First month in Innsbruck

As some of you may already know, i moved to Innsbruck at the start of the month to enroll at MCI (Management Center Innsbruck) and start a Master's Programme called "International Health & Social Manament", which will extend over the course of the next 2 years. The combined working experiences i gathered at the outpatient clinic of Dr. Malus (5+ years, by far my longest-standing job to date) and for Bikram Yoga Schottenring in Vienna not only raised my interest in public health but also triggered the decision to get some further insight into healthcare and its socioeconomical implications. After overcoming initial doubts on behalf of my family and successfully navigating through the university's selection process, and with the highly valued support of my girlfriend Katrin i finally packed my bags at the beginning of the month and rode off into the Wild West (thanks Martin for providing your VW Touran - i'm so sorry you had to suffer a broken gearbox in the process)!

I chose MCI not only for its academic merits but also for its alpine setting - let's say it was an "added bonus". During my childhood we have spent many a winter skiing in Tyrol and - whether it were the multiple trips to Mutters' "Hotel Seppl" (with its indoor swimming pool) and Alpbach's "Kolberhof" (with its charismatic host Gerda Moser) or the fancy one-time-stay at Hotel Post in upscale St. Anton am Arlberg (where i had the honour of sharing the dining table with the late world-class skier Ingemarg Stenmark) - i only have the fondest memories of all those trips! Later, in my mid-twenties, i picked up rockclimbing and discovered that the attraction of the Alps was not just limited to the cold season and  it dawned on me that Innsbuck - being a university town - was something like the Shangri-La for Austrian students with a serious interest in mountain & outdoor activities. Therefore, naturally when the opportunity to study in the heart of the Alps presented itself, i jumped at it!

Not only do i owe a great deal of that inspiration to my father (whose passion for skiing not only rubbed off on us, but also financed all those wonderful skiing holidays) but my mother also played an important role in this. Her being Hungarian, and my upbringing in both an Austrian & Hungarian cultural setting, enabled me to move into the Hungarian Student Dormitory in Innsbruck, arguably the most beautiful student dorm in Innsbruck! Its building - meanwhile a protected landmark - at the corner of Richard-Wagner-Strasse and Kaiserjägerstrasse had been donated to Hungarians fleeing their country during the 1956 Revolution and seeking refuge in Innsbruck. It was used first as a means of accomodation, then a school, and since the mid-60's as a student dorm. Just prior to moving here, Katrin and i took a weekend trip to Budapest and visited the "Terror House", a museum dedicated entirely to the dark side of the Hungarian Nazi & Communist regimes, so moving in here bore even more significance and felt like connecting with a Hungarian history & ancenstry that i had previously only caught glimpses of!

Not only is the Ungarnheim a beautiful building located in the most beautiful district of Innsbruck (called "Saggen", which is lined with mansion-type buildings, and only a 12-minute stroll from my university), but i also happen to inhabit its most beautiful room for the first semester here, a lofty 50 (!) square meter beauty with wooden parquet floor, high ceilings and 3 huge ornamented windows looking out onto the immuaculate lawn of our equally immaculate garden (you can see my 3 windows directly above the green arch on the picture above). The dorm features 18 rooms for students and is inhabited by some really nice folks (mostly with Hungarian background like me) who i am already forging friendships and practising my Hungarian with, usually by striking up a conversation in the common kitchen where i regularly get to meet the others. This is another important benefit of the dorm and the reason why i was so keen on getting a room here: i've been growing up with the Hungarian language and - difficult as it may be - it comes naturally to my tongue & ear, but my vocabulary is limited and my grammar knowledge rudimentary at best. For example, until my recent trip to Budapest i wasn't even aware that the Hungarian language posesses only 3 tenses (which is why some say jokingly that Hungarians - when conversing in a foreign language - find it difficult to get to the point), yet i've been using the language quite confidently for years! Besides practising my Hungarian i am also taking Spanish classes once a week at the university (starting at A2 level) so at the end of these 2 years i hope to be able to say that i am fluent in 4 languages.

University has started off well, and i like the MCI's approach which focuses on applied rather than just presented knowledge. We have a diverse mix of staff & students (including a brash young Aussie, 2 young doctors from Egypt & India, and an old physiotherapist from Vienna - guess who that is), and the instructional language is English, another reason i chose the MCI over other health-management programmes in Austria. The first week was spent almost entirely on creative and/or teambuilding exercises, and culminated with the extra-curricular task of preparing "the perfect dinner" for our faculty, a task that we completed quite successfully as you can see on following pictures. 


We were assigned a budget of 400 Euros for that task, so it was also a playful test of our management skills (i was part of the decorating team and promptly drove to IKEA Innsbruck, where i have taken up a part-time Saturday job at the cashout, to get some napkins and candles; the only department that eventually went over budget was the beverage department, which ended up in a crate of beer being stored in the trunk of my car for future use). 

Since then, lectures have come in blocks at our study programme: the second week's core subject was "Fundamentals of Management" with Professor Ole Berg from the university of Oslo (resulting in my first assignment, a 6-page essay titled "I as a Leader"). In the third week Barrie Dowdeswell from the UK (who also doubles as a mentor for graduates) took over with "Governance in Healthcare Institutions", and week 3 and 4 (both short weeks with 3 days each) are filled with "Research Methods", our introduction on how to research & write academic papers. I particularly enjoyed the speed-reading exercise last week, where we had to skim through 5 pretty long scientific articles on healthcare-related subjects in 60 minutes while extracting the essential information. Our assignment consists of  writing an academic paper (in teams of 3) on any subject of our choice until November 9, so that'll keep me busy over Halloween, which in my case will become "Hallo-Wien": i'm gonna seize some of those days off to visit my family & girlfriend back home for the first time, as well as teach a couple of yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Schottenring and catch a few movies at the Viennale - Vienna's largest film festival has been a fixture for the past 4 years, and i would've hated to entirely miss out on it!

Meanwhile, the peaks of the "Nordkette" (the impressive mountain ridge that rises up on the other side of the Inn river) are already covered by the first snow of the season, and i got a taste of that last Friday when i tried to hike up to Höttinger Alm in the afternoon, a little inn up at about 1.500 m elevation - about halfway up, staggering through waist-deep snow, i had to admit that wearing gaiters had been a good idea, but taking my snowshoes with me would've been an even better one! 

Without them, the going got tough and since it was already getting late i decided to turn around and retreat, but was offered a nice view of Innsbruck in return. I'm already making plans for another trip up there in November, and i'll make sure to strap on my snowshoes next time because...

"Winter is coming"!


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