Meet Marissah Waggoner (she/her)

Program and Location:

Spring, WU: Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria


International Studies and Business Administration

Why did you choose to study abroad?

Before I started college I knew I wanted to have an international focus within my college education. The world is changing and becoming more global everyday. With this constant growth in globalization, I wanted to study abroad to better prepare myself for an international career. Outside of career growth, I am also very interested in travel, culture, and meeting new people. I knew that living in a different country for 5 months would be an amazing way to experience a different way of life and not only learn from people abroad and their life, but also be able to learn more about myself and my home.

What did you learn about yourself?

I think by going abroad I learned that I am capable of doing things that before seemed unrealistic. By putting myself outside of my comfort zone I became more self reliant, independent, and confident in my own capabilities. My study abroad program wasn’t a group program and there weren’t many NC State students at my university in Vienna, therefore I truly felt like I had to do a lot of independent navigation, which led to self confidence and self discovery. However, I did receive a lot of help and support from NC State and my host university, so I knew I was never truly on my own. From this experience, I have a new sense of self trust, knowledge, and preparation for when I leave NC State to start a career or for the next time I find myself in a new country or city.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

My favorite part about my program was the location and the people I met along the way. Vienna has been rated the world’s most livable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the 3rd time in the past 5 years. After living there for 5 months, I can confidently state that I agree 100% with that publication. Vienna is a beautiful and charming city, and was overall probably my favorite place I visited in Europe, even though I’m sure living there made me a bit biased. Vienna is also very centrally located in Europe. Therefore, during my time abroad I am fortunate to say that I visited 12 new countries during those 5 months. I was able to travel extensively and I really enjoyed the convenience. Not only did I love the city, but I love all the people I met from my university and from my travels. I built lasting relationships with people all over the world and was able to learn from them and share amazing experiences with them.

Were you surprised by anything during your time abroad?

There were definitely a lot of things I was surprised about. I was surprised by some of the cultural differences in different countries and the travel laws as well. So it’s important to check what you can/can’t travel with in each country. I was also surprised with how easy it was to travel without a car in Europe.

How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?

I feel like when I was in Austria, I had a lot more responsibility. There also wasn’t a lot of homework, it was more so you had classes and then your final. A lot of my professors also didn’t take attendance. Therefore, it was up to you to hold yourself accountable to get to class and remember that your final will make up most of your grade. Here in the US classes also start at the same time and end at the same time. However, I had classes that started and ended at very random times. I finished one class in March and then started a different one in April and ended it in June. This change in style required for me to stay self disciplined and organized, which I think was a good experience.

What was your experience with navigating COVID-19 abroad?

Covid-19 was definitely something I was worried about when going abroad. However, Vienna and my university had a lot of protocols in order that made me feel safe and more confident when traveling. I was lucky to get to Vienna when they had started lightening up on restrictions. When I first got to Vienna, masks were required everywhere, you couldn’t enter a building without showing your vaccine card, and if I wanted to go on any trips with my university I had to get tested before being approved. By the end of my exchange, all of these restrictions had been lifted, so I was there during a transitional period, with cases lessening, which I am lucky for. My only struggle was that in Europe people use QR codes instead of the paper Vaccine certificate here in the US. So I had some cases at more local spots where people thought I was faking my vaccine because I didn’t have a European QR code.

How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?

So as mentioned before, the world is a global place and it’s important to build those communication and competency skills. I study International Business and want a job where I get to travel and associate with different people on a reoccurring basis. So for me this was a great experience to prepare me for an international career.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

I think the best advice I have to future study abroad students is to really try to put yourself out there. Being in a new country with new people can be scary and you might want to stay in your room where you feel comfortable. However, it’s important to remember that you’re abroad to put yourself outside your comfort zone and have new experiences. So don’t be afraid to talk to new people or go to events. Everyone I met was so kind and were also looking to meet new people as well. I tried to stay out of my room as much as possible, and I’m glad I did this because I met so many amazing people and went on so many trips with these people.

Would you do it again?

I 100% would do it again. When I get my masters, I will make sure I go abroad again.