Boy was there egg on my face. I had spent my first three months in Vienna assuring my new friends that there was no way in hell Donald Trump would be elected president. On election night I lay awake until 5am, perpetually refreshing the newsfeed on my phone, only falling into a fitful sleep when it looked as if I had been wrong. I awoke to find that I certainly had been wrong. That morning I bumped into a [French] roommate on my way to make coffee. As we made eye contact he burst out laughing and I burst into tears. He thought I was kidding. He assured me that in France their president was also a “clown” and that it was only an election. He had no conception of the U.S. Presidency holding any weight internationally. Such is the pinnacle of idiotic bliss. We should all be so lucky.
The day after the election most of my classmates were tactful enough not to mention the results to me, but then again I didn’t know any of them all that well. My close friends from Paris where I lived for two years before coming to Vienna sent me condolence emails, something that I had not been expecting. I didn’t receive just one or two but nearly 10. Another friend, upon seeing me, without saying a word, gave me a very long, silent hug. They behaved as if I were in mourning.
It was a hot topic at the Green party headquarters the evening of the Austrian elections, where I accidentally found myself in attendance at the official Van der Bellen victory party. My still burgeoning grasp of the German language forces me to confess to being an American quite early on in any conversation which is a regrettably perfect segue into discussing Trump. “Did you vote for him?” people asked me. At first I was offended but I soon realized that they weren’t asking because they thought I seemed like I shared the same ideals as our President Elect, but rather because they were so baffled as to why anybody would vote for this man and they were hoping I might explain it to them. As it turned out we were mutually perplexed. Ultimately, however, all anybody expressed was relief that the Austrians had defied the politically conservative trend sweeping the Western world. I understood their relief but all I could feel was jealousy.
After graduating from Smith in 2014, Sophia Wise received a fellowship to study at the Ecole Normale Supereure in Paris. She remained abroad and is currently completing her Master’s degree from the Sorbonne with an exchange year at the University of Vienna. She will begin law school in the fall of 2017.by