‘You’re just trying to get a sentence out’

Kate Gaines is a 35-year-old clarinettist and music teacher from Kentucky, USA, who has been teaching at the Danube International School in Vienna for three years. She spoke to The Local about the challenges and joys of working abroad.

'You're just trying to get a sentence out'
Kate Gaines with Mozart.
Where were you living prior to Vienna and what brought you to Austria?
Prior to Vienna I lived in Greece, and before that I was living in the States, working in public schools. I wanted to travel and I realised the only way I could afford to do that was to work at an international school. So I got a job at an American school in Greece and worked there for two years, then got the job here in Vienna. I chose Vienna because it's the musical capital of the world.
Did you speak any German before you arrived and what level was required by your employer?
German isn't a requirement for my job whatsoever. It's completely English-speaking. I did two years of German in high school, but that hasn't benefited me very much at all. I've taken German classes since I got here and I'm up to B1 level, but I'm still struggling daily.
What do you find most challenging about living in a country where the first language isn't English?
I can speak a little German if I have to, but I can't get across what I'm really trying to say, the inflection that I could use in my native tongue. You can't be funny, you can't be emotional, you're just trying to get information out there. It's frustrating because you've never had to do that, you've always been able to have your personality behind everything you say and suddenly you're just trying to get a sentence out.
What are the most commonly asked questions when people hear that you're American?
Well, the first is not so much a question… When people find out that I'm from Kentucky, they always say, "Kentucky Fried Chicken". They just say it. Every time. And they're very proud of themselves for knowing it.
I get a lot of Obama questions. Do you like Obama? Did you vote for Obama? I get a lot of comments about war, which I totally understand. Not so much questions, I guess, but comments about it. We do, we go to war way too much, I know that.
What do you enjoy most about living in Vienna?
The ease of everything here. I feel spoilt, living here after Greece. I never have to stress that a bus is going to be late or that things will be closed for no reason. The water is clean, I know that the electricity is going to work and the internet here is super-fast. I can walk everywhere, instead of having to take a bus for half an hour. Maybe if it's really far away, but usually from my apartment I can walk most places. It's relaxing, it's a good feeling.
What do you miss most from home?
Living in the States, everything is open 24 hours a day, everything you need is in one store, you don't have to really work too hard to find anything. There are new inventions constantly – the newest gimmick, I'm a sucker for it. This holiday I bought a cup that has a snack-holder attached to it, because it's awesome. I don't need it, but it's exciting to buy it when you're home. If I lived there I wouldn't buy it, because I'd say "well, this is silly", but because I know I can't get it here, I get excited.
How has working in international schools changed you?
I'm not sure. Teaching children who have English as a second language, I've learnt to appreciate that maybe people don't always understand you so well. Kids pick it up quite quickly, but when they first come to school and they speak no English you see the frustration in their face and I have that same frustration when I'm in the grocery store trying to get 200 grams of beef to take home and I end up with 85 pounds of beef because I can't relay the information.
Children pick it up so fast though. A kid will arrive one day with no English and two weeks later will say "Miss Gaines, may I please go to the toilet?" with perfect fluency. They're so comfortable with it, it's amazing. It has made me wish that America would focus on teaching languages more. Everything in our country is English and Spanish so it's kind of ridiculous that most of us don't speak Spanish. Seeing kids that can speak five or six languages, the way they communicate is incredible. I wish that my country would embrace that a bit more.

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Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

If you are a doctor moving to Austria, there are a few legal requirements you need to follow before starting your medical practice. Here is what you should know.

Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

Medical doctors are in high demand all over the world, especially as the coronavirus pandemic showed us how much we are short-staffed in the health sector.

In Austria, it’s no different, and the federal government has already announced several measures to attract people to its health sector in the future.

READ ALSO: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

Among the measures are changes to its Red-White-Red residence permits, those that, for example, allow workers, including in shortage occupations, to immigrate to Austria on a work visa.

Things will get easier for many IT employees, engineers, and tourist sector workers, but in some sectors, including the health one, there are a few more hurdles before starting working.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

When it comes to medical activities, even European citizens who already have a right to live and work in Austria might need to go through a process to get their education certified and valid to start a medical practice in the country.

The process will depend primarily on where your training has taken place and what type of medical activity you intend on doing. All details can be found on the Austrian Medical Association (Österreische Ärztekammer).

General requirements for medical practice

In order to take up a medical practice in Austria, every physician (doctor, specialist, or general practitioner) needs to register with the Ärztekammer and meet the general legal requirements.

These include having full legal capacity concerning professional practice, good character and reputation required for fulfilling professional duties, fitness to practice needed for completing professional responsibilities, sufficient knowledge of the German language and legal residence giving access to the labour market.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

There are also specific requirements that need to be met depending on where your training took place.

Training took place within the EEA or in Switzerland

In this case, the process tends to be a bit easier, and you need to provide evidence of your basic medical training and any specific or specialist training you might have. For that, a diploma for medical study issued by an EEA member state of Switzerland will work.

You can check whether your documents are eligible for automatic recognition in Austria by emailing the Austrian Medical Association at [email protected].

Medical training outside the EEA (but recognised)

If you have had medical training outside of the EEA or Switzerland, but your training has been recognised by one of these states, the rules are also a bit different. You must show evidence of the medical activity and proof of its recognition.

Additionally, you must be authorised to independent medical practice in the country that recognised your education and has at least three years of actual and lawful professional experience in that country to have your training recognised through a non-automatic recognition of third country diplomas process.

You need to contact the International Affairs Team of the Austrian Medical Association ([email protected]) to get more information.

Medical training done in a third country

If you have completed your medical training in a third country and do not fulfil the requirements for a non-automatic recognition (above), you must first have your university degree recognised as equivalent by an Austrian university.

This process is known as Nostrifizierung.

In Austria, the Nostrifizierung procedure is done by the medical universities (Vienna, Graz or Innsbruck) with similar processes. In Vienna, you need to submit an application form, an education history for the comparison between the Curriculum taken and the one offered in Austria, and a possible “random test”.

Among the documents to be submitted in the application process is proof that you have a B2 level of German, a document from the Ärztekammer that you are required to go through the Nostrifizierung process and a confirmation that you paid the €150 fee. You can find a list of all documents you’ll need to submit here.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

The universities will then “investigate” if your education is equivalent to the one offered in Austria. The first step is a curriculum comparison (checking for both content and hours of classes), but they may also carry out a “random test” in some cases.

The test will be in German, but the participants selected will be allowed to use a language dictionary – the test results are only a part of the nostrification process and help the universities assess if the candidate’s training is equivalent to an Austrian one.

After you go through the recognition processes (Nostrifizierung), you can register with the Austrian Medical Chamber.

Registration with the Austrian Medical Association

Before starting medical practice in Austria, every person needs to register with the Austrian Medical Chamber. For this, they will need to send documents including proof of nationality, proof of lawful residence, a certificate of good standing from countries where they have practised medicine for more than six months within the last five years, a criminal record certificate, medical certificate (confirming physical and mental fitness to practice the medical profession) and more.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the Austrian healthcare system works

The application for registration has to be filed with the Austrian Medical Chamber.

The Medical Chamber of the respective province where you plan to exercise the medical profession is available to further assist with this. You can arrange a meeting with them to clarify general questions about the process.

Here you can find more information.