Words cannot even begin to describe the amazing experience I had as an exchange student in Graz! It was truly the best six months of my life- even as I write this, I have a smile on my face, remembering the experiences, friends, laughing, crying and all in all the utter happiness. Graz is the perfect city for exchange. It’s a true university town full of students and all the essentials for an excellent student life. You can barely walk down the street without running into people you know, being invited to dinner, drinks and to go travelling. Graz’s central location is perfect for weekend getaways to Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Germany and pretty much all of Europe.

I’m a fourth year Arts/Law student majoring in German and History. I only took Law and German courses while on exchange. Karl-Franzens University of Graz is renowned for its international law program and from personal experience I can say it is excellent. I took mainly “Kurses” which I found to be far more interesting, engaging and academically less stressful than “Vorlesungen” or “Seminars”. My lecturers had worked in the areas of international law that they were teaching about and provided incredible insights. They were all very willing to assist with anything I needed and were also willing to tailor some assessment to student needs- it was very much a collaborative approach. Karl-Franzens University also offers courses on areas of international law not taught at UQ, which I found to be excellent.

Expense-wise, living in Graz was no problem. Australian students get a 400 euro housing scholarship from Karl-Franzens University which ended up covering almost half my accommodation costs! On the whole, I found living in Graz cheaper than living in Australia. Everyone has a bike and uses public transport, which, with the four-month student card adds up to about three euro a week- not bad at all. My greatest expense was travelling- the costs of which can vary dramatically from person to person. I also found the UQ expense guide for Graz to be a good estimation.

Before I get too carried away, here are my top 5 tips:

  • Speak German! It’s incredibly easy to speak English while on exchange and, as hard as it can be initially, it is well worth forcing yourself to speak German- you’ll improve dramatically and quickly and it’s a great opportunity to meet Austrians and even pick up a little dialect!
  • Take every single opportunity that’s offered to you and never say no. Exchange is a wonderful way to meet new people and to learn about their cultures and countries. The first few weeks are literally like continuous speed dating but it’s definitely worth it. You’ll have amazing times; great laughs and make true, life long friends. The ESN (Erasmus Student Network) in Graz is great and organises lots of activities, outings, trips and more. Definitely take part. They’re a great way to meet Austrians, fellow exchange students and to see and do things you wouldn’t normally be able to.
  • Do the intensive German course in the month before the semester actually starts. It’s a great way to brush up on, or start learning German. The teachers are really helpful, very willing to help you get settled, to provide any advice they can and essentially do what they can for you. More importantly though, it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow exchange students. Everyone doing the course is in the same boat as you and there’s a real support system that develops among the students. You’re all experiencing Graz for the first time together and it’s brilliant.
  • Buy a bike. It will change your experience. It makes getting around incredibly easy and it's a great way to see the city, get to uni in record time and get a bit of sneaky exercise on the side.
  • If you're going for winter semester do things early when you arrive. A lot of outdoor activities and other sites close during winter (November onwards) so get in early to do everything!

All in all, my semester in Graz was the best of my life and I would absolutely recommend it to everyone. Take your chance and do it! You won't regret it.

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