Week One of Inclusive Education: Packed Full of Learning & Adventure
Saturday the 6th of January marked the beginning of our study tour in Graz, Austria. After we all checked into the Das Weitzer hotel, settled and met our room mates most of us went off exploring for a place to eat! Others slept away their jet lag and joined us the next morning for breakfast (Which has been amazing!)
Sunday the 7th of January practically nothing was open due to Austria’s religious views, this did not stop us from exploring as we wandered around the empty streets of Graz. On our travels we found a café that was open, this café floats upon the Mur river called Island on the Mur which runs directly across from our hotel. The coffee menu blew our minds as it had multiple pages with many varieties of coffee available, we all opted for a specialised coffee, I had tried a coffee called a ‘Banana flip’ which was served with a side of water in a martini glass layered with banana syrup, coffee and whipped cream! We were all excited about our coffees and have been back to the same café since! After coffee we took an elevator that was inside a mountain to the very top! The views of Graz from above were stunning, we took a heap of pictures and relaxed at the top just admiring the views.
Monday the 8th of January was our first day studying at the university of Graz, our first class was spent learning about each other, our lecturers and a brief run down on the Austrian schooling system and definitions for terms related to inclusive education. On this day we were also split off into teams of 2 for our presentation and had time to look through our requirements for assessments. After class many of us went and looked-for lunch and continued to get to know each other a little more.
Tuesday the 9th of January was very similar to yesterday, we had class in the morning from 9am to 2pm except this time we learnt about cooperative teaching methods in schools. We learnt about six different cooperative teaching methods that are currently being implemented in Austrian schools, which were interesting to learn about as we had not really heard about these strategies before in Australia. After class Verena came and collected us from our room and took us on a guided tour around the main campus which was about a ten-minute walk from where we were, the campuses at Graz University are beautiful and carry so much history it was a real shame to discover that the library at the main campus had been destroyed and demolished due to it practically falling apart. After a big day of learning and exploring groups broke off and went to get something to eat to wind down.
Wednesday the 10th of January was again spent focusing on our coursework, we had a five-hour class which provided us with some valuable hands on cooperative learning strategies for inclusive education, in the class we were able to practice some strategies which gave us an insight into what we needed to do for one requirement of our presentation. This time after class some of us decided to go for a shop around the local stores and op shops, it was lots of fun exploring the hidden shops between the alley ways in Graz.
Thursday the 11th of January was our day off which worked well as it was good preparation for our Vienna trip tomorrow, a lot of people slept in and had a later than usual breakfast. At around 2pm we met Verena and our tour guide at the main square to begin our guided tour of Graz, our tour guides name was Helen who was born in London and originally only decided to live in Graz for one year for a break but ended up never leaving and falling in love with the city (it has been ten years since she arrived). It was a joy to walk around and listen to all her knowledge, take in all the sights and learn more about this beautiful place we all will be calling home for the next three weeks. On our travels Helen showed us a double spiraled stair case, a range of different architectural buildings dating back 1000’s of years, a stunning cathedral, the mausoleum of an emperor and an old tunnel that was used as bomb shelters during the war which now has a night club inside it.
Friday the 12th of January was when we departed for our cultural visit to Vienna (waking up at 5:30 am), transport to Vienna was via a Flix bus which is an easy cheap way to travel around, the bus was comfortable, so most were able to get back to sleep. Our first stop was checking into our hotel and jumping straight on a sightseeing hop on hop off bus tour which lasted for about 2 hours in total, this was a great way to see much of the city in a short time period. Next, we made our way to ‘Café Prückel’ which is a classic coffee house offering Viennese cuisines and homemade pastries, we all ordered a dessert and a coffee which were amazing! (especially the coffee). After this some of us went to the Schnapps museum and learnt about the history of Schnapps in Vienna and even taste test 3 flavour of our choice (my favourite was the raspberry and vanilla flavour), others decided to head back to the hotel and rest up before dinner. Dinner on Friday has by far been my favourite place, myself and a few others went to a rollercoaster restaurant where our food was delivered to us down a rollercoaster and our drinks made by a robot shown on the tv above, the restaurant even had a light and sound show every half an hour where the robots would dance to the music, I myself would visit this restaurant again and would highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Vienna.
Saturday the 13th of January started off nice and early but not as early as other days so a small sleep in was very much appreciated by all! We began by taking public transport to the Austrian national library. The Austrian national library was stunning! the entire library was styled in a very extravagant Baroque kind of style, lavished in gold and beautifully painted ceilings. After the library we began our journey to the Steinhof hospital which today is still in operation but not for the same reasons as it used to be. The hospital was originally a psychiatric hospital which was the main site for the Nazi program of euthanasia and enforced sterilisation of people that were thought to be mentally ill or undesirable this basically meant people that were not fit to breed into the next generation (including alcoholics). Unfortunately, this hospital was most well known for its euthanasia of children in Austria, some 700 children were tortured and murdered here which made for a very glum hour as we all listened to the guide explain the horrors that took place here. As interesting as this experience was everyone was glad to be on our way to our next stop; dinner! dinner tonight was at a traditional Viennese restaurant which served foods from local sources and even housed Beethoven once upon a time!
Sunday the 14th of January again started off with a bit of a sleep in which we all desperately needed after yesterday’s long day. Our first activity for the day was visiting the Schönbrunn Palace, which was the former imperial summer residence of the Habsburg family adorning 1,441 rooms with a common Baroque style which was very extravagant, lavished again in gold and stunning architectural features reflecting the successive Habsburg monarch, unfortunately we were unable to take pictures here as it was prohibited. At the palace we were able to listen to an audio guide which translated all the exhibitions in English which was very helpful! Here we also took the opportunity to take lots of pictures and play in the snow like true Australian tourists! Moving on from the palace we then went to the imperial treasury which paired well with the previous activity as it showcased the exquisite collection of treasures once owned by the imperial family, again we were offered an audio guide in English and had free roam to explore the exhibition. Our weekend in Vienna ended here as we made our way back to Graz but I am sure that we will all cherish the adventures we experienced for years to come.
"This course gave me a new perspective on life. It opened my eyes to many other things I hadn't even contemplated. It was a great way to experience a city in a new country with a different culture. By being based in the one place for an extended period of time, being immersed in the surroundings provided the perfect experience with lessons I will never forget!"
"I loved getting to learn about the healthcare system in another country in a way that I could visibly see it & hear from people who had first-hand experience. Our discussions in class were also really interesting since people are involved in very different areas of health - people had different opinions but everyone seemed equally passionate. The host stay was also incredible. My family was so accommodating and I loved them to bits, despite the language barrier."