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How to become an art student at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

icon: the vienna viral mascot - a ghost with a colour board and a paint brush. Ghosty is now an art student at the academy of fine arts vienna

The old lady wished me good luck for my entrance exam at the Academy of Fine Arts when I left the subway station. With my huge backpack, parts of my easel sticking out, and two canvases under my arms, I was well prepared for the exam.

While dragging my whole art equipment through half of the city, people were giving me funny looks. But those who figured out that my strange appearance must be due to an art exam, cheered me on.  By the time I arrived at the front door of the building, where my entrance exam was going to take place, some 10 random strangers had wished me the best luck. With this encouragement by the beautiful Viennese people, I felt ready for whatever task might come.

Please, let me be better than Hitler

Three months before I arrived at the art academy, I started the whole admission process by applying to one of the approximately 15 art classes. By doing so I had to submit a portfolio with samples of my artworks as well. There was no need for a CV, no questions about one’s gender, race, or religion. All that mattered from that moment on was your art and your art only. So firstly, the portfolio needed to be accepted by the committee.

Only if you overcome this first obstacle, you will be invited to a five-day admission exam at the Academy of Fine Arts.

Once I submitted my portfolio, there was nothing left to do but wait. And so, I did some research. The first thing I found out was that I had just applied to the art academy where Adolf Hitler failed to get in. Twice.

As you can imagine, I freaked out. What if I failed? Would I write a book? Would I engage in a political party? Would I then start World War 3?

Yes, I was completely overthinking. And it didn’t help that statistics were not on my side.

Statistically it is highly likely to fail the admission procedure at your first try, so there was a roughly 10 percent chance to be accepted as an art student at the Academy of Fine Arts. Which means that out of approximately 1500 applicants, only 100 out of 150 would get in.

I figured that there was little to no chance that I would pass the portfolio examination.

When I was about to give up, the invitation arrived.

icon: an enphelope

A hall filled with talents

I was full of confidence when I arrived at the front door of the building where my exam was going to take place. But when I entered the examination hall, my confidence was suddenly gone. Standing in the middle of the room with some 200 other applicants, all looking cool and very unimpressed by the situation, I felt small again.

After some minutes of waiting and awkwardly standing around, the secretary entered the room with some instructions.

»Please grab your portfolio, find a spot to work, and then work!«

Nervously I started painting. I had no idea what was going to happen in the following days. So, I tried to make myself comfortable and concentrate on my artworks only.

After a couple of hours, I noticed that other applicants were strolling around, some of them eating. I then realized that it was already past midday, and my stomach was screaming for lunch. Not knowing where to go for lunch I decided to have a look at what other artists were doing first.

I could not believe my eyes. It was incredible what other applicants accomplished in just three hours. I was overwhelmed and felt an utmost respect for all the young talents in the room.

While wandering around admiring those strangers’ artworks my stress level rose. How could I even compete with the huge amount of talented young artists in the room?

In the same boat

I went back to my working space after lunch and continued painting. I tried to be focused and not be distracted by all the other artists in the room. After a while I noticed that someone was standing behind my back, watching me paint. I didn’t know how long the girl had been standing there already, and a bit surprised, I turned to her and said hello. But she kept starring at my paintings, which were still in progress. So, I asked her opinion on them. Her words made me realize that we were all feeling the same way about the exam. She said: “You’re all doing such an amazing job! I don’t see how I possibly could get in.”

I told her that I had exactly the same thoughts. Talking to her about the pressure we all were under calmed me down. It was kind of uplifting knowing that others felt the same way as I did. We were all in the same situation, in the same room and in the same boat after all.

icon: a boat with two people in it

Chocolate chip cookies

As I arrived at the examination hall on the second day, a list was hanging on the front door. It was a list with the interview schedule. All applicants were going to be interviewed by the professors of the classes they had applied for.

During the second day, the artworks created on day 1 were going to be examined by the committee. So, I had to carry my oil paintings, which were still wet, downstairs to the interview room. Since I was the first one to be interviewed after lunch break, there was no one else in the waiting room but me. Standing there alone, waiting for my turn to be interviewed with my portfolio and two huge canvases, I was extremely nervous again.

As the assistant professor showed up, she invited me into the interview room, and I was so nervous; I could barely move or talk.

She reached into her bag and took out the most wonderful package of chocolate chip cookies I had ever seen. Then she turned to me and offered me that sweet deliciousness. The moment was magical: She was like Mary Poppins having the most amazing things appearing in her bag and with a single cookie she made my anxiety vanish. While waiting for my interview to begin, we didn’t talk about art at all. Instead, we chatted about why chocolate chip cookies are the best and Danish cookies win second place.

By the time the other professors arrived I had no reason to be nervous anymore, because I had just made a new friend.

icon: mary poppins

Was my name in the list?

By day 3 I was calm and even started enjoying the situation. When and where else do you have the chance to talk to so many amazing artists at a time? The atmosphere had changed completely comparing to the first day of the exam. Instead of lonely artists nervously strolling around, there were groups of people joyfully chatting and exchanging experiences.

The fourth day was just a formal act. After waiting and sitting around for long hours, I was called into the exam room, where a committee of approximately 20 professors had gathered. I was offered a seat on the only spare chair standing in the middle of the room.

»Thank you for waiting. We’ve made our decision about your admission. If you don’t have any further questions, we wish you good luck.«

On day 5, result day, I had a breakfast date with some new friends I had met during the exam. Together, we approached the Academy of fine Arts, where a list of all the accepted new students was waiting for us. Excitedly, we started searching the list for our names.

And then, there it was! My heart felt so light when I read my name on the list.

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