‘Growing up abroad – I feel international’

Mary Röttig was born in Bangladesh and adopted by an Austrian couple as a baby. She grew up in London and lived in New York and Texas before moving to Vienna where she set up a bilingual Montessori-inspired preschool and nursery.

'Growing up abroad - I feel international'
Mary and her two children. Photo: Private

She spoke to The Local about her passion for working with children and what she loves about life in the capital.

What was your inspiration for setting up a bilingual Montessori Kindergarten?

I studied child psychology in London and I wanted to become a child psychotherapist – but I was told that I needed practical experience with children, which I didn’t have then. Someone recommended the Montessori method – so I studied at the Montessori Institute in Hampstead – and I fell in love with it. It really showed me how you can help children become independent and self-sufficient at a very early age. Children have such enormous potential and Maria Montessori (who founded the method) saw that children have an innate desire to learn and explore and that they are naturally creative and active – they never get tired of learning new things.

At Children's Academy we provide them with a learning environment to support the phases they are going through. When they are very small, 2 years old, they experience the ‘language explosion’. We support this with singing and learning rhymes and they master it with very little effort. They are like big sponges that absorb everything around them!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Children relate to me very easily – I can get down on their level but at the same time I’m a figure of authority. I just have genuine love for children and they sense that. Everything I do with children is spontaneous and I really enjoy that. When you read them a story and are able to hold their attention, and they sit and listen with awe – that’s a wonderful thing. Singing and dancing also comes naturally to me! I studied tap dancing and drama in New York.

What do you love most about life in Vienna?

I came here to be closer to my family and I really love that it’s very clean and safe. I do miss living in an English-speaking country but my job means that I can speak English every day – we teach in German and English and my team is international. I don’t feel Austrian, even though my parents are Austrian, because I grew up abroad. I feel like I’m a bit of everything, without being attached to one country. But Vienna is becoming more international and open – I feel so comfortable here now. I try to bring the traditions of America and England alive for the children – so we celebrate events such as Halloween, which the children love.

Does it give children a real advantage to learn English before they start school?

Yes, definitely – back to the sponge idea – they just absorb it. We’re not teaching English from a book, it’s through everyday instructions and activities. They learn new vocabulary every day, naturally, just by living it and they process that and pick up the natural rhythm of the language. Parents are often shocked when their children start speaking perfect English. If a child starts with us aged two, and is with us for four years, I can guarantee that they leave speaking German and English fluently.

What are the challenges of your job?

Just maintaining the energy you need to keep the children busy and coming up with new activities that they find absorbing and engaging. They start at 8am and finish at 4pm. I really try and find things for each child, that captures his or her imagination. We make them healthy, fresh food every day. You do have to be patient and stay calm – and that’s something you learn over time. But I’ve been teaching children for 20 years now. We have two groups, a nursery group of 1.5 to 3.5 year olds and a preschool group for 3.5 to six year olds, with a maximum of 14 in each group. It’s very international and we prepare the older children for starting school with our special Preschool Plus Program. But I’m very lucky to have a team who are passionate about this work, it’s not just a job for them, it’s their calling.  

Children’s Academy is based in Vienna’s 3rd district, not far from Stadtpark. Click here to find out more from their website.

For members


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.