by Elisabeth Clemmons, Alumni Scholarship Recipient and MA student in the Department of Public Policy
[Ed. note: this article was written prior to the reintroduction of stricter COVID measures and the move to online teaching.]
I first drove past CEU last year in a car. Seeing Vienna from a car is already a different experience itself, but CEU's Quellenstraße campus left an impression on me. With its tall glass windows and stern blue facade, I thought about how majestic, how modern it appeared - imposing and regal as it looked over the bustling streets of Favoriten.
"Is this really a university?" I asked.
As it turns out, the Quellenstraße building that temporarily houses CEU was formerly an Austrian bank. This is why it seems so high-tech.
At the time, the building was mostly empty. Cafe Estratto had yet to open, so the window front of CEU was devoid of the sights of studious individuals drinking coffee, of circles of friends chatting and eating pastries. There were no crowds gathered outside the entrance, either - a familiar sight today.
This was because Vienna was still in lockdown at the time. Save for a few spare individuals coming in and out, everyone was at home. Looking at the glimmer on the glass and the flags shivering in the wind, it all seemed like a resting giant, a slumbering dragon. As if it were waiting to be awoken.
Little did I know I'd be at CEU about a year later. When I saw CEU in September, I rolled in on the tram. This time, the flags were billowing and a lively crowd of students were gathered around the entrance. When you peeked through the front windows, you could see glittering lights, tables, and a counter display of pastries - CEU's brand new cafe.
When you enter CEU, you're immediately met with a bustling lobby area. There's a mirror at the very end of the hall next to the staircase, and the walls are papered with decorations, posters, and inspirational quotes.
I swiped my card through the turnstiles and made my way towards the staircase. On the way, I caught a glimpse of myself and the other students in the mirror. When they said "see you at CEU," they meant it literally. I'm really a student here, I thought.
What most struck me was being greeted by a friendly face. A student was going the other way. Our eyes met and she smiled beneath her mask. "Hello," she said.
"Hi," I replied.
Somehow the simple, friendly greeting was encouraging. I walked upstairs and went inside the classroom, ready to begin the year with a positive step forward.