Austria has everything. From its historic cities — sophisticated Vienna and charming Salzburg — to the stunning mountain vistas of Innsbruck and Tirol. Its citizens are known for Gemutlichkeit, their characteristic way of enjoying life, including art, music, and a world-famous coffeehouse scene. They’re also passionate about sports and enjoy skiing year-round.
AFS programs in Austria are challenging but fulfilling. You’ll improve your German language skills while living with a host family and attending a local high school. Going to high school in Austria for a semester or a year will be a unique and demanding experience.
Your local chapter may organize get-togethers for AFS students or excursions to other cities or regions in Austria. Also, over the course of the program, AFS staff and volunteers will hold orientations and evaluate your experience to help with your cultural adjustment.
The official language of Austria is High German, although each region also has its own dialect. Other languages spoken are Turkish, Serbian, Slovene, Croatian, and Hungarian.
In order to have a successful AFS experience in Austria, you will need to have a working knowledge of German at the time you enter the country. As a demonstration of your commitment to language learning, we ask that you acquire at least a basic level of German before leaving Austria.
To help you with the language requirement, AFS Austria organizes and monitors your participation in an online Rosetta Stone language course. You will study independently with the aid of this program prior to departure and while on the program. Upon program acceptance, AFS Austria will email you registration and login instructions.
Host Family & Community
You could be placed anywhere in the beautiful country of Austria. While you could be placed in urban or rural areas, most host families live in suburban areas. It’s possible that you’ll have the opportunity to stay with several host families during your time in Austria and experience different parts of the country.
Host families in Austria, like all AFS host families worldwide, are volunteers and are not paid. They open their homes to students in order to share their community and culture as well as to enrich their own family lives.
Austrians love to learn. They especially enjoy informal conversations about current affairs. Austrians value the environment, cleanliness, good manners, and punctuality.
As Mozart’s homeland, music is highly appreciated, and many people play music or attend concerts. Austrians love the outdoors and sports, and taking walks is a national pastime. Soccer is the favorite sport, although winter sports obviously have an important role.
Although about a fifth of the Austrian population is in Vienna, most live in rural (50%) or suburban (30%) communities. In these towns, families are traditional in their ways; a relatively patriarchal and authoritarian family structure is common. Nevertheless, Austrians are known to be highly open-minded and innovative people.
Teenagers enjoy visiting each other’s houses, relaxing and chatting in the beautiful local cafes, watching movies and going out to dance clubs. Outside of school, students have a good amount of free time (although a big chunk of it is dedicated to homework). Most of this time is dedicated to family and after school activities.
Austrians love rich food and drink, so you will surely encounter some tasty treats while on the program. Austrians have a rich and varied cuisine; meals generally consist of soup, meat (often pork) with potatoes, salad, vegetables and dessert. Other favorites include sausages, sandwiches, pastries (like strudel), eggs, many different kinds of cheese, and apples.
Austrian families generally enjoy eating together. Snacking or raiding the refrigerator is not commonly done.
Although Austrians enjoy meat, vegetarian options are often available, and vegetarians get along easily in Austria.
Most students hosted in Austria attend traditional public Austrian High Schools which prepare students for university studies.
School generally starts around 8:00AM and goes until 2:00PM, or on some days until 4:00 or 5:00PM. Some schools have Saturday morning classes as well, in which case the hours are different during the week. You will attend between six and eight classes per day, depending on what extra-curricular classes you choose.
Students are usually placed in year 10 or 11 with classmates who are 16 and 17 years old. The year in which you are placed depends partially upon German knowledge.
In addition to the orientations that you will participate in domestically (the local Pre-Departure Orientation, Culture Trek, and the Gateway Orientation), you and your fellow AFSers will have several orientations while abroad.
These required orientations are intended to help you maximize the AFS experience, reduce culture shock and to gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding.
In addition to the orientations, many local chapters organize activities for students and host families throughout the year. These will vary from chapter to chapter but may include parties or excursions to other cities or regions in Austria. Unlike the orientations, these activities are optional and are not included in the tuition.