had only been seeing in layout form on big Mac computers. (And, selfishly, it was an honor to see my name in print as a contributor in a newspaper for the first time!) There is something about the look and feel (and smell and sound, when you’re flipping through it) of a newspaper that will always ensure it has a place in society, no matter how modern society becomes. Newspapers may need cafés and public transit systems to survive (which is why they’re still fairing well in cities like Vienna, but not so well in many cities in the U.S.), but they also need loyal readers who quietly refuse to sacrifice the pleasure of having a crisp newspaper in their hands for the convenience of a glossy screen. (Can you tell I feel strongly about this?)
The day was complete with a celebratory dinner with a few of the students/staff members at our editor’s, Dardis’, apartment. It was a lovely, small celebration for a big accomplishment. I’m happy and proud to be a part of this community, environment, and staff for the short period of time that I’m interning here. The hard work and long hours are totally worth it, and I’m doing what I love and loving what I’m doing. And learning to love things I’ve never done before, but know I want to continue doing. (I promise, the things I write for the paper are less convoluted than that!
More on my apartment, this past weekend with my parents, and other fun scenes from Vienna soon!
But first, let me leave you with a treat of a photo that is representative of what’s considered a splurge when you’re a college student on a budget in Europe in the summer: