Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

My semester abroad at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz saw the completion of my Bachelor of Arts. My Arts degree allowed me to achieve greater freedom and diversity of subjects. As a result, I was able to enhance my Austrian experience by studying the German language, the history of Austria and German culture, which not only enriched my knowledge of the country I was living in but allowed me to take class with my friends and meet people from all around the globe.

The system in Graz is completely different to UQ and it’s worth being prepared for. Instead of a set structure of lecture and tutorial, Graz has three different categories of classes: VOs (lectures), pro-seminars and seminars, all worth a different number of ECTS credits (you need to complete 30 ECTS). Lectures are once per week and instead of having to register for the class you only register for the final exam, so in essence you can sign up for any exams you want even if you never attended that class. If you fail, you can choose for it to not go on your transcript; if you pass, you get the credits, so a lot of people take a load of exams to ensure they achieve their required credits. Pro-seminars and seminars are participation based and have regular small homework assignments and tasks, but smaller assignments compared to the two or three large ones you might get at UQ. These classes however have a difficult registration system. There is a certain number allowed in the course and it is competitive. You go on a waiting list and find out in the first few weeks of class whether you get into the course. As a result most students sign up for far too many courses to ensure they end up with enough courses to fulfil their ECTS requirements. As an exchange student they take your requests into account, but be prepared to not get into all the subjects you want. On the other hand, I enjoyed the more personal approach to subjects. The workload, although very regular, was not difficult and allowed for lots of time to travel and enjoy my time in Europe. If you study German I recommend Deutsch Sprach und Kultur, which is designed for exchange students. Creative Writing is a fun subject for English speakers and History of Austria, although taught in German, offers an English exam for exchange students and I found it very interesting to see how Austria fit in to all the big moments in history.

I would highly recommend taking a German intensive course at Treffpunkt Sprachen prior to your semester. The 3-week course is worth 6 ECTS and runs 9-12 from Monday to Friday. It costs about 100 euro but they are small classes full of people just like you, all new to Graz and wanting to make friends. The course is the perfect way to get used to life in Graz and make valuable friendships. Seeing them every morning before going to grab lunch at the Mensa and a few beers at night I quickly formed friendship groups that stayed together until the day I left and much longer after that. My new friends ended our course with a weekend trip to Budapest, and a few months later we road tripped to Croatia to stay at one of the girl’s family homes in what was one of the greatest weekends of my life. Graz itself is the perfect city for an exchange. With three universities, half the city and 1/3 of the population are students. Weaved in between bars and dorms it’s the perfect place to combine study and fun. The university regularly hosts parties and festivals. Middle of exams? Must be time for a free Uni Fest in Graz! The ESN group also has great events every week and are a fun group of people so I recommend signing up and keeping in touch. I went on things such as a brewery tour and the summer trip to Ossiacher See. Situated in the centre of Europe, your weekend trip options are also endless, being a quick train ride to so many places for usually under 100 euro. I saw London, Stamford, Paris, Munich, Vienna, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Budapest, Zagreb, Salzburg, Linz, Hallstatt, Ossiach, and even made a quick holiday to Phuket (luckily Austria has a 3-week mid-semester break).

Being such a student city, there are a number of dorms in Graz, all self-sufficient. I stayed in Neubaugasse Studentheim. It was a small dorm, but its location was one of the best. All the major supermarkets are within a 2-minute walk, the city centre is just 10 minutes away and the university no more than 20 minutes. The train station is also 10 minutes up one road and I joined a gym there for 119 euros for the whole 5 months. I had a room of 5 girls with two bathrooms and a kitchen. You have all the facilities you need as well as a party room for hire. With a view of the Schlossberg and the river from your balcony it’s the perfect little place to live in Graz. Don’t be afraid to share a room; it gets you out of the house and gives you that real student experience.
Accommodation is generally between 300 and 400 euro per month. You don’t have to worry about transport and food is reasonably priced, so living in Graz is fairly cheap. However, one of the biggest attractions about Graz, and your biggest expense, is of course the travel and I highly recommend you see as much as you can of such a beautiful area of Europe. You don’t want your funds to hold you back from trips with your friends, so I’d recommend saving at least $10,000 for your semester in Graz.

Graz is the perfect student city for exchange. I spent my days walking around a beautiful Austrian city, and in essence one big university campus, with new friends from all around the world to exciting new experiences like silent discos and colour festivals. And I of course road tripped around Europe, coming out with stories to tell for the rest of my life. It’s not always easy being in a culture completely different from your own, but an exchange in Graz is something you’ll never regret—I know I won’t.

Top tips:
1. Join the Graz Erasmus Facebook group to keep in touch and sign up for the ESN newsletter, so you’ll always know what’s going on.
2. Buy or rent a bike (there’s always bikes being sold for low prices on the Facebook group by outgoing students) or walk. Nothing is more than 30 minutes and it’s a beautiful city. Don’t waste your money on public transport.
3. Study a German Intensive course before the semester. Even if you don’t learn German, it’ll set you up with great friends and knowledge of the city that’ll make the rest of your time that much better.
4. Bring ear plugs. There are parties in at least one of the dorms every week, so they come in handy unless of course you’re like my Dutch friend and vow to always be the last at every party; then you’re fine.
5. Buy an OeBB Vorteilscard. It’s not expensive and is worth it to get discount train travel, such as 9 euro to Vienna.
6. Road trip! Check the website Mitfahrer Gelegenheit for travel. You can buy spots in people’s cars to go to most major cities in the area for a cheap price. Unless you manage to make friends with cars (hint: try to do that).
7. Head to Mount Schoekl or Rote Wand or any of the surrounding mountains to see some pretty spectacular mountain views. It’s a great activity on Sundays when nothing in town is open.
8. Following that, always grocery shop on Saturday because shops are closed on Sundays. The only thing open is the Spar at Hauptbahnhof or you’ll be eating cereal for Sunday dinners.

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