Bachelor of Health Science
Bachelor of Health Science

Academic experiences

I did my electives on my exchange semester, which was great because I had the flexibility to take advantage of the fact that the University of Vienna offers new courses every semester by new or guest lecturers.
I study nutrition at UQ, but at "Uni Wien" I took courses in food history, health and poverty, biotechnology, street food, and body image in the media.
The biggest difference I noticed about the courses I took were the very small class sizes and the high level of group work in every course.
At first I found it somewhat difficult to adjust to learning in the form of group presentations rather than 'wrote' learning, but soon I came to really enjoy it (and not just because it was a great way to get to know people!).
The administrative system at Uni Wien is very different to UQ.
The course catalogue for the semester I studied wasn't released until a few weeks before I arrived in Vienna, and because the catalogue changes each semester, I had to completely change my study plan that I had used in my application (which I expected - and which is why it's probably a good idea to study your electives abroad).
Sign-on can be quite confusing and courses are generally organised more by the lecturer than by the university per se, so I had to e-mail a few of my professors asking to be 'allowed' into courses (students are allocated a set number of points they can assign to the courses they want to do, it can get quite confusing!), but in the end the university generally gives preference to incoming exchange students.

The only thing you ever need to do in Vienna: dig into an enormous Schnitzel served as-is (maybe with some potatoes).

Personal experiences

Everyone says that "you'll develop so much personally when you go away", but I didn't realise how true this would be.
I couldn't have imagined how much confident I would become - in both personal interactions (from travelling, and meeting new people) and in figuring out how things 'work' in a new place.
One thing that I thought would never happen is that I somehow developed a sense of direction and managed to stop getting lost everywhere I go!
On the note of getting lost, I travelled for almost three months prior to my exchange (Ireland, Germany, Poland, and Romania), and did some volunteer work on farms in both Ireland and Romania (WWOOFing), which were invaluable experiences both for me personally and for my career later (food policy and public health).
During my exchange I went to Slovakia (Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capitals in the world: it costs you approximately 6 EUR and takes less than an hour to take a train to Bratislava!), Iceland, Germany, Holland, and other parts of Austria.
If you're living in Vienna I would absolutely recommend seeing other parts of Austria - Vienna is a world of its own and very different to other cities like Graz, Klagenfurt, or the countryside or Alps (the Tiroleans are MUCH friendlier than the Viennese).
In my experience, friendships and language were closely tied on my exchange.
It can be hard to meet non-exchange students when you're studying abroad, but I found that if I went out of my way, it wasn't too difficult to make Austrian friends - and it was amazing!
I already spoke and studied German before I left, however I promised myself to speak German every time the opportunity arose, and because of that my German improved dramatically.
Just a warning if you're thinking of moving to Wien: Viennese German (Wienerisch) is very, very different to the 'Hochdeutsch' you learn at school, and the Viennese are very, very proud of it, but it's a beautiful dialect and a lot of fun to hear and speak.

Hanging out in the U-Bahn during the 'pants-off' subway ride - the old (very traditional and grumpy) Viennese almost fainted!

Accommodation

The university doesn't have on-campus housing or affiliated housing like we do in Australia, but there are numerous student-housing agencies (such as WIHAST and OeAD) through which you can apply for a room.
I personally lived in an OeAD room (I could have technically had the same room for a much cheaper price from WIHAST, but due to visa/paperwork timing it didn't work out), and to be honest, I wouldn't do it again if I went back.
Going through OeAD is expensive, move-in and -out dates are very strict, there is very little leeway in terms of changes.
Moreover, they generally aren't at all social (which is one of the reasons you go on exchange!) so just be wary that if you go through them, although it's probably the most straightforward, it's probably worth your time and effort to look for other housing.
If I had the opportunity again, I would definitely look for a WG (a share-house / flat) – not only are they cheaper, but it would have been far easier to meet locals, which would have absolutely made my exchange experience feel a bit more 'genuine' (and I would have had a better chance to practice my German).
In terms of location, however, it doesn't really matter where in Vienna you live.
The city has one of the best public transport systems in the world; the U-Bahn leaves every 3-5 minutes, and all the districts (Vienna is organised into 23 'Bezirks' = Districts) are very well connected by bus, tram and underground – so no matter where you live, you'll be able to get to wherever you need to go without too much trouble.

"Schnitzel served in Vienna since January 1" - the walk through Karlsplatz U-Bahn is worth your time, there are constantly-changing statistics for pretty much everything you can imagine, including "Number of Austrians currently unhappy with their jobs"

Budget

I really should have listened when I was told "you'll need to budget much more than you think"! Vienna is similar to Brisbane in terms of costs: some things are cheaper and some things are more expensive (the coffee, for example, but you get what you pay for - and you pay for the atmosphere of the 'Kaffeehäuser').
My rent set me back 360 EUR per month (the cheapest I saw available was around 250 EUR), and the semester card for public transport will cost you either 75 EUR or 150 EUR depending on at what point before the semester you arrive.
The travel before and during my exchange was a decent portion of my budget.
I'd say for a month (excluding leisure travel), including rent, I spent approximately 650 EUR a month.

Academic development and employability

I hope to work in Public Health when I graduate, and studying abroad has definitely widened my scope of both potential places and potential areas to go into.
Vienna is a very international city and is very active in terms of the UN and other international organisations; during my time at uni I was able to speak to students and professors at the University and get a better idea of what sort of pathways would be available to me and how I could go about moving into international public health.
Having met many internationally-active academics has without a doubt broadened my opportunities for where my career and academic life can lead after graduating.
One particular highlight was being invited by a professor to discuss an essay in a coffee house (such is life in Vienna), where I ended up learning about and being encouraged to look into an international Masters Program that can be taken in multiple countries which could lead to a UN health job.
I met the director of and other students within the program, and I now definitely have at least one more pathway open to me than before!
Additionally, improving my German has definitely opened up more academic and employment opportunities, in both more countries and more health areas.

A ball in the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) - even if you learn to Waltz, you still need to learn how to not collide with other couples!

Highlight

There were so many highlights of my exchange semester; many people find the best thing about studying and living abroad is the travel opportunities, but for me the absolute best aspect of my exchange was the experience of living in and getting to really know a city.
Traveling is amazing, but once I settled into Vienna I was able to explore all the nuances of not just the city, but of each district, and to start to 'live' and understand Viennese culture far more than I would have if I were just passing through.

The main University courtyard at the end of Autumn; surrounding the courtyard are busts of the many famous people who studied there (Freud is in a corner somewhere!)

For me, the experience of 'learning' Vienna on the whole was the highlight.
I really couldn't name just one, but some are:
• Spending the Christmas holidays in the snow,
• Going to a Viennese Ball in the Imperial Palace,
• The sauna evenings in my student home,
• Seeing hundreds of couples doing the Waltz in the middle of the city on New Years Eve,
• Rocking up and buying 3 EUR opera tickets,
• Seeing the world's third-best harpist perform (I play the harp) in Mozart's House,
• Hiking up a mountain during Autumn with a great bunch of people,
• And getting a 3am Kaesekrainer ('the' Viennese cheese sausage) from a Wuerstlstand on the Danube Canal.

Top tips

I think everyone says this: Do it! I am so incredibly glad that I took up the opportunity to go on exchange, and I have no regrets about doing so (except for maybe the fact that I wish I had decided to stay for one year!).
One piece of advice, though, would be to definitely try to find and talk to other exchange students who went to your university - they're incredibly helpful and if you listen to their advice you'll likely be able to get even more from your exchange experience.
Oh, and try to live in a share house, wherever you go!

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