As week two draws to a close, we’ve definitely settled into life at Graz and are beginning to know the city like the back of our hands. We are well and truly on our way to having a broader understanding of inclusive education and this week was particularly fun because we enjoy a weekend away to Vienna.
Monday was spent focusing on our coursework, we had a 4 hour class Monday morning which provided us with some valuable strategies for inclusive education and were able to experience them first hand during group work in the class. After class we headed back to the hotel to refresh our minds before everyone met up with their small groups to do work on our presentations focusing on Inclusive Education in another country, we soon felt we’d accomplished enough for the day setting out a plan of attack and gathering resources. As a treat for our hard work some of the group headed out to a local wine bar to relax and continue to bond as a group. The wine bar was cosy and warm, we chatted for a while and realised we needed to find dinner as we headed back to the Hauptplatz we remembered a recommendation from our city tour guide and decided to try some hot dogs from a sausage stand and they did not disappoint.
Tuesday again we spent the morning in class focusing the management process of creating inclusive schools. We utilized some other strategies that can be used in an inclusive education classroom to present ideas on the topic. After class, some of the group visited the church located near our University building, others opted for lunch at McDonalds which we soon discovered was a popular choice for all of the school kids in Graz who finish class at 12.30pm
Wednesday was jam packed with activities beginning with a field trip to Chance B, a company established to provide services to people with disabilities and their families. We learnt about two of their programs ‘Youth Coaching’ aiming to help young students with disabilities plan for their future and ‘Berufsausbildings-Assiztenz’ which aims to help students establish themselves into vocational study and work (apprenticeships). Following our introduction at Chance B, we took a short drive to a company called Lieb Bau who work cooperatively with Chance B and employ 11 students with disabilities as apprentices within their business. To conclude our visit with Chance B, we ate at the restaurant attached to their premises which is also a project of theirs offering short term work to people of long term unemployment or with disabilities, enabling them to gain skills within the work force. In the evening we had a movie night held at the university, the film ‘The Intouchables’ (2011) was relevant to our topic of inclusion and we all thoroughly enjoyed the film.
Thursday we were given a free day to spend as we wish and prepare for our weekend in Vienna (a.k.a time to do some washing). I went to the Waschsalon in the morning and made friends with some Austrian men who were unsure how to use the machines, they offered to buy me a coffee as a thank you. Later on an elderly lady required some help with the machines so another lady helped her out and again was bought a coffee, I am noticing that the Austrians are very appreciative when help is offered and like to give back in return (there have been a few instances where we have offered someone a seat on public transport and they give thanks by offering a chocolate). Many of us spent the day doing our own thing; assignments, shopping or relaxing but in the evening we were all excited to go to our first ice hockey game. The first game started at 4.30 and we saw Norway defeat France, it was such an experience to see this game and I may have found a new favourite sport to watch! Later on we were able to return to the stadium to watch Austria defeat Slovenia and the atmosphere at this game was incredible and something I will never forget.
Friday –Sunday we spent in Vienna and we had plenty of events lined up for us that provided further insight into the history of the Hapsburg Empire. On day one we had a (very cold) city tour, ending with a visit to St Stephen’s Cathedral. After lunch we went to the Imperial Treasury, home to many of the valuable possessions of Hapsburg family including clothing, crowns, relics and even a unicorn horn! In the afternoon we divided up, some visited the Art History museum, some visited the Natural History museum that are located opposite each other and are identical buildings. I had already visited both of these and so I decided to wander around the Modern Art museum and do some souvenir shopping, it was a relaxing afternoon until my phone died, luckily Georg had provided us with maps and instructions to get back to the hotel… I have learnt to always have a paper map!
Saturday was again full of activities, we first visited the Austrian National Library and we were all in awe of the beautiful architecture, painting and of course the books! After the library tour we had some time to find lunch and venture to the Naschmarkt, we separated into smaller groups for shopping and to eat. I enjoyed a slice of Sachertorte, a famous Viennese chocolate cake and it did not disappoint. After lunch we travelled out to Steinhof which is a former hospital for mental patients and learnt the history of the premises during the time of National Socialism (the Nazi period).
On Sunday morning we visited Schloss Schönbrunn, the summer palace for the Hapsburg family and explored the grounds and walked through the castle with an audio guide. The castle is exquisite both inside and out and I would definitely recommend a visit here, the furniture and architecture is stunning. After a lunch break we were back at the hotel and ready to board our bus home to Graz. We are all looking quite sleepy and ready to rest in preparation for our final.