Bachelor of Arts, 2nd year
Bachelor of Arts, 2nd year

Academic Experience

At the University of Vienna (Universität Wien), I studied a total of six different courses – seven including the preparatory language intensive course – in order to complete the required 30 ECTS full time load. The courses for the winter semester were released only a few weeks prior to the beginning of the semester, and so I studied completely different courses than those submitted in my study plan. I ended up studying five philosophy courses – phenomenology of the body, irrationality, social epistemology, ethics of immigration and Norzick: anarchy, state and utopia – and one elective history course – global history.

For philosophy, the learning and assessment style is in seminar format and taken by both undergraduate and graduate students. This means that there were no lectures and each seminar took a format similar to an intensive UQ tutorial. Each student was expected to have read the reading, prepare discussion points and submit inputs each week (as well as give various presentations and assignments). This also meant some courses are quite longwinded - for instance the term officially began October 1 and my last piece of assessment is due March 31. While this different format takes time to adjust to, it is a great way of learning and, in the case of my philosophy seminars, was a great way to work through philosophical problems and inconsistencies in a group setting.

Personal Experience

Vienna exceeded every single one of my expectations. Essentially, an exchange allows you to find who you are when you remove all that’s familiar, comfortable and allows you to see how you handle every situation as it's thrown at you. It’s almost impossible not to make friends, and honestly I think you would have to actively make an effort not to in Vienna. Everyone is in the same boat, and saying you are from Australia (or live in Australia) will guarantee immediate friendships and great conversations.

Mostly European students come to Vienna, so my closest friends were from France, Belgium, England, Finland and the Netherlands. I would also recommend joining ESN (Erasmus Student Network) for 10 Euro upon arrival - they organise all the events for exchange students and are the best way to meet people (their welcome package gives you a free sim card) – especially at their weekly stammtisch. Weekend trips to Vienna’s surrounding countries of Slovakia, Slovenia, Germany, Hungary or Prague are a must, but honestly you could stay in Vienna the entire six months and never get bored exploring the historical, cultural and intellectual sights throughout the city. Throughout my semester, I travelled to eleven countries – Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Italy and Spain.

Accommodation

The University of Vienna has no on-campus housing (as the university is spread across the entire city), there are various dorm organisations which you can apply for, but I would recommend living in a shared apartment. Originally, I lived in an OAED-housing dorm in partnership with the Sprachen-zentrum language course and while it has a central location, the social scene and dorm itself was unhospitable and overpriced. After three weeks, I moved out into a shared apartment in the 9th district. I lived with an Austrian student (via housinganywhere.com – but there are a lot of Wohnung Facebook groups as well). My district was a student hub and very central, plus having an Austrian roommate allowed for an authentic Viennese experience (that improved my German) and allowed freedom for international group dinners and the like.

However, I would warn that finding accommodation in Vienna is very difficult for both apartments and dorms (German and non-German speaking students alike) – I had a lot of friends who had to hostel-hop for the first couple of months, so definitely find housing before you leave. I would especially recommend the 7th district for living as it’s a great student district with all the best study cafes (e.g. Burggasse 24, Das Möbel, etc.), boutique and vintage stores, restaurants (Ulrich, Erich, Kuro etc.), houses the Spittelberg Christmas Markets (an authentic rather than touristy Viennese Christmas market), and is beside the Mueseumsquartier.

Budget

In terms of any sort of budget, the amount you spend really depends on what you value. For accommodation, if you are not picky a dorm for as low as 200-300 Euros could suffice (may be smaller, shared room or further out of the city centre). For an apartment, from my friends and my own experience it is generally between 400-800 Euros. While I do not regret my apartment choice, as I really took to exchange, I spent almost no time bar sleeping and showering in my apartment. So it may not be necessary for a splurge. Transport wise, there is a semester ticket I recommend buying as soon as you get to Vienna which gives you access to all transport in Vienna for the entire semester – you need to have registered at the Meldezettel office and have a student card (so try get an early orientation session).

As my friends and I were quite the foodies, and spent almost all our time out of the house and together – that was where I spent the most. In general, Vienna is quite expensive for general food prices (depending on where you dine). For a delicious meal, you would probably spend around 10-20 Euros. For coffee, I spent an unhealthy amount on the Viennese coffee experience (which is quite simply the best, as you can sit with one espresso in a café deep in conversation and never be interrupted by a waiter for hours). Groceries wise, it will probably be determined by what is closer – but Hofer (Aldi) is the cheapest, Billa and Spar swap between what’s more expensive (but don’t expect produce to match Australia’s). If you are into organic produce, then I would recommend Denn’s Biomarkt.

In terms of travel or general spending, if visiting in the winter you simply cannot go past the Glühwein (Mulled Wine) shared with friends. And there are beautiful gifts of Christmas ornaments, tokens of Vienna, boutique style, traditional Austrian food and sweets, and ice skating at the Rathaus (town hall) Christmas markets. For muesums and art galleries (which Vienna has tucked around every corner), on the first Sunday of every month all state owned museums/galleries are free so keep an eye on Facebook for the free days or nights for the others – you will always find students flooding there and it’s a great way to meet people too.

Travelling outside of Vienna is often cheaper than staying in Vienna for the weekend – because its surrounding Eastern countries are much cheaper in food, accommodation and general activities. So weekend trips really shouldn’t put you out of pocket at all – I would definitely recommend every one of Vienna’s surrounding countries. If you are looking for a different study environment, going to study cafes in Bratislava (capital city of neighbouring country Slovakia) can be a great day trip during the week.

Professional Development & Employability

Easily, it was confidence and a carefree attitude. Exchange allows you to realise that everything happens for a reason and generally rights itself and that you can act completely independently and succeed. You make friends on your own account and that in itself is empowering. The structure of my philosophy seminars forced me to participate fully in each seminar, which allowed me to recognise the doubt instilled by any philosophy seminar nonetheless can still allow for discussion of such doubt and recognition of an ability to voice concerns, issues and conflict in order to reach a greater level of understanding. Overall, exchange is best for building confidence in every single aspect of your life.

Highlights

The people. I expected to meet quite a few people, but this experience was unlike any other. I have made some of my closest friends in Vienna and I am already planning my trip back to Europe to see them all again. I love how people from the same countries never stuck together and everyone mixed to form a wonderful array of different personalities, cultures and traditions. Yes, I did my exchange in Vienna, but somehow I also did it in Finland too – celebrating their independence day, in Belgium – learning to cook their cuisine, in France – through hearing my friends speak every day to each-other, in Netherlands – celebrating in events such as Cantus, and in so many other countries. The truly international nature of exchange allowed me to meet so many wonderfully different people.

In winter Vienna truly comes alive with Christmas markets to rival every other city, with lights, ornaments and scents of food and drink. There is nothing quite like standing chatting with friends with a Glühwein (mulled wine), which is served in real mugs, or ice skating at the Rathaus Christmas markets. They are one of a kind and somehow indescribably wonderful. I would say for the Christmas markets alone, Vienna in winter is truly divine.

Top Tips

Explore as much has you can. Explore new friendships. New cities. Different subjects. Different aspects of yourself. Just leave all your reservations behind, including life in Australia and embrace your exchange fully.

Also, plan ahead. I am generally not a very administratively savvy person, so I think I definitely could have benefited from a little more organisation before I left. It would make settling in initially a lot easier.

I am definitely biased, but if you are considering where to study abroad then you really cannot go past Vienna!

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