By: Pauliina Linden
Mozart. Salzburg. Coldness. Snow. Beer. These are the things that many UPRM students name when they think about Austria, and all of these are correct. However, Austria is a lot more than just these things, but because it is far away in the heart of Europe, many people in the United States are not that interested in it. After all, with population of only 8,400,000, Austria is a pretty small country. Why would we even have to know a lot about it?
Barbara Koinegg, a 25-year-old exchange student from Linz, Austria, has the answer: “I have travelled a lot and in all of the places I’ve visited there are people who think about kangaroos when I say that I’m from Austria. It’s amazing how many people confuse Austria with Australia, although the two countries are completely different.”
After a quick look on Country Reports it become s evident that the two countries could not be more different. While Austria, with its surface area of 83,871 km², is located in the mountainous Central Europe without coasts, Australia is an island in the Pacific with the surface area of 7,686,850 km². Austria is known for the Alps and the substantial forests whereas Australia has the Great Barrier Reefs and savannahs that continue as far as the eye can reach. For many people this information about Australia goes without saying, but the same knowledge of Austria is almost non-existent. So when Barbara was offered an opportunity to raise the knowledge of her home country, she immediately got interested.
With the help of UPRM marketing students, Barbara was able to organize an event related to Austria on the March 12, 2012. At 7 p.m., Huella Colegial, a student-led cafeteria in the center of Mayagüez, started filling with students who were interested in learning more about Austria and Barbara gave a 40-minute presentation about the country.
Although the presentation was very informative and all-encompassing, the atmosphere at Huella remained relaxed and open. Barbara was able to present facts in a humorous way, time to time bringing about loud bursts of laughter that echoed in the cafeteria. The audience stayed seemingly interested the whole time.
Linda Kuisma, a tourist that was cajoled into attending the event by one of the organizers, was one of the visitors asking questions with curiosity. “I really got interested in visiting Austria during the presentation and I learned things I had never heard about before. Barbara was able to catch the audience’s attention right from the beginning and keep it until the end,” she said once the presentation was over.
After the presentation, the audience was happily surprised as the air filled with the delicious smell of traditional Austrian food. The personnel of Huella served Kartoffelsuppe and Palatschinken for the visitors, and judging from the looks on the visitors’ faces, everyone liked the food. “Now I want to travel there even more,” Linda Kuisma said laughing after finishing her second plate of the food.
The audience could also buy typical Austrian chocolate, Mozartkugeln, in the event. According to the official webpage of Mozartkugeln, these round chocolate confections are probably the most famous sweets from Austria. When first produced at the end of the 19th century, only one confectionary, Cafe-Konditorei Fürst in Salzburg, knew the recipe. These days, numerous factories in Austria produce them and the manufacturing process has changed from manual process to industrial method. However, the original recipe is still appreciated and Mozartkugeln have maintained their distinct taste that appeals to crowds all over the world.
“This is how sweet life is in Austria,” Barbara said smiling when people were lining up to buy the chocolate. “I hope I was able to increase the knowledge of my wonderful home country with this event, at least a little.”