No electrical outlets meant no wifi in my room and the need to hunt down a power source to recharge my techno-trash: laptop, phone, computer. I camped out in the floor Clubraum from 9 am until noon.
From the size of Priesterseminar, the impressive repetition of windows and doors, the density of rooms per floor, I expected that several dozen of people were inhabiting each floor and sharing the kitchen. The first other inhabitants, Daniel, an electrical engineering student came in. I introduced myself to him. We chatted a few moments; he went about making his breakfast and left. A little while later Emilia entered; a physics student, first year. I introduced myself and she ate and chatted with me and then left. In the afternoon a Zihua entered with the gaze of a person either lost or exploring his surroundings, I introduced myself. He is also an artist in residence, based in Canada. He left to further explore. An hour later Abraham entered; I introduced myself. He was eager for conversation and we chatted at length before he went about preparing his food, at which point I wondered how much of this introductory exchange was motivated by myself and whether the students would take the initiative to introduce themself if I did not make a motion. So for the next three hours I worked at the table and simply said 'Hallo' when people entered, if they said 'hallo' to me, but none, not one, made took the initiative to introduce him or herself. I was curious of how the inhabitants of this shared space behaved by default. Not only did the students not converse much with me, but the commingling between those who were in the kitchen at the same time was very limited. It's hard to determine how much of this seemingly reserved shared disposition is due to the individuals who live here, the nature of Priesterseminar–it being architecturally and scholastically emphasizing solitude, being culturally stereotypical, or a function of kids nowadays preferring to eat their food in front of youtube rather than hangout in a shared kitchen together. But in the end, very few–less than a dozen–students came into the clubraum, which confused me.
Abraham offered to give a tour of Priesterseminar. He showed me the laundry room, translated the operating instructions, and etiquette which directed the separation of the students who lived in one part of the building and the seminary students who lived in the other, and which parts of the drying room were reserved for which students. He showed me the fitnessstudio, which was a disappoint for me, since I had arrived to Graz with the knowledge that Arnold Schwarzenegger had grew up in the area. Most of equipment appeared to be from the 1990s, or even 1980s, and much in pretty bad shaped. The room was pretty disorganized, with several machines inaccessible and/or obstructing the use of other equipment. Several machines I had no idea how to operate or what benefit is to be extracted from using the machine. The bright side is that it's free and seldom used.
The bike storage was profoundly well organized. Each bike has a given parking spot, marked with a number, and vertically maintained with a wheel brace. Notably, the bikes were quite dated and appeared in bad shape, but I've since learned most are functionally sufficient.
The last stop of the tour is the Gemeinschaftraum, or socializing/party-room. As Abraham explained it, it's where people can come or reserve a time to let loose. At first glance it looks like the basement den of a fraternity house. Aged leather couches slumping from use; multiple coffee tables aligned for the purpose of stowing beer between swigs but almost impossible to circumambulate; a foosball table; dart board; a bar that separates a sort of drink-staging/kitchenette area, but not intended to seat guests; a refrigerator stocked with beer; a piggy bank to receive the suggested donation of €1/beer; and a room with a television, another couch, shopping cart believed to be used for beer runs, and a tree stump that looks as if some hand-sawing competition was performed on it.
I'm a horrible foosball player, but my suggestion to play was to terminate the idling conversation with Abraham, and we began a longer debate about freewill, politics to the culture of Austrians. Abraham works as a math researcher; he's from Mexico and speaks perfect English with a German accent. He has an interesting perspective not only because being from Mexico at a time when Trump and US relations are particularly bad, but also because he shares a distrust for the media and American society. Specifically, he mentioned that he had the opportunity to study in the US but made the decision to come to Europe because he "didn't want to be part of that kind of society." Some of the elements of America that he particularly dislikes are the absence of a social safety net, environmental degradation and vapid consumerism.
Abraham's selection of topics personally resonated with me because they were so closely echoing things I heard and thought about when I lived in Spain 15 years ago. Under the Bush administration, European criticism of the US was at an all time high, particularly a critique of unilateral military action. But the conversation with Abraham was different than the discussions I had with Catalans over a decade ago, in part because I now felt compelled to dispel some of the myths that people have about the United States. For example, his claim that there is no social safety net in the U.S. is simply not true: I was happy to concede that many European countries may have more, and that the benefits in the U.S. vary by state, but there are programs, which included subsidized housing and free healthcare for low income and elderly. Not only did Abraham have misinformation about American unemployment benefits, but he had misinformation about European or Austrian unemployment benefits. He believed the benefits for the unemployed were perpetual, limitless. In fact, in NYS, a person is entitled to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits; in Austria 20 weeks. I assume there are more nuances and limitations between each system, and I'm not certain that NYS offers better benefits overall (I'd be surprised if that's the case), but the fact there is such a prevalent misconception is curious. It may be that benefits are less stigmatized, or more easily accessible in many European countries than in many American states. But what's most interesting to me is that the European perception is still focused toward America, and not comparative to China, Russia, Brazil, Australia or even Canada.
Abraham stated that between Hilary and Trump he would have chosen Trump because he thought that Trump would cause the system to collapse more quickly. I wonder if he meant this as pure provocation, or if he simply does not understand the level of irresponsibility in his preference. I responded to his comment with a long-winded, historical romp from the fall of the Hapsburg empire, American imperialism, the White Man's burden, the shift in post-colonial studies to the One Belt initiative in China. I probably should have asked whether he was comfortable with people dying in order to collapse the system that he despises.
 "Amount and Duration of Benefits," NOLO
 "Unemployment Benefits in Austria," A-Kasser