Vienna coffeehouses, Mozart and art: Finance student discovers culture while developing international business skills on co-op in Austria  

interior of a cafe in Vienna, Austria
Café Sperl, Gumpendorfer Straße 11, Vienna, Austria, Europe (Lucas Vallecillos / VWPics via AP Images)

He’s moved from Switzerland to New Jersey, back to Switzerland, to Texas, and then to Northeastern’s Boston campus. 

But Moritz Proell had never lived in the country where he shared citizenship, until now that he’s on co-op at a logistics company in Vienna, Austria.

“I’m actually an Austrian citizen, but I’ve never lived here before, so I wanted to connect a little more to my heritage and the country my parents are from,” Proell says. “As well as the fact that I’m getting amazing opportunities here.”

Moritz Proell with Bogdan Negru, head of Marketing at Unitcargo. Courtesy Photo
Moritz Proell with Bogdan Negru, head of Marketing at Unitcargo. Courtesy Photo

Proell is working in finance for quality assurance at Unitcargo, an international transport company that operates from the Scandinavian countries to the Balkans. It is a position perfectly suited for the rising third-year student, who is pursuing a combined major in international business and international affairs with a concentration in finance. 

“I would very much like to further explore companies and problems on an international scale, and work with various people from various cultures because that is very interesting to me,” Proell says. “Where I would see myself in the future is working for a U.S. firm that focuses on a global market or at a firm abroad, where I can implement the various experience and skills I’ve gotten, because I think I have a unique perspective from working and living in the U.S. as well as in Europe.”

Plus, conducting his co-op interview in German — his family speaks the language at home — gave Proell “a little home-field advantage.”  

“It’s always opened up another window into another cultural world,” Proell says. “Without the language, you can’t understand the culture and the intricacies of that culture. That makes me the most Austrian of anything; it allowed me to stay so connected to Austria.”

That connection has only been strengthened by Vienna’s cultural life.

“There is a world-class culture and arts scene here: everything from the music to the art pieces and the history of the Holy Roman Empire, it is incredibly rich and it still lives through the city,” Proell says. “You have coffeehouses, you have Mozart — it’s almost like a historical zoo, and I think that is really cool, and it comes with world-class public transportation and infrastructure: it’s a green city that really wants to be carbon neutral. It’s an entirely different world to live in and experience.”

Indeed, the Viennese coffeehouse scene, in particular, is very different from what one is accustomed to in Boston.

“You don’t taste sugar in their coffee,” Proell says. “There’s no Dunks; Starbucks is awful. The Viennese definitely have coffeehouse culture down.”

Not that there haven’t been challenges.

“One doesn’t simply make friends when going on a co-op abroad; it’s a process — meeting Viennese or Austrian people, it’s very difficult,” Proell says. “There are definitely moments of drinking coffee by oneself.” 

But Proell has relied on his affinity for board games, and continued to play soccer and rock climb as he does at Northeastern.

And in the meantime, there’s always something new to see … even in a place that feels — in many ways — like home. 

“There’s so much to learn, so much to see, both from the personal development standpoint and from the professional standpoint that one would simply not get in the U.S.,” Proell says. “My passion has always been to go abroad, I think there’s so much to explore in the world, and I would love to go on and explore other cultures.”

Cyrus Moulton is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter@MoultonCyrus.