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The Austrian Experience: “My Impressions”

The Summer Semester Collaborative Lab (SSCoLab) was held at the University of Applied Sciences FachHochschule Burgenland in Pinkafeld, Austria. It was organised by Dr. Eva Berkes and the FH Burgenland department of Energie-Umweltmanagement, together with Austrian professors Alfons Ankerl and Christian Wartha and from Strathmore University, Dr. Virginia Gichuru, Joy Goopio and Anthony Kiuna.


The ten students from Strathmore University who travelled to Austria together with the three lecturers to participate in SSCoLab were Alice Maina (BTM 4), Gladys Parsimei (BTM 3), George Thande (BTM 2), Antonina Obillo (BHM 4), Janeth Jepchumba (BHM 4), Sandra Mukidza (BHM 3), Anne Keru Munene (Actuarial 3), Robert Muigai (LLB 2), Elisha Bwatuti (BIF 4) and Gauthier Abdala (BBIT 4).

Each one of them had a story to tell, giving different perspectives – here are the excerpts:


Gladys relates her experience, “We had such a wonderful time in Austria, filled with phenomenal experiences. We made new friends, learned a little of Austrian culture and language, had excursions to touristic places in Burgenland and Vienna, enjoyed Austrian cuisine, and many more. It was also a platform to get to know and interact with students from different academic fields in Strathmore as we were from different schools.


We undertook the project work from the FH Burgenland University of Applied Sciences, which is based in the city of Pinkafeld. The students in the university were super warm and welcoming, making us feel at home and at ease within no time.


The Biomimicry project was and is all about nature inspired innovations, systems, processes, and ideas with an aim of being sustainable and eco-friendly in human operations. In our project we mainly dealt with water acquisition, treatment and purification, and supply systems. With inspiration from natural systems and ecosystems, we learned that human beings could come up with simple, efficient, and above all sustainable innovations and ideas. We learned that we can actually look out for Nature as a teacher and example in sustainable processes and operations.


To help us with our project work, we visited the Vienna main wastewater treatment plant. We also visited a habitat management project at the Lake Neusiedl were we did bird watching among others.”

Antonina adds on, “Visiting the Pannoneum School of Hospitality was a memorable and eye opening opportunity. The school was well equipped with the best facilities. The students must really enjoy coming to school every day. We were treated to a four-course meal and it was a proud moment to relate to all the steps of service as had been taught in our Food and Beverage Service classes. Their uniform was top notch.


My most memorable moment in Austria was at the Museum of Sound. The museum was one-of-a-kind; it was interactive where history was relayed in audio and video form. I am a singer and it was amazing to go through the classical music journey where the great composers, the likes of the Mozart and Beethoven, come alive as you go through the gallery of their life history and to see some of the actual instruments they used.”


Janet gives it a different twist, “In Pinkafeld, there is an ice cream shop that displays a huge range of exotic ice cream flavors. Everyone has their favorite ice cream flavor but none compared to this new flavor I tried. This cold, creamy and flavorful delicacy is a great treat after a very long day. It excites all senses for whoever tastes it. It is none other than good tasting, smooth, rich and creamy kiwi fruit ice cream.”


Robert writes his impressions, “When I first heard about the Biomimicry workshop, I never imagined how it would apply in my legal education let alone take me to Austria. But I must confess that every minute I put into the workshop paid off. Locally, it was really interesting to engage with the students from the different faculties in Strathmore and getting to know more about their courses other than the speculations flying around.


The second part of the workshop was something I will never forget. Experiencing a different culture was very interesting, especially the reaction of the Austrians after touching my afro. This workshop has taught me to look to nature for the answers we often search for in human beings. As an aspiring lawyer, I have been inspired to work to ensure that our legal system is just as systematic as the way nature functions. I cannot wait to share the knowledge gained with all my colleagues.”


Sandra’s impression, “I believe the entire experience was a great learning opportunity not only in terms of education but also in terms of culture. We all had to adapt to this culture that seemed so different from ours. We had to learn how to communicate, how to work as a team and also how to be European timers. The people of Austria have trained themselves to respect time such that 1pm is exactly 1pm and not 3 or 4 pm. That was one of the things I took with me from this experience – respecting time. The Austrian hospitality was wonderful! They were all very kind to us and willing to help us whenever we needed any assistance. For that we were all grateful.”


Alice adds, “Being in a new place or in a new culture, where the language and ideas are so different, sparks emotions unlike any I’ve ever felt before. It was a maturing moment, which was very surprising and very motivating. The program was incredibly effective and well-organized. I am really grateful to have participated in the program. It gave me a taste of the Austrian culture. I improved on my German conversation skills. Every day, I learnt something new; it would be a pleasure to have stayed longer. My world has significantly expanded; I formed more friendships and my perspective has widened. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that I greatly believe will have some influence in the course of my life in the years to come.”


Keru sums it up with, “It was one of the best experiences in my life. I learnt a new culture – Austrian – and it also gave me a new perspective in life to be a person of excellence and to be the best that you can ever be. It also made me understand when people talk about the difference between a First World and a Third World country, this is in terms of provision of quality water, enhanced security, environmental conservation, level of organization, architectural designs of their buildings, water and energy sustainability and high standards in both Amsterdam and Vienna Airport. It made me realize that for Kenya to achieve the Vision 2030, a lot has to be done. This is by thinking globally, people being the best they can be, always thinking how our actions today could affect future generations and acting in a way we want our country to remain beautiful, prosperous and still maintaining the key human values. Whether as a professional or student or any other citizen, we have to always think, are my actions making a better Kenya?


My gratitude goes to God, my Mentor, my Parents, FH Burgenland and Strathmore University for this opportunity and their support.”


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