“Did you say you’re an Australian who studies in Austria, or are you and Austrian…or an Australian?”

I am a 5th year Bachelor of Laws/Science student, but chose to study German subjects for my German Diploma of Languages in Austria. I learnt German while on a gap-year in Germany, and my main motivator for studying in Austria was the chance to immerse myself in the language. After having lived in Germany, I was surprised by the differences between the Austrians and the Germans, but found myself quickly falling in love with Austria and its landscape, traditions, diversity and hillbilly-accent. While not as big and bold as its proper-speaking neighbour, Austria has a lot to offer!

I took four courses through the Language Institute Treffpunkt Sprachen (C1 Intensive, C1, Lesen und Schreiben and Landes und Kulturkunde) in addition to two history courses at the university (Grundprobleme der Neueren Geschichte and Grundprobleme der Österreichishe Geschichte). The mix of language-specific and history subjects was great, presenting me with the opportunity to focus on grammar while also practising comprehension and understanding. While I was very nervous about sitting history exams in German, my lecturers were very supportive and the academic standard was not as high as at UQ. If you do plan on taking courses in German through the university, I would advise making contact with your lecturers as soon as possible – the lecturers are often quite excited to have an ‘Ausländer’ in their class and are happy to help, provided you take the first steps.

I stayed at WIST Wienerstraße in the organised accommodation, living with three Austrians, one Slovenian and an American. While fantastic for practicing my German (and Austrian!), living with Austrians also gave me a wonderful insight into the Austrian student life and, importantly, diet. I opted for a double-room to keep costs down, figuring that I would not be there that much anyway, but ended up forging life-long friendships with both my room-mate and my flatmates.

Graz is a very affordable place to live. As a huge university city, most things cater to student prices, including restaurants and nightclub events. When you also consider the Austrian-Australian Accommodation Scholarship, UQ Abroad Scholarship and OS-HELP loans that are available, we definitely come out ahead!

My top tips for a Graz-tastic experience!

  • Sign up for the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) Buddy Program: Your buddy will be an invaluable person during your exchange, helping with everything, including picking up your dorm-key (it often has to be done before you arrive…Austrian logic?), demystifying class sign-ups, welcoming you into the Graz student lifestyle and finding occasions for you to wear your dirndl.
  • Meet Austrians: Despite being an eclectic lederhosen/ski jacket-wearing bunch with varying accents, Austrians are very friendly. Most young Austrians have solid English and will be more than happy to share tips over a ‘bier’. Aside form making links with your dorm neighbours and buddy, try meeting Austrians students through university USI sports (sign-up at the start of semester) or saying ‘Grüß Gott’ at the Wednesday night Stammtisch organised by ESN.
  • Travel like an Austrian: BUY A BIKE and an ÖBB VORTEILSKARTE! Graz is dominated by bicycles for good reason – it is both very flat and easily navigated. Most bike places have special deals for student bike-hire (I paid 120EU for a semester, and got 60EU back upon returning the bike) and you should buy a bike as soon as possible because they sell out quickly. Your bike will be the best 60EU you spend on exchange, especially when it is 1am, 0ºC, buses have stopped and you want to get home. Also, organise a Vorteilskarte at the Hauptbahnhof, which gives you discounted train travel. Aside from being useful if you plan to explore Austria, the Vorteilskarte will reduce costs as you travel to various cities in Austria to catch those cheap international flights.
  • Sprechen Sie Deutsch?: The pre-semester intensive German courses are a fantastic way of meeting other students, learning/improving/brushing-up on German at the start of your stay and ticking off ECTS (6 ECTS).
  • Do as the Austrians do: Austria is still a very conservative country, with most things being closed on Sunday in the Catholic tradition. Take this ‘free-day’ as an opportunity to get out and see Austria, just as the locals do. Go hiking in Bärenschutzklamm, have a feast at a Buschenschank, get tipsy on the Austrian Wine Road or simply gather some friends for a picnic in Stadtpark. Whatever you do, just make sure that you have all your groceries before Sunday!


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