Vice President of the Austrian National Board at AIESEC, Buse Özgöde tells us how international education changed her perspective – and the direction of her career

She’d probably never admit this, but when life gives Buse Özgöde lemons, she doesn’t simply make lemonade, she checks back for sweeter options. Denied the option to study near home, she took an educational journey across Europe and settled in Vienna. Here the 25-year-old combines her architecture training with work at AIESEC, a student program for developing leadership potential and professional training.

After studying at the same school for 12 years in her hometown of Eskişehir, in northwestern Turkey, felt she needed a change of scene. “I wanted to study in Istanbul and had known that I wanted to be an architect since I was about 11 years old.” So she signed up for a gap year with the high-school exchange program AFS (American Field Service) in Finland.

As luck would have it, while she was stretching her international legs, a Turkish friend living in Vienna inspired her to look into options for studying architecture here. Alongside learning Finnish and improving her English, she began studying German, in preparation for the language exam for the Vienna Technical University (TU). “Honestly, until Finland, I hadn’t really challenged myself a day in my life, ” Özgöde admitted.

Arriving in Vienna in 2011, she blazed through the remaining language course requirement in only six months and immersed herself in her studies.  Still, she felt isolated; with a small circle of Turkish friends, she wasn’t getting the international experience she had so enjoyed in Finland.

Then she heard about the student organization AIESEC. She signed up for an information evening at the Vienna School of Economics and Business (WU). Founded in 1948, AIESEC is an international not-for-profit association dedicated to building leadership skills among students around the world, connecting them to cross-cultural global internship and volunteer exchange opportunities world wide. She was immediately intrigued. She applied that day and was accepted.

In the beginning, she worked as a volunteer buddy for an intern from India, serving as the local who could show her around and help her get her footing – a central part of the AIESEC concept.  After two terms, she became a team leader.

“I found that the more I had to do, the more organized I became.” Her output at university, which had hit a lull, began to pick up again. “If I hadn’t had AIESEC in my life I wouldn’t have been able to pass those courses,” she said.

In her position as vice president for the National Board she is now supporting herself for the first time. She has even redirected her plans for her degree. “I was always thinking about how I can combine what I do at AIESEC with architecture” – to combine her professional skills with social responsibility. Her plan: to go to a developing country and to work with NGOs to build schools.

But first, here in Vienna, she’s taking in all the inspiration she can. She’s lived in the 5th, the 22nd and now in the 12th district, but when if comes to her free time, she’s in love with Neubau. “I like walking around in the seventh and admiring the old buildings. I have friends with apartments here, and I love the lofts and high ceilings.”

Where to find Buse Özgöde in October

Ulrich

This Spittelberg staple is one of Özgöde’s favorite places. She comes for the organic ingredients and the design. She’s a sucker for pastel color schemes.

Pure Living Bakery

Some cafés seem like they’ve been supplanted from another place entirely. This surfer-theme, seashell laden, establishment looks like it’s been constructed from driftwood, with what looks like personal photos of beaches lining the walls. She also likes the coffee, snacks and ice cream.

Dachboden at 25hours Hotel

Taking the lift all the way to the roof is part of the experience. Özgöde loves the design of the entire 25hours Hotel and chooses the Dachboden bar for sundowner drinks with her friends.

Vienna Woods

This fall she’s looking forward to hiking with friends in the Wienerwald, especially the Eichenhain Nature Park, a dramatic ravine alive with streams and waterfalls. “I’ve never really had the chance to do much outside of the city and I’m really looking forward to the nature and fresh air.”

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Margaret Childs is the CEO and Publisher of Metropole. Originally from New York, Vienna has been her home town since high school. She is a board member of AustrianStartups and actively supports entrepreneurs in their internationalization efforts. She is known for loving Vienna passionately, talking too fast and inhaling coffee like there's no tomorrow. She tweets @mtmchildsPhoto: Michèle Pauty