Vienna: some first impressions

By Anatoly Reshetnikov

From 2020, CEU is relocating all its teaching to Vienna. It thus leaves its home in Budapest to face the challenges and the opportunities the Austrian capital has to offer. This, of course, is both unsettling and exciting. I happened to move to Austria a year ahead of CEU, after living in Budapest for seven years as a student and a teacher. Here are a few thoughts about CEU’s new home.

Vienna is more expensive than Budapest. No doubt. Yet it is much-much cheaper than most of the vibrant cities of this world packed with career, cultural and political opportunities. In terms of those things, it actually leaves Budapest, but also New York, London and Paris far behind in relative terms. While it will be a little more difficult to cover basic expenses, the possibilities to make a decent living are much more numerous, especially for IR students. International and nongovernmental organizations have mushroomed in Vienna offering plenty of internship and employment opportunities for those interested in international politics. At the same time, these organizations did not turn the city into a congested and overpopulated hive where fight-for-life type of attitude is a must for everyone.

Vienna, they say, is too quiet and boring. While it is indeed true that it will be quite difficult to find a grocery store open after 8:00 PM, the city is anything but boring, if you manage to crack through the pompous facade, intended for tourists, and connect to the truly local art and night scene, which thrives and blossoms. Culture, music (and not only the classical types) are truly at home in Vienna. It is also full of activism and diversity.

One of the main concerns some students and professors raise is that Vienna’s mood and history are far from CEU’s original mission. The center of a former empire, it continues to enjoy the fruits and legacies of its guilty past, without giving too much regard to breaking hierarchies and ensuring intercultural respect and equal treatment. Yes, there is a lot of that, often unwitting, as in most other places in the world. At the same time, Vienna is certainly more racially and culturally diverse than CEU’s former home, Budapest, and most other places in Central Europe. People from all continents will feel more at home here and, if they remain active, together will be helping to break the monopoly on the definiton of good life and cultural worth.