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maria baetti, Austria, 2008-2009

Fulbright Year: 2008-2009
Country: Austria
Proposal Type: Research/Study
Field of Study: Diplomatic Academy Grant
UGA Undergraduate Majors: Psychology, Advertising
Graduation Date: May 2008
Hometown: Roswell, GA

Maria Baetti was so inspired by her year of study at Vienna’s Diplomatic Academy that she signed up for another year at the conclusion of her Fulbright tenure.

The “DA,” as Maria refers to it, offers a one-year diploma program and two-year master’s programs in the in Advanced International Studies and Environmental Technology and International Affairs. After completing the diploma program, Maria stayed on in Austria, earning her master’s in advanced international studies and accepting an internship with the United Nations in Vienna.

“The (diploma) program has a strong focus on the European Union, and I learned a lot about the structure of the EU and large international organizations like the United Nations,” Maria says. “Having studied very different subjects in college (psychology in Franklin College and advertising in Grady College), I found the program at the DA to be extremely challenging and interesting. Classes were long and intense, and exam week, which came around three times a year since the DA operates on a trimester schedule, was exhausting.”

Studying with nearly four dozen students of differing nationalities, Maria says she wasn’t surprised to find many of her classmates didn’t exactly possess warm feelings for her home country.

“One of the closest friends I made during that year is a Kurd from Iraq who grew up in Germany,” she says, noting many of her colleagues hailed from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and China. “After meeting so many Europeans who condemned U.S. involvement in Iraq, I met someone who had a drastically different opinion and a much closer tie with the country in question.

“The DA was full of different opinions, and we were encouraged to voice them inside and outside the classroom. You can imagine the kinds of discussions that arise in such a diverse student body. Sometimes, debates got very heated, for example when covering recent history of the former Yugoslavia alongside both Serbian and Bosnian classmates. Seeing historic events from the perspective of those who lived through them gave me a lot of insight into how and why the U.S. is perceived differently in so many parts of the world.”

One of her most memorable experience in Austria was a study trip she and her classmates took to Luxembourg and Brussels, but an event back home provided Maria with a never-forget experience.

“We got to visit several European Union offices, meet with diplomats, and really bond with our classmates,” she says. “Before the trip, a small group of DA students traveled to The Hague in the Netherlands for a World Model U.N. conference. Both of these experiences were amazing, but I think my favorite memory of that year was actually in January, when I gathered with hundreds of expat Americans and other people from around the world on a ship docked in the Danube Canal to watch the inauguration of President Obama.”

But it wasn’t all work and no play for Maria, as she said Fulbright students in Austria are given plenty of opportunities to learn about the country and interact socially with their colleagues. Maria also brought a unique example of Americana to share with her classmates.

“I got together with a few of the friends I met through Fulbright, as well as some local Viennese women to put on a production of the play ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ written by Eve Ensler,” she says. “Having acted in the play in an Athens production with Project Safe earlier in my college career, I was excited to get involved in this in Vienna. Through ticket sales and donations, we raised money for both a local women’s shelter as well as one in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a great way to get involved in the local community and make new friends outside the DA.”

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